The United States military has canceled a US$23 million contract with aviation company Erickson, which conducts logistics and casualty evacuation flights for Army Green Berets operating in Niger. This suggests the Pentagon and United States Army Africa Command (AFRICOM) intend to scale back their involvement in the Sahel.
The Green Berets had been training Nigerien troops on how to identify and intercept potential terrorists traveling to and from Libya until they were relocated further south-west to engage more directly with violent jihadists operating in the tri-border region between Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Libya is currently in the grips of a new offensive in its nine-year-long civil war.
"the American military to balance against China and Russia elsewhere"
For months, US secretary of defense Mark Esper and the Pentagon have been talking about a drawdown of US troops across Africa so as to repositions the American military to balance against China and Russia elsewhere. This shows the US is shifting away from the long-standing policy of counterterrorism that guided US military involvement on the world stage since 9/11. The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled any decision on that front for now.
For Sahel countries, this means that despite rising anti-French sentiments, they may have to depend even more on French and other European militaries involvement. Training African militaries, especially in the Sahel, is crucial for combating terrorism, as past abuses of local population by state security forces and police have attracted new recruits to the terrorist camp.