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U.S. service member dies in non-combat incident in Djibouti

A U.S. service member died in a non-combat related incident in Djibouti Thursday, according to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa .

The cause of death is under investigation, according to a media release, which provided no further details.

The command said its policy is to defer casualty identification procedures to relevant national authorities after the next of kin have been notified.

The death comes as debate grows over the role of U.S. troops in Africa.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. military would not conduct a full troop withdrawal from Africa, though an ongoing review could result in troop reductions.

Lawmakers and national security experts have expressed concern over the potential reduction of U.S. troops from the region following an al-Shabab attack on the Manda Bay, Kenya, base that killed three Americans, among them a U.S. soldier.

The Pentagon is amidst a review of U.S. troop posture across the globe as military planners look for avenues to shore up resources and forces to address rising near-peer threats like Russia and China, and to better align policy with the National Defense Strategy.

The Army is deploying the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade to Africa to replace elements of an infantry brigade from the 101st Airborne Division in the coming weeks.

The 1st SFAB was selected as part of the Defense Department’s comprehensive review of each combatant command to align their activities with the U.S. military’s broader focus on competing against Russia and China, Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a statement Wednesday.

Africa Command was the first to present findings and recommendations as part of the review. The Army’s SFABs are a relatively new concept designed to take on the train, advise and assist mission that has bogged down conventional troops over the course of nearly two decades.

“This allows them to perform this important ‘great power competition’ role more effectively and more efficiently than conventional units," Farah said.

The SFAB deployment will also reduce the demand on Army brigade combat teams, Farah added, which have been tasked out to AFRICOM for missions like that of the East Africa Response Force.

The 1st SFAB, which is based at Fort Benning, Georgia, will relieve the 101st Airborne Division troopers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in the coming weeks, though exact dates have not yet been announced.

The U.S. also delivered six attack helicopters to Kenyan forces on Jan. 23 following an al-Shabab raid on the military base at Manda Bay, Kenya, that killed three Americans.

Another six MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters are expected to be delivered at another date, U.S. Africa Command said in a news release Saturday.

“The arrival of these helicopters underscores our commitment to our Kenyan defense partners and our shared collective efforts to address security and stability in the region,” Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of AFRICOM, said in the news release.

“This event is not only a culmination of the journey that began in 2016, but also a milestone for our Air Force to modernize the Kenyan Defense Forces,” Gen. Samson Mwathethe, the chief of the KDF, said in the news release.

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