Update: The percentage of U.S. Army Africa activities in the Lake Chad Basin have been changed based on the current state of affairs.
The Army has already deployed its first so-called Security Force Assistance Brigade — designed specifically to train, advise, assist and enable foreign militaries and police forces — to Afghanistan.
The second SFAB is being established at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and will deploy this time next year. The Army will stand up three more SFABs in 2019 as well as one within the Army National Guard.
“I am writing to request your views and the feasibility and suitability of assigning one of the future [SFABs] to the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) to meet current and future security cooperation and partner capacity building requirements,” wrote Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Readiness subcommittee.
Inhofe argues that AFRICOM has no assigned forces and has to compete with others for forces within the Pentagon’s global force management process.
And while the Army deployed a Brigade Combat Team to Africa as part of its Regionally Aligned Forces program in the recent past — which was successful in part when it came to building strategic partnerships — it “also negatively affected the allocated BCT’s readiness, especially for core missions such as full spectrum combat operations,” Inhofe said.
Because the new SFABs are designed for building strategic partnerships and “are manned appropriately without the need to leave most of the BCT at home station and deploying only the senior leadership of the BCT,” Inhofe writes, they would be appropriate for an AFRICOM deployment.
Additionally, he says, “assigning an SFAB would also reduce the requirements of allocating a BCT and allow it to focus on its training and maintaining the highest levels of readiness to meet other [combatant command] requirements or operational plans.”
U.S. Army Africa has hosted hundreds of civil affairs and Special Forces troops in a bid to build security and deter extremist groups in the region.
The Army’s missions in Africa were pushed into the spotlight in October 2017 when four soldiers from 3rd Special Forces Group were killed in an enemy ambush in southwest Niger.
Brig. Gen. Gene LeBoeuf, the acting U.S. Army Africa commander, told Defense News shortly after the attack that the Army would still be focused on exercises with partners throughout Africa but would shift some of its focus to the Lake Chad Basin Area, recognizing that there are some additional challenges in the region.
There has been approximately an 80 percent increase of U.S. Army Africa’s theater security cooperation activities from 2017 to 2018, with 40 percent focused on the Lake Chad basin, according to the general.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.