US wants to reduce military presence in Africa: Mark Milley Jan 14, 2020 0 593 12345 AFPBrusselsThe United States wants to reduce its military presence in Africa, Washington’s top military officer said, as France hosts Sahel leaders as it seeks to bolster the fight against jihadists in the region.Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said resources “could be reduced and then shifted, either to increase readiness of the force in the continental US or shifted to” the Pacific.His comments came as he flew in for talks with NATO counterparts in Brussels.The announcement follows President Donald Trump’s call last week for NATO to do more in the Middle East and comes as French President Emmanuel Macron gathers his counterparts from Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.Milley said his boss, Defence Secretary Mark Esper, had not made up his mind what changes to make.“We’re developing options for the secretary to consider, and we are developing those options in coordination with our allies and partners,” he said.After 13 French soldiers were killed in a helicopter collision in Mali last month, Macron wants the Sahel leaders to publicly restate their support for France’s 4,500-strong military presence, after local demonstrations against it.The United States wants to reduce the number of its troops deployed across Africa over the next few years to focus more on responding to the threats posed by Russia and China.Washington has some 7,000 special forces on rotation in Africa carrying out joint operations with national forces against jihadists, particularly in Somalia.Another 2,000 soldiers are conducting training missions in some 40 African countries and taking part in cooperative operations, in particular with France’s Operation Barkhane in Mali, to which they provide mainly logistical assistance.One option would be to close a drone base in Agadez, northern Niger, which gives the US a major surveillance platform in the Sahel but has been estimated to cost around $100 million.Milley said no decisions had been made yet and insisted Washington was not pulling out of Africa completely. “Economy of forces does not mean zero,” he said.French officials are nevertheless alarmed, with a presidency source saying the US made “irreplaceable” contributions to Sahel operations -- particularly in surveillance and air-to-air refuelling.“We would not be able to get these from other partners, especially when it comes to intelligence,” the presidency official said. Paris would be sharing its concerns with the US “at all levels”, the source added.NATO military chiefs will use this week’s meeting to debate the future of the alliance’s training mission in Iraq, suspended over security fears after the US killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad. Pages 12 RELATED ARTICLES PHILIPPINES ON ALERT AS VOLCANO SPEWS ASH, LAVA Jan 14, 2020 0 924 ‘Joker’ leads Oscar nods with 11 as women, minorities miss out Jan 14, 2020 0 440 Snowstorms kill dozens in Pakistan, Afghanistan Jan 14, 2020 0 163 Pakistan court overrules Musharraf death sentence on treason Islamabad: The death sentence for treason handed to former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf by a special tribunal last month was overruled the Lahore High Court on Monday, Musharraf’s lawyers said. The .. Hardline Hindus protest huge Indian Jesus statue New Delhi: Hundreds of Hindu activists affiliated to India’s ruling party rallied on Monday to protest a planned Jesus statue that will rival Rio de Janeiro’s Christ The Redeemer for size. “We want to stop the statue, .. Top EU officials take oath of office Luxembourg: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took an oath of office alongside other top European Union officials on Monday, vowing to respect the bloc’s founding treaties. Von der Leyen and her 26 EU .. Queen grants Harry and Meghan ‘transition period’ in Canada AFP Sandringham, United Kingdom Queen Elizabeth II on Monday said she would allow her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan to split their time between Canada and Britain while an agreement was made on their future, .. Democrat Cory Booker, campaign optimist, exits White House race Washington: Citing a lack of funds, US Senator Cory Booker dropped out of the Democratic presidential nomination race on Monday, a move that leaves a less diverse field vying to face Donald Trump in November’s election. ..