American Special Operations forces are likely to be sharply cut in Africa as a result of a new Pentagon strategy that focuses on combating rising threats from Russia and China and, in turn, is driving a sweeping review of the nation’s elite commando missions.
The review, ordered by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in recent weeks, could result in slashing counterterrorism forces in Africa by as much as half over the next three years. It was issued amid an ongoing Pentagon assessment of Special Operations forces worldwide after an ambush in Niger killed four American soldiers last fall.
More than 7,300 Special Operations troops are working around the world, many of them conducting shadow wars against terrorists in Yemen, Libya, Somalia and other hot spots. The Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., has also assumed important new missions in recent years, like taking the lead on combating weapons of mass destruction.
Pentagon officials said Mr. Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are worried that the commandos are spread too thin. The two leaders have ordered the military’s Special Operations and Africa commands to present a range of options by mid-June to balance rising security challenges — which also include North Korea and Iran — with vital counterterrorism operations.