The United States wants to withdraw its soldiers from Nigeria

The United States intends to end its military partnership with Nigeria.

US President Trump intends to scale down troops presence in Africa (WEF)

AP reports that the timing of the U.S. decision is especially critical in the Sahel, the vast arid region south of the Sahara Desert, where militants with links to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have carried out increased attacks in the past six months.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has an anti-terrorism partnership with the U.S.

Since 2009, Nigeria has been battling insurgents in its northern region which borders the Sahel.

The U.S. has about 6,000 personnel on the continent. In West Africa, the U.S Africa Command’s mandate is to advise and assist.

The U.S. has also constructed a $110 million drone base in northern Niger.

More than 1,000 U.S. personnel are currently in the Sahel.

After meeting with French Defense Minister Florence Parly in Washington this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, said the “aim is to free up time, money and manpower around the globe, where we currently are, so that I can direct it” toward Asia or return forces to the United States to improve combat readiness.

Judd Devermont, who is the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Africa Program, told AP that by scaling down its Africa operations, the U.S “is reinforcing a view in West Africa that it is not interested, that it does not see it as a strategic importance and that it is going to cut and run and abandon its African allies.”

Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, has urged the U.S. not to cut back, citing an increase in terrorism in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Cameroon and Chad since the defeat of ISIS in Syria.

“So I think what we need now is more support,” Mohammed said. “I’m not talking in terms of physical soldiers, American soldiers. But I think we need more support. Otherwise we will inadvertently be strengthening the hand of the terrorists.”

The U.S has maintained minimal military presence in Africa, but the effect of its force presence, training programs, development aid and military assistance is important, African leaders say.

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