Army Gen. Mark A. Milley discussed the terror threat in West Africa with French Army Gen. Francois Lecointre during meetings this week and will present the French view of operations in that area as the Defense Department reviews the resources and personnel assigned to U.S. Africa Command.
Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met Lecointre, his French counterpart, as part of NATO's Military Committee meeting in Brussels.
The French are leading efforts in West Africa and have more than 4,500 service members in the region, according to the French military.
U.S. personnel in West Africa work closely with French, British and local forces to contain the terror threat.
There is a danger from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the region, and ISIS claims the terror groups in the area of Mali, Niger and Burkino Faso constitute a "province" of the caliphate. "There's a variety of terrorist organizations that are operating in the area that have declared allegiance to ISIS and al-Qaida," Milley told reporters.
The U.S. military provides crucial logistic, aviation and sensing capabilities to local and partner forces, and French officials have said they need those capabilities to meet the challenges of the mission.
DOD is working to ensure the National Defense Strategy is resourced correctly, so Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper has directed reviews of manning at the various combatant commands.
According to the National Defense Strategy, the main effort is directed at the Indo-Pacific region to deter China, followed by Europe and Russia. North Korea, Iran; violent extremist organizations are the other threats.
For a strategy to have any meaning, resources must back up the words. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command should have the lion's share of DOD resources, followed by U.S. European Command.
Africom, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Central Command have economy of force missions — meaning they have a lesser claim on U.S. military resources.
"We are doing a broad review … of U.S. military resources matching our broader national defense strategy," Milley said. "In Africa, we're doing that review. The question we’re working with the French on is the level of effort. Is it too much, too little, about right? And is it the right capabilities?"
An economy of force mission means to use the least amount of force and resources to achieve objectives. "But economy of force doesn't mean zero, and that's important," Milley said. "A lot of people think that we are pulling out of Africa."
What the review will do is recommend the capabilities needed to support the economy of force mission in Africom and then size it to the tasks and the threats, and level of effort that's appropriate to achieve your objectives, Milley said.
The Africom review should be completed in six weeks to two months, he said.