United States elite commando missions are likely to be cut by as much as half after a Pentagon review, said military officials, The New York Times reported.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis ordered the assessment of Special Operations units worldwide following an ambush in Niger last fall in which four American soldiers were killed, the report said.
More than 7,300 Special Operations troops are taking on terrorists in Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and other hot spots, while the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., is now taking the lead on combating weapons of mass destruction, the report said.
About 1,200 of those troops are on African missions; they face the most immediate reduction of forces, The Times reported. The African Command has been asked how it would conduct its counterterrorism activities if the number of commandos was cut by 25 percent over 18 months and by 50 percent over three years.
Mattis and Gen. Joseph E. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are worried that those operations are spreading commandos too thin. The leaders ordered the Special Operations and Africa commands to offer options by mid-June for balancing security challenges with counterterrorism operations, the report said.
Maj. Sheryll I. Klinkel, a Pentagon spokeswoman, did not comment on specific plans for reductions, and said that no final decisions on cuts have been made, The Times reported.
"The Joint Staff consistently reviews plans, operations, and military investments across the globe to develop the best options that address the constantly evolving threat to U.S. national interests," Klinkel said in an email, The Times reported.
A Defense Department investigation of the Niger ambush said that soldiers on the 11-member team in Niger had not undergone crucial training or rehearsals before their Niger deployment, a May 10 Times report said.
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