U.S. Might Pull Troops from West Africa, but Who Will it Affect?
By Samira Sadeque
NATIONS, Jan 2020 (IPS) – While the United States is busy with foreign
operations such as killing Qasem Soleimani, a key figure in Middle East
Politics, behind the scenes it is reportedly considering a change that experts
worry might be of grave concern: a potential withdrawal of troops from West
A December report in the New York Times claimed the Pentagon was
planning to reduce its military activities in West Africa or even pulling out
entirely, which some say would make a significant change in U.S. foreign policies.
to the Times report, this is part of a general overhaul in defence spending
where the focus would be redirected to other concerns such as China and
are nuances to be considered, says John Campbell, an Africa fellow with the
Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC who has served in Nigeria as
political counsellor in the past. ons.
“We have to
be fairly nuanced about this,” Campbell told IPS. “The size of U.S. forces in Africa
is extremely small; it’s only about 7,000 people and only half of them are in
Djibouti; the orientation is towards the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.”
further cited a defence review from a year ago, and added that it “essentially
said there would be a shift in the emphasis from countering terrorism that
would require a redeployment of U.S. forces”.
Campbell told IPS, have primarily been involved in training local
If they are
pulled out, there are general concerns about what it will mean for the local
fights against terrorism and, according to the Times report, might even risk
create a larger pool of refugees to Europe, the Times report claims.
heels of this deliberation, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, United Nations Special
Representative and Head of the U.N. Office for West Africa and the Sahel
(UNOWAS), reminded the Security Council on Jan. 8 about the rising concerns
of terrorism in the region.
geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to
Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal States,” he
said, adding that it was also increasing the number of displaced peoples.
to the Times report, Defence Secretary Mark T. Esper, who is at the heart of
this decision to pull out, has said that it’s question of whether or not
they’re being “efficient as possible with our forces”.
other analyses question not only the efficiency of the forces but whether or
not the presence of the force may have added further to the crises.
An analysis by TRT World drew a direct increase of
“terror-related incidents” that coincided with the presence of U.S. military in
the region — they reportedly went up from 41 to 2,498 in less than two
also countless abuses and human rights atrocities conducted by the U.S.
military personnel themselves or by local military backed by the
it’s a relationship that locals don’t approve of either. In 2018, thousands protested in Ghana against their country’s
military deal with the U.S. The U.S. has had a difficult time establishing
trust in the region, the Reuters report claimed, and more so after President
Donald Trump referred to the region as “shithole countries”.
Campbell says the U.S. pulling out their military forces from the region would
not create any significant difference.
talking about a force that in some countries has been able to contribute to the
training of local militaries,” he said. “We’re not talking about a force which
is particularly transformative.”