Last October, four U.S. soldiers – including two commandos – were killed in an ambush in Niger. Since then, talk of U.S. special operations in Africa has centered on missions being curtailed and troop levels cut.
Press accounts have suggested that the number of special operators on the front lines has been reduced, with the head of U.S. Special Operations forces in Africa directing his troops to take fewer risks. At the same time, a “sweeping Pentagon review” of special ops missions on the continent may result in drastic cuts in the number of commandos operating there. U.S. Africa Command has apparently been asked to consider the impact on counterterrorism operations of cutting the number of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and other commandos by 25 percent over 18 months and 50 percent over three years.
Analysts have already stepped forward to question or criticize the proposed cuts. “Anybody that knows me knows that I would disagree with any downsizing in Africa,” Donald Bolduc, a former chief of U.S. commandos on the continent, told Voice of America.
While the review was reportedly ordered this spring and troop reductions may be coming, there is no evidence yet of massive cuts, gradual reductions, or any downsizing whatsoever. In fact, the number of commandos operating on the continent has barely budged since 2017. Nearly 10 months after the debacle in Niger, the tally of special operators in Africa remains essentially unchanged.
According to figures provided to The Intercept by U.S. Special Operations Command, 16.5 percent of commandos overseas are deployed in Africa. This is about the same percentage of special operators sent to the continent in 2017 and represents a major increase over deployments during the first decade of the post-9/11 war on terror. In 2006, for example, just 1 percent of all U.S. commandos deployed overseas were in Africa – fewer than in the Middle East, the Pacific, Europe, or Latin America. By 2010, the number had risen only slightly, to 3 percent.
SOURCE: Nick Turse