The United States has been considering the idea of cutting back troop strengths in both Africa and South America to begin to free-up more troops to counter near-peer potential adversaries in Russia and China. 

The opinion here is that this would be a mistake since both Russia and China are actively trying to build their influences in Africa and South America. Last week, Admiral Craig Faller, the commander of SOUTHCOM, made a push with Congress to get support for more involvement, both diplomatically and economically in Latin America. 

He had some bipartisan support for this track as both Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, the committee’s ranking member was on the side of the Admiral. 

Inhofe said that both AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM “have never been adequately resourced.”

“[The idea] to cut back troop strength in either region to free-up more troops to counter near-peers Russia and China makes no sense when both countries are aggressively expanding their influence in Africa and Central and South America,” Inhofe said.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper skirted the issue during a Pentagon press conference when he stated that some troops could be repositioned in the near future. He didn’t give any details but did say, “I know the inclination is whenever someone says ‘review,’ the word that automatically pops up in their head is ‘reduction.’ It is a rebalancing,” Esper said.

“In some cases, we will increase; in some cases, we won’t change; and in some cases, we will decrease,” he said. 

Latin America has always been in America’s sphere of influence, since the implementation of the Monroe Doctrine. But China is rapidly building its cache in the region through trade and compatibility. The poor countries of Latin America are rich in natural resources and needy of cash. Since 2000, trade between Latin America and China has increased by nearly 20 fold.