BRUSSELS – A Pentagon proposal to greatly reduce US forces in West Africa faced criticism from the Allies on Tuesday, and French officials argued that eliminating US intelligence assets in the region could hamper the fight against extremist groups.
US officials said, however, they were proceeding.
While no final decision has been made on how many troops will be transferred from Africa and the Middle East as the Pentagon refocuses its priorities to confront “great powers” like Russia and China, the US military chief said the United States He needed to change his forces to better counter China in particular.
General Mark A. Milley, president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that the proposal was “causing some anxiety.” But he said the United States needed to seriously re-examine its military footprint in Africa and the Middle East. and Latin America after that, given the greater focus on China.
General Milley’s comments came before a meeting of NATO military chiefs in Brussels, where he also tried to set out the reasons for the United States to kill Iran’s main military commander, Major General Qassim Suleimani this month. The assassination of General Suleimani, who was the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, has raised questions from US military allies about whether the commanders of sovereign countries are now a fair game for attacks with drones.
The Pentagon is also asking Europe to do more in the Middle East. After the assassination of General Suleimani, Trump called on NATO to intensify efforts to train Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State in his country, a point that General Milley explained at the NATO meeting on Tuesday.
He said that one way in which European allies could help in Iraq was to provide ballistic missile defense systems at the bases that house the troops of the US-led coalition that has been fighting the Islamic State. Iran fired several ballistic missiles at two of those bases in Iraq last week, although no one was killed.
In Africa, the Trump administration wants European allies, particularly the French, to take over most of the battle against Islamic extremist organizations such as the Islamic State, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and Boko Haram.
Pentagon discussions about a large-scale retreat from West Africa include the abandonment of a newly constructed $ 110 million drone base in Niger and the end of assistance to French forces fighting militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso
President Emmanuel Macron of France, on his own Upon meeting with leaders from five nations in West and Central Africa on Monday, he pledged to send another 220 French soldiers to the region, complementing the 4,500 that are already there. Macron had called the meeting in an effort to persuade African leaders to make it clear publicly that they wanted the French forces to remain.
Since the Pentagon is expected to make its initial decision on Africa this month, the US plans have already received criticism from legislators, allies and military officials, and could eventually affect most global missions. Around 200,000 US forces are stationed abroad, an amount similar to when President Trump took office with the promise of ending the “endless wars” of the nation.
In response to General Milley’s comments on Monday, an assistant to Mr. Macron told the Agence France-Presse news agency that US contributions to the fight against Islamic extremist groups in West Africa were “irreplaceable.”
General Milley said that a final decision had not been made and that the Pentagon was reviewing the position of the US force worldwide. (U.S. military officials said Africa was the first because it starts with “A”)
The Pentagon says that the review of African deployments will be followed by one in Latin America and that the reductions will occur in Iraq and Afghanistan, as noted in recent months.
But the murder of General Suleimani, which has exacerbated tensions between Washington and Tehran, could undermine the Pentagon’s plans. Since that murder, he has sent thousands of additional troops to the region to protect against possible attacks from Iran.