BY PETER APPS
LONDON, NOVEMBER 14, 2013
A United States Marine stands by his post in front of the Pentagon in Washington February 29, 2012. Image: Gary Cameron/Reuters
(Reuters) - U.S.
military forces in Africa may lose well over a tenth - or some $40
million - from their 2014 budget, the U.S. Africa Command said on
Thursday, although it saw success against militants in Somalia and Mali.
The bulk of such cuts
will fall on headquarters and training programs, AFRICOM commander
General David Rodriguez said, most likely forcing smaller exercises.
The size of AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, is to be reduced by some 20 percent.
planned cuts are part of broader across-the-board U.S. spending
restrictions dubbed "sequestration" and imposed after Congress failed to
agree deficit reduction measures.
- set up in 2007 to coordinate U.S. military activity on the continent -
retains some 5,000 troops in Africa at any time, primarily in Djibouti.
Much of their focus is on building local military capability and
training forces for missions such as the African Union mission AMISOM in
Somalia and its U.N. counterpart in Mali.
budget is going to be reduced ... although I would expect that the
number of places where we have exercises will remain approximately the
same," Rodriguez told a press briefing in London.
"We've had to reduce the size of some of these exercises and change the nature of some ... to involve fewer troops."
After the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya,
however, Rodriguez said AFRICOM and the State Department had stepped up
security at some embassies and improved its information sharing and
said he believed AMISOM had begun to push back Islamist al Shabaab
militants in Somalia and that U.N. forces in Mali had significantly
disrupted al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
say French and Chadian troops did much of the work in curbing AQIM
before the mission became part of a U.N. peacekeeping force in June, and
operations now still primarily involve French and Malian troops.
said the just over 100 special forces operators supporting regional
militaries in the hunt for Ugandan former Lord's Resistance Army chief
Joseph Kony had also markedly reduced LRA operations, even if Kony
himself remained elusive.
OCCASIONAL DIRECT ACTION IN SOMALIA
in the Gulf of Guinea remained a serious worry, Rodriguez said, with
U.S. forces working to train local navies and coastguards. AFRICOM was
also working on training and information-sharing with Nigeria's military
as it battles a growing insurgency by Islamist group Boko Haram.
rumors to the contrary, however, he said Washington had no plans to
deploy troops or drones in Nigeria despite listing Boko Haram as a
banned terror group.
United States will continue to take its own occasional direct action in
Somalia, he said. Although it rarely comments on specifics, Washington
has been widely suspected of being behind several drone strikes on al
Qaeda and al Shabaab.
October, U.S. special forces carried out an unsuccessful raid on an al
Shabaab leader dubbed "Ikrinna" and suspected of plotting a host of
attacks on Western and other targets.
was not clear whether or not he was involved in the attack the previous
month on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall that killed 67 and was
claimed by the Somali group.
effort in Somalia has dislocated al Shabaab," Rodriguez said, adding
that the group had been pushed from the capital Mogadishu in some other
"AMISOM have to
keep the pressure up - and that's just the military picture. A model of
things have to be done as well." That included making Somalia's
transitional government more effective, he said.
Mali, where Washington has also provided airlift and intelligence to
French, U.N. and Malian troops, Rodriguez said AQIM fighters had been
dispersed and less effective, even though their overall numbers had
likely not fallen.
an upsurge in fighting between Mozambique's government and the RENAMO
opposition, Rodriguez said AFRICOM had no plans to increase support to
the Mozambican military.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)