Lawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa

Lawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of 11 lawmakers have raised concerns with Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall Overnight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon MORE over reports that the Pentagon chief is considering reducing U.S. forces in Africa to better focus on Russian and Chinese aggression.

“While we understand your decision to review our force posture and to deploy our military as efficiently as possible, we are concerned that a narrow focus on confronting Russia and China in great power competition is a shortsighted action that both diminishes our overall national security posture and our ability to lead with American values and influence,” the lawmakers wrote in a Jan. 10 letter to Esper, released on Tuesday.

The letter, which was led by Rep. Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownLawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa African American mayor in Iowa endorses Buttigieg Md. congressman endorses Buttigieg, becomes campaign's first national co-chair MORE (D-Md.), states that a move to cut U.S. troops on the continent “runs counter to the National Security Strategy (NSS),” and may leave a power vacuum for Russia or China to take advantage of.

ADVERTISEMENT

The lawmakers point to Russia’s signing of more 20 bilateral military cooperation agreements with African states since 2015, as outlined in the NSS, as well as China’s expanded economic and military presence on the continent. In just two decades Beijing has become one of Africa’s largest trading partners.

They also cite Russia’s move into Syria after U.S. forces withdrew late last year.

“Within weeks of the United States abandoning a military base near Aleppo, Russian forces assumed full control of the facility and began conducting operations from the American built infrastructure. Reports on the ongoing force posture deliberations indicate the potential to repeat this mistake by abandoning bases and other assets,” the lawmakers write.

The New York Times in December reported that Esper was mulling greatly reducing or completely withdrawing U.S. troops from West Africa, including abandoning a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger and ending assistance to French forces fighting militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

The plan is part of a larger proposal to shift around deployments of the roughly 200,000 service members deployed abroad in an effort to diminish post-9/11 missions and focus instead on pushing back on military moves from Russia and China.

ADVERTISEMENT

About 6,000 to 7,000 U.S. troops are in Africa, and an initial decision about troop numbers on the continent is expected this month.

Though the U.S. footprint is relatively small in that part of the world compared to Asia or the Middle East, American casualties still take place, including the attack on a Kenya Defense Forces military base in Manda Bay earlier this month that killed two U.S. contractors and wounded two Pentagon personnel.

The East Africa-based al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab has been blamed for the attack.

In their letter, the lawmakers say the attack “highlights that our fight against terrorism is ongoing and that we must remain vigilant in all theaters.”

They requested the Pentagon immediately notify them if any decision is made to significantly affect U.S. force posture in Africa.

Also adding their name to the letter were Democrat Reps. Jimmy PanettaJames Varni PanettaLawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa Hillicon Valley: Election security funding gets mixed response | Facebook tests community fact checking | Lawmakers look to block Chinese pick for IP organization | Secret court judge rebukes FBI over surveillance warrants Bipartisan lawmakers urge Trump to oppose Chinese nominee to lead intellectual property body MORE (Calif.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), Gil CisnerosGilbert (Gil) Ray CisnerosMORE (Calif.), Jason CrowJason CrowSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to lay out impeachment case to senators next week Seven things to know about the Trump trial MORE (Colo.), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarHispanic Democrats give Bloomberg camp warm reception House Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts Lawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa MORE (Texas), Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaLawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa Tenth Congressional Black Caucus member backs Biden 2 Democrats say they voted against war powers resolution 'because it merely restated existing law' MORE (Va.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.) and Republican Reps. Mike Waltz (Fla.), Austin ScottJames (Austin) Austin ScottLawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa 5 Republicans who could replace Isakson in Georgia's Senate race Georgia GOP abuzz about Senate vacancy MORE (Ga.), and Richard HudsonRichard Lane HudsonLawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa North Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats MORE (N.C.).