The top military commander in Africa gave an upbeat assessment of the mission to contain the Ebola virus, saying Wednesday that U.S. troops there may begin returning home in the next several weeks.
Army Gen. David Rodriguez, chief of U.S. Africa Command, said the current force level of about 2,900 troops is probably a peak and the entire force may complete the mission and leave West Africa as early as this summer.
“We’re in a good position now. The trend lines are all moving in the right direction,” Rodriguez told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
“While it is too early to declare success, Liberia has made encouraging advances in containing the spread of Ebola,” he said.
“The majority of the big engineering and logistics efforts in Liberia will probably start to tail off at the end of the year or January, so that is when we will start to send some of those people home.”
Health officials say the rate of new Ebola infections in Liberia has been declining for several weeks. But the virus continues to spread in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Mali, where there is no major U.S. military support effort.
The U.S. military has scaled back its mission in several ways since initial planning began in the summer. The Pentagon once said 4,000 troops would be needed to build 17 individual treatment facilities with 100 beds each.
Now, it appears that the peak will be 2,900 troops who are building 10 treatment facilities, some of them with about 50 beds, Rodriguez said.
No service members have contracted the deadly virus. The policy of imposing a 21-day quarantine on troops returning from Liberia will be reviewed soon. “We’ll continue to watch that for the next 30 days and then probably take a look at that again,” Rodriguez said.
Read More:Troops fighting Ebola may come home soon.