GOP Foreign Affairs leaders join pushback against potential troop drawdown in Africa

GOP Foreign Affairs leaders join pushback against potential troop drawdown in Africa
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The top Republican lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees are adding their names to the growing pushback against the Pentagon’s potential plan to draw down U.S. forces in Africa.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischRepublicans start bracing for shutdown fight in run-up to election GOP's Obama-era probes fuel Senate angst Democrat Paulette Jordan to face incumbent Jim Risch in Idaho Senate race MORE (R-Idaho) and House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulNational security adviser says Trump was not briefed on bounty intelligence, condemns leaks Pentagon: 'No corroborating evidence' yet to validate troop bounty allegations The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE (R-Texas) last week urged Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperHouse panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal House panel votes to ban Confederate flag at Pentagon property Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHouse postpones testimony from key Pompeo aide about IG firing The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic proposal to extend 0 unemployment checks Pompeo pushes back on Russian bounty reports MORE to maintain counterterrorism efforts when making any drawdown plans on the continent, warning that “terrorist activity in this region is rapidly increasing.”

“While we agree there is a need to regularly review our force posture overseas to ensure efficiency and effectiveness, we strongly urge that any overall drawdown plans at Africa Command maintain robust support for our counterterrorism and host nation capacity building,” the lawmakers wrote in a Friday letter.

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“The increase in terrorist attacks in West Africa is staggering, with extremist-related violence having doubled every year since 2015," they added. "Partner militaries are underfunded and ill-equipped to respond to this drastic increase in violence. That is why our limited, yet focused presence across Africa, is so important.”

The New York Times reported last month that Esper was considering significantly reducing or completely withdrawing U.S. troops from West Africa in order to shift forces to better focus on Russian and Chinese military aggression.

The plan, which has not been finalized, could focus on several hundred American troops who are deployed in Niger, Chad and Mali to aid and assist in the fight against militant terrorist groups.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHouse panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown MORE (D-Wash.) and ranking member Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House Armed Services votes to make Pentagon rename Confederate-named bases in a year House panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal MORE (R-Texas) have also pressed the Defense Department to stop the potential reduction, as have a bipartisan group of 11 House lawmakers, Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: The political heavyweights in Tuesday's primary fights Harrison goes on the attack against Graham in new South Carolina Senate ad Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (R-S.C.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsHillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Democrats, voting rights groups pressure Senate to approve mail-in voting resources To safeguard our elections, Democrats and Republicans must work together MORE (D-Del.), and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP McConnell: Trump shouldn't veto defense bill over renaming Confederate bases MORE (R-Okla.).

Esper told reporters on Monday that “no decisions yet have been made” and that his top priority “is to implement the National Defense Strategy. That means that we are focused on great power competition with China, then Russia.”

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He would not comment on reports that indicate that the new force plan could include abandoning a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger.

Risch and McCaul argue that in order to counter a China and Russia that are increasing their presence throughout Africa, “U.S. presence is vital.”

“The Trump administration has been clear-eyed about China and Russia’s destabilizing and dangerous global activities, including in Africa. The full force of the U.S. government must address their efforts to undermine democratic values and free market economies,” they wrote.

U.S. forces are in West Africa to train and assist security forces in an effort to quell extremist Islamic groups including Boko Haram and those pledging loyalty to the Islamic State and al Qaeda.