U.S. Intelligence Agencies Prepare To Pull Back From Africa

USA World
The opening ceremony of a joint military exercise between African and Western nations in Burkina Faso in February.Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

New York Times: U.S. Intelligence Agencies Prepare to Pull Back Officers From Africa

An expected withdrawal of military forces would lead the C.I.A. and other agencies to reduce their presence, leaving some officials and experts fearful of a gap in stopping terrorist threats.

WASHINGTON — American intelligence agencies face a significant reduction in their counterterrorism collection efforts in Africa if a proposed withdrawal of United States military forces is carried out by the Pentagon, intelligence officials said.

The new planning to pull back intelligence officers deployed in Western Africa and other parts of the continent has been partly driven by the troop deployment review, which is expected to reduce American forces in Niger, Nigeria and other countries in the region.

The presence of American troops allows intelligence officers to travel far from traditional diplomatic outposts. The troops also provide protection in the event of spreading chaos or instability. Stark evidence of the risk was seen in the lethal 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and increased security was ordered for those outposts.

If service members are soon pulled out of Africa, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies simply would not be able to safely deploy their officers far beyond embassy walls, officials say.

“With a smaller military and intelligence presence, we limit how much intelligence we collect. Our analysts have a less rich pool of information on which to draw when reaching conclusions and forecasting threat conditions,” said Mr. Rasmussen, the acting executive director of Arizona State University’s McCain Institute. “Our confidence levels in the analysis we produce end up being lower.”

Trump administration officials would not say how many intelligence officers could be affected by the changes because the number of officers in the field is a closely guarded secret.

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WNU Editor: These African conflicts can only be resolved by the Africans themselves. The U.S. cannot be involved everywhere, and Africa is one huge continent. Bottom line. The presence of a few hundred U.S. intelligence personnel on the continent is not going to make a difference.