The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley was in Brussels to speak at a gathering of NATO commanders. There he said that the U.S. wants to reduce its footprint in Africa. Meanwhile, France’s President Emmanuel Macron was hosting a conference of the G5 nations (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger) urging the Trump administration to maintain its presence in the region.

General Milley’s remarks echo the shifting of focus that the United States has been exhibiting now for several months, i.e. from counter-terrorism to combat with near-peer potential adversaries China and Russia.

Milley, in speaking with other NATO commanders said resources “could be reduced and then shifted, either to increase the readiness of the force in the continental U.S. or shifted to the Pacific.”

President Macron’s summit conference with the members of the G5 Sahel coalition was looking for more support. Macron said, “If the U.S. decided to withdraw from Africa, it would be bad news for us,” in regard to the group that France has put together to stomp out the Islamic jihadist violence plaguing the region. 

“I would like to be able to convince President Trump that the fight against terrorism, to which he is deeply committed, is playing out also in this region,” Macron added.

Stuck in the middle between what the administration is proposing and what our allies are requesting from the U.S. is Defense Secretary Mark Esper. He’s trying to juggle two conflicting scenarios and hasn’t come up with a firm plan yet.

But Milley said that his remarks don’t mean that the U.S. would completely withdraw from Africa. “We’re developing options for the secretary to consider, and we are developing those options in coordination with our allies and partners,” Milley said in Brussels. “Economy of forces doesn’t mean zero.” 

The Trump administration wants the European Union to provide more support for the ongoing fight in the Middle East, mainly in Iraq, and for the French to take on more responsibility for the fight in Africa.