DoD Chief Esper: US Troops in Africa Needed to Compete With Russia, China Elsewhere


In remarks on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters the Pentagon needed US troops presently deployed in Africa to be moved to other theaters in order to compete with Russia and China, which he called “mission number one.”

‘Mission Number One’

“How do we support competition” with Russia and China, Esper asked reporters during a flight to Florida on Wednesday. “There’s only a finite number of dollars, a finite number of troops, so I’ve got to figure out, where is the best place to put them? I’ve articulated in the past that I want to either return forces to the States to improve their readiness, or redeploy others to the INDOPACOM AOR [Indo-Pacific Command Area of Responsibility] to help us there specifically.  But I also know it’s a global competition.”

“I said for my nomination, my aim was to implement the National Defense Strategy,” Esper told reporters. “Mission number one is compete with Russia and China. So that’s one of the things that I’ll be looking at for sure.”

In that 2018 document and the accompanying National Security Strategy, the Pentagon and White House laid out that “after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned. China and Russia began to reassert their influence regionally and globally,” noting that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national…

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