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Updated Apr 21, 2020


A soldier carries the USA national flag during the inauguration of a military base in Thies, 70 km from Dakar, on February 8, 2016 on the second day of a three-week joint military exercise between African, US and European troops, known as Flintlock. Some 1,700 members of the special forces from nearly thirty countries from Africa, America and Europe, including France and Britain, are taking part in military exercises from February 8-29 according to AFRICOM, the military command of the USA for Africa. SEYLLOU / AFP
A soldier carries the flag of the United States during the inauguration of a military base in Thiès, Senegal, on the second day of a three-week joint military exercise between African, US and European troops, known as Flintlock. (Seyllou Seyllou/AFP)


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.


.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the press briefing room flanked by (L-R) U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz, National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday on April 1, 2020 in Washington, DC. After announcing yesterday that COVID-19 could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans, the Trump administration is also contending with the economic effects of the outbreak as the stock market continues to fall, businesses remain closed, and companies lay off and furlough employees. Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP
US president Donald Trump at the lectern in the White House press briefing room, flanked by (L–R) Admiral Karl Schultz, commandant of the US Coast Guard; national security advisor Robert O’Brien; attorney general William Barr; defense secretary Mark Esper; General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Admiral Michael Gilday, chief of Naval Operations, on April 1, 2020. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)


"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. 

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