US to trim Africa forces as focus shifts to Russia, China

US soldiers train in Senegal in 2016. [File, AFP]

The Pentagon will trim the number of US troops deployed across Africa as it concentrates more on countering threats from Great Power competitors Russia and China, officials said Thursday.

Currently, about 7,200 US military personnel are based in dozens of African nations, with notable footprints in places like Somalia, Nigeria and Libya.

Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Candice Tresch said that figure would be reduced by about 10 percent over the next few years.

Tresch did not say which countries would see a draw down, but said the Pentagon would not lose capability across the continent and efforts would in some instances shift more to training and advising local forces.

"We will preserve a majority of our US security cooperation, partnerships and programs in Africa that strengthen our partner networks and enhance partner capability and ongoing programs," Tresch said.

"We will realign our counter-terrorism resources and forces operating in Africa over the next several years in order to maintain a competitive posture worldwide."

The move comes as the Pentagon works on implementing President Donald Trump's sweeping National Defence Strategy (NDS), which highlights a new era of "Great Power competition" with Moscow and Beijing.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan congressional panel that reviewed the NDS said America's focus on counter-insurgency operations this century has seen its military advantages slip in other warfighting areas.

The US military presence in Africa gets little attention in America, but was thrust into the spotlight last year when four American soldiers and four members of Nigerien partner forces were killed in a jihadist ambush.?