US increases engagement with Africa, carving out role in previously distant states

President of Chad Mahamat Idriss Deby gestures as he arrives for a meeting over security in the Sahel region at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, November 12, 2021. The REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes - RC2XSQ9WRS5D

US diplomats ramped up engagement this week with African countries it has long held at arm’s length as the Biden administration looks to counter Russian influence and address a wave of coups across sub-Saharan Africa. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee met with the president of Mali’s Transitional Military Council, Mahamat Idriss Déby, in a move that suggests the US is beginning to stop viewing the strategically important Sahelian country as a “French problem.”

France’s troop drawdown and eroding control of the Sahel security situation is helping Russia build a line of influence from the Red Sea in Sudan to the western Sahel, Africa Report writes. As the French disengage, the Biden administration has been under Congressional pressure to act as top foreign policy leaders have criticized the State Department while urging a rethink of America’s security-heavy counter-terrorism strategy for the Sahel.

Meanwhile, in DC, the President of Somaliland, Muse Bihi Abdi secured meetings with top US administration officials and members of Congress. The visit caps a monthslong campaign to boost bilateral ties with the US and other countries amid continued political instability in Somalia, conflict in Ethiopia and Sudan and worsening drought in the region.

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