Special Operations Forces in Africa Likely to Face Cuts in Major Military Review

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Soldiers are selectively recruited for those Security Force Assistance Brigades instead of taxing regular Army forces for the advisory missions.

While the Army plans to field six of the advisory units, only one is fully staffed. It is currently deployed to Afghanistan, where it is facing difficulties that advisory soldiers have dealt with in the past: inexperience with local troops and a stringent military bureaucracy.

At the same time, in a nod to the increasing concern about the Russian military, more Special Operations teams have been sent to the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Eastern Europe to help local commando forces identify and confront possible threats from Moscow.

Nearly a decade ago, almost 13,000 Special Operations troops were deployed on missions around the globe, but a large majority were assigned to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, about 7,300 American commandos are operating in 92 countries. About half of them are posted outside the Middle East and South Asia, according to the Special Operations Command.

About 1,200 of those troops are on missions in Africa, and they face the most immediate likelihood of reductions. The Africa Command has been asked how it would conduct its counterterrorism missions on the continent if the number of commandos there was cut by 25 percent over 18 months, and by 50 percent over three years.

That would leave about 700 troops — roughly the same number as in 2014, according to data from the Africa Command’s special operations branch. By comparison, there were 70 Special Operations troops on the continent in 2006.

Some of the reassigned troops could be put on potential missions against Russia or China. Or, officials said, they could rotate into deployments to ease the strain on American commandos who have repeatedly been sent abroad.

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