The deployment is the result of a review that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has been conducting to assess how U.S. military forces, programs and activities within each combatant command support the National Defense Strategy, according to Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah.
"As part of this review and in order to better compete with China and Russia in Africa, the secretary is directing the deployment of elements of the Army's 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade to the continent to conduct train, advise, and assist missions in spotlight African countries," Farah said in the release, adding that U.S. Africa Command was the first to present its findings and recommendations in the review.
"This is the first of many decisions regarding AFRICOM's mission."
The Army deployed the 1st SFAB for the first time in 2018 to Afghanistan. SFABs are the first permanent Army units whose core mission is conducting security cooperation activities, which in the past had been conducted by regular brigade combat teams.
"In addition to meeting combatant command requirements on the continent, the deployment of the SFAB will help improve Army readiness by reducing the demand for brigade combat teams to conduct security force assistance operations there," Farah said in the release.
The deployment of the SFAB will allow the Army to return elements of an infantry brigade from the 101st Airborne Division back to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky "allowing it to train and prepare for high intensity conflict operations," Farah said.
The company-sized element of 101st deployed to Kenya in early January as part of the East African Response Force (EARF) after an attack by al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabaab on a base in Kenya killed one U.S. soldier and two American contractors.
The EARF falls under Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, based in Djibouti, and is designed to conduct military operations such as protecting Americans and U.S. diplomatic facilities as well as supporting noncombatant evacuations.
"Deployment of the 1st SFAB and return of 101st Airborne Division personnel will commence in the coming weeks," Farah said. "This realignment and rightsizing of mission requirements demonstrates the Department's commitment to implementing the National Defense Strategy and our continuing commitment to our African partners."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.