WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials announced the results of a nearly yearlong review of the country’s military presence abroad Monday, but the recommendation included few changes in the positioning of American troops.
The report, billed as a “global posture review,” aimed to figure out how to best deploy American troops and weaponry around the world, particularly given the administration’s oft-stated intention to shift the U.S. military focus toward the power conflict with a rising China and away from decades of conflict in the Middle East and South Asia.
In fact, the most substantive change in the unclassified portion of the review appears to be improvements at airfields in the Asia-Pacific region. The Pentagon will also make infrastructure improvements at bases in Guam, Defense Department officials said.
The Biden administration announced in September that it had formed a new partnership with Australia and Britain to deepen cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Under the agreement, which followed secret deliberations among the three countries, Australia dumped a contract with France to buy diesel submarines in favor of building nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the United States and Britain. The United States is also supposed to send more deployments to Australia.
But the review, ordered up by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in March, sidesteps a decision on what to do about troop numbers in Africa, particularly Somalia, following President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out there last year.
A Defense official said the administration will continue to work toward figuring out troop numbers for East Africa. That decision has taken on new importance as Ethiopia slides into civil war and Islamic extremist group al-Shabab continues attacks in Somalia.
Meanwhile, in West Africa, the Biden administration has promised France that it will bolster the country’s counterterrorism efforts, including possibly sending additional reconnaissance planes and drones to a $110 million airfield that the United States built in the desert scrub near Agadez, Niger.
Mara Karlin, a Defense Department policy official, said during a news conference Monday at the Pentagon that the troop presence in Africa would be “appropriately scoped” to monitor terrorism threats across the continent.
The review is also unclear on what President Joe Biden plans to do to counter Russian aggression on the border with Ukraine, where Moscow has deployed troops for the second time this year, prompting fears of a military incursion. In April, in what was considered a message to Moscow, Austin announced that the United States would increase its military presence in Germany by about 500 personnel and that it was scuttling plans introduced under Trump for a large troop reduction in Europe.
Karlin cited “worrisome behavior” by President Vladimir Putin of Russia and expressed “profound concern with what appear to be some really unhelpful movements in the European theater,” in another reference to the Russian troop movement toward Ukraine’s border.