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Officials Warn That U.S. Losing Ground Africa

March 24, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States is losing influence in Africa by letting its military aid to the continent drop to an unprecedented low while the Soviets provide 17 times as much assistance, administration officials say.

Sudan has asked the United States to remove its emergency military stockpiles and facilities, and Somalia has rejected the visit of a top-level military delegation, the officials say.

U.S. military aid levels to Africa this year have dropped to an unprecedented low of $25.2 million, said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense James L. Woods.

″We have since last year lost our prepositioning rights in one important African country, and have had important military″ negotiations canceled in another, Woods told the House subcommittee on foreign operations Wednesday.

Although he declined to name either country, another official who spoke only on condition he not be named identified the first country as Sudan. He said the non-aligned government of Sadiq Mahdi was unwilling to honor political arrangements made by his predecessor Gaafar Nimeiri, who was deposed in April 1985.

U.S. relations with Sudan, strategically placed in eastern Africa on the Red Sea coast, have been strained by Sudan’s warming ties with Libya.

As a result of congressional budget cuts, as well as the less cordial ties with the Khartoum government, U.S. military aid to Sudan was canceled in fiscal 1988, along with six other African countries. The administration will seek a renewal of the aid for fiscal 1989, said the official.

Somalia, upset with a drop of its military aid to $5 million from some $20 million in 1986, rejected a visit by a high-level U.S. military delegation, the official said. But the visit will probably be rescheduled, he added.

Woods warned that if the military aid for Africa remains at the current level, ″we can no longer operate a meaningful aid program to Africa.″

The administration has asked for $740 million in economic and development aid for Africa next year and $83.7 million in military assistance.

Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker told the panel that ″the perception in Africa is that we’re opting out. And that creates strains.″ U.S. military aid to Africa accounts for only 3 percent of the total military assistance to the continent, Crocker said.

In contrast, the Soviet Union has poured $15 billion into African states since 1980, more than 17 times the U.S. input, he said.

In addition, the Soviets maintain 6,500 military advisers in Africa, and Cuba has some 45,000 troops there, most of them in Angola.

″Properly funded, the (U.S. military aid) program reduces reliance on Soviet bloc hardware and advisers,″ Woods said.

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