Thursday, January 23, 2020

A Stitch in Time

Members of Congress are expressing concerns about a potential draw down of our already small footprint in Africa. Such concerns are well founded.

Yes, let's watch the unintended but totally predictable consequences:

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) wrote in a Jan. 15 letter that they are particularly concerned about the reduction in the Sahel.

“These personnel and installations are critical in combatting the ever-increasing number of violent extremist groups throughout the region that pose an immediate threat to our partners and allies in the region,” the lawmakers wrote.

Additionally, pulling out of Africa would give China and Russia a chance to fill the void, they wrote.

So I hope the concerns affect the review. Or reflect concerns our government already has as the review is completed:

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered a “zero-based” review of US forces deployed globally, with the intent to shift the bulk of the attention to the Indo-Pacific. As a result, the US mission in Africa will be an “economy of force,” meaning the least amount of personnel and resources to meet mission objectives, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a meeting with his French counterpart in Brussels.

The review will be completed in six weeks to two months, according to the Pentagon.

America deploys few forces across a large African continent. It's already an economy-of-force front. Really.

I recently warned about this urge to withdraw:

The United States is thinking about reducing our small military commitment in West Africa. Be careful. Yes, this is an economy of force front. We have bigger problems elsewhere in Europe and Asia. But AFRICOM is trying to prevent potential big problems from developing. And keeping the French actively killing jihadis there is a good mission to keep. We have a small footprint to do that. Don't risk bigger problems in a shortsighted move to deploy relatively small forces to higher priority fronts.

The American footprint in Africa is so small that I find it hard to believe that even completely evacuating Africa would add significant forces to either Europe to guard against Russia or to Asia to face China.

I mean, if we face a major war in Europe or Asia, by all means evacuate our forces from Africa to win the actual hot war.

But in peacetime lets try to keep Africa from generating more problems that could end Africa's status as an economy-of-force front.


Islamic extremists are already exploiting possible U.S. military cuts in Africa that have caused a rare bipartisan outcry in Washington, with lawmakers stressing the need to counter China and Russia and contain a growing threat from Islamic State group affiliates.

France was blunt in speaking of the need for American help in the Sahel region.

The "bipartisan" outcry is kind of funny given how just 27 months ago the left was outraged at America's activities in Africa.

UPDATE: France ordered more troops to reinforce their 4,500-strong anti-terrorist effort in the Sahel:

France will further bolster its anti-jihadist force in the Sahel, on top of 220 reinforcement soldiers already sent recently to try to stem a spiral of violence in the region, the country's top general said Wednesday.

God knows the French are annoying. But they are willing to kill jihadis and we should support them.