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Military chief sets out Washington’s stall to win over new partners on the continent

President Biden’s government is in talks over potential defence cooperation with Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana

This week’s trip to Botswana by Chair of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Brown Jr, is the latest in a series of recent US government efforts to rebuild military and security relations in the continent.

Brown arrived in Botswana on 23 June for a meeting of African defence ministers. US officials have indicated that President Joe Biden’s administration has begun talks with a group of West African states including Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The European Union, which is also in the process of removing its remaining military presence from the Sahel, has identified these countries, and Senegal, as potential partners on security and defence cooperation too.

‘There’s other countries in the region where we already have either a small presence or have relationships,’ Brown told reporters.

In May, the US agreed with the military junta in Niger that it would withdraw its contingent of 1,000 troops in the country by mid-September, leaving the US base in Djibouti, Camp Lemonnier, which hosts the US Africa Command, as Washington’s focal point in Africa (Dispatches 21/5/24, US military influence faces growing pressure).

Since then, US officials have slowly begun to make progress with alternative partners.

Last week, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray visited Kenya and Nigeria for talks with officials on cooperation on counterterrorism and intelligence (Dispatches 19/6/24,Terrorism and cyber fraud targeted as FBI chief lands in Africa).

That came just weeks after President Biden announced that Kenya would be classified as a ‘major non-NATO ally’ during counterpart William Ruto’s state visit to Washington. That arrangement, which still has to be approved by the US Congress, paves the way for increased US military investment and presence in Kenya (AC Vol 65 No 12,Ruto revels in the western embrace).

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