GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences'

GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences'
© Greg Nash

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee warned Wednesday that any drawdown of U.S. military forces in West Africa would have “real and lasting negative consequences” after visiting the continent.

“The takeaway from our meetings over the past few days was clear: any reduction in U.S. military presence in West Africa would have real and lasting negative consequences for our African partners,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Overnight Defense: Stimulus bill has .5B for Pentagon | Money would be blocked from border wall | Esper orders 60-day freeze for overseas troop movements Senate panel switches to 'paper hearings' amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Okla.) said in a statement. “At each meeting, they reiterated how helpful the U.S. presence has been to building their own capacities to defeat the growing radical Islamic terrorist threat in West Africa.”

Inhofe led a congressional delegation to Uganda, Ghana and Mauritania that also included Sens. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsSenate GOP expects vote on third coronavirus package next week Overnight Defense: Pentagon policy chief resigns at Trump's request | Trump wishes official 'well in his future endeavors' | Armed Services chair warns against Africa drawdown after trip GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' MORE (R-S.D.) and John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanOn The Money: Stocks have worst week in a decade on coronavirus fears | Fed chief hints at rate cut | Trump pushes central bank for action | Kudlow advises investors to 'think about buying the dip' Republicans growing nervous about 2020 economy Overnight Defense: Pentagon policy chief resigns at Trump's request | Trump wishes official 'well in his future endeavors' | Armed Services chair warns against Africa drawdown after trip MORE (R-Ark.) along with Reps. Trent KellyJohn (Trent) Trent KellyBipartisan Armed Services leaders tear into Pentagon over use of .8B for border wall GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' Transgender service members testify before Congress about Trump’s possible ban MORE (R-Miss.) and Tim WalbergTimothy (Tim) Lee WalbergThe health care crisis no one is talking about Overnight Defense: Pentagon policy chief resigns at Trump's request | Trump wishes official 'well in his future endeavors' | Armed Services chair warns against Africa drawdown after trip GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' MORE (R-Mich.).

ADVERTISEMENT

Inhofe, who was instrumental in the establishment of U.S. Africa Command in 2007, has previously warned about a drawdown in Africa amid Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperDefense industrial base workers belong at home during this public health crisis An insecure America and an assertive China Overnight Defense: Pentagon grapples with coronavirus outbreak | Aircraft carrier docks in Guam after more sailors test positive | Army hospitals to reach NY on Friday MORE’s review of force posture there.

Esper is eyeing a reduction in forces aimed at better aligning with the National Defense Strategy, which focuses on competition with Russia and China.

But lawmakers who support the U.S. military presence in Africa argue it is vital to countering Russian and Chinese influence on the continent, in addition to its counterterrorism role. 

Inhofe’s latest comments come after Esper reportedly got an earful from another backer of U.S. forces in Africa, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCampaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus Schumer: Senate should 'explore' remote voting if coronavirus sparks lengthy break MORE (R-S.C.).

NBC News reported that Graham told Esper at this past weekend’s Munich Security Conference that he could “make your life hell” if the Defense secretary withdrew forces from West Africa.

ADVERTISEMENT

Graham denied using those words, but also said Esper “knows my view that for the time being these forces are leveraging the French presence which is vital to our counterterrorism mission in Africa.”

Inhofe and his delegation’s meetings in Africa included Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Defense Minister Adolf Mwesige; Ghanaian Defense Minister Dominic Nitiwul, Speaker of Parliament Mike Ocquaye, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani; and the permanent secretariat for the G5 Sahel, which coordinates development and security in West Africa.

“I was especially encouraged that our African friends are not asking us to do this work for them. They each emphasized their ownership over the fight, and I am eager to share the specific examples of how our partnership has helped them with Secretary Esper when I return,” Inhofe said in his statement.

“Our small military presence across Africa is meaningful, and provides significant return on investment. Our partners are grateful for our leadership,” he added. “Downgrading our investment now would only increase our risk and make future competition or potential conflict more costly down the road.”