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Updated Feb 2, 2020

A proposal to reduce the number of US troops and intelligence assets in Africa is being considered a part of the Defense Department’s recent review of deployments worldwide. The aim is to move the American military’s focus away from counterterrorism and toward countering geopolitical rivals like Russia and China. However, as Foreign Policy reports, four current and former officials within the Pentagon and State Department allege that US withdrawal from Africa may be motivated more by politics, specifically President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, than sound foreign policy.

Trump made campaign promises during 2016 to bring American troops back home and end the country’s “forever wars”, a pledge that has been rendered difficult to achieve as tensions continue to rise in the Middle East, made even more precarious after the assassination of Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani, leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Foreign policy experts worry that weakening US presence in Africa and South America in an effort to fulfill Trump’s campaign pledge will only subject these regions to greater Russian and Chinese influence, directly countering the objective of the National Defense Strategy.

Besides the officials, both Democratic and Republican politicians have expressed their concern about the plan. The State Department refused to comment on Foreign Policy’s story, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper has not made a final decision. Full withdrawal from Africa remains unlikely, an unnamed official said, owing to China’s growing economic presence on the continent.

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