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US secretary of state heads to Africa after long absence Friday, 14 February 2020 ()
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Africa this weekend as the first U.S. cabinet official to visit in more than 18 months, and he is certain to face questions about the U.S. military's future on the continent and new U.S. visa restrictions against millions of Africans.

Pompeo is visiting Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia as the Trump administration tries to counter the growing interest of China, Russia and other global powers in Africa and its booming young population of more than 1.2 billion.

His visit comes as the U.S. military considers reducing its presence in West Africa's Sahel region while extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group expand their reach, killings hundreds of civilians. Pompeo last year said the Sahel should be the next focus of the global coalition against IS outside the group's core region.

In one surprising case an al-Qaida-linked group, JNIM, and an IS-linked group, The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, are cooperating, something the commander of Special Operations Command Africa told reporters he hasn't seen before. It's largely due to personal connections but “that's an interesting phenomenon that we're watching,” Brig. Gen. Dagvin Anderson said Thursday.

Also raising concerns is the Trump administration's announcement last month that it will no longer be issuing immigrant visas to citizens of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with an estimated 200 million people and a large, often high-achieving diaspora. New visa restrictions also were imposed on Eritrea, Tanzania and Sudan.

“This is the challenge Pompeo’s facing in Africa, explaining the contradictory messages out of Washington," Mike O’Hanlon, director of the Brookings Africa Security Initiative, said in a briefing this week.

Some African leaders have bristled at what they...
Credit: Al Jazeera STUDIO - Published < > Embed
News video: Secretary of State Pompeo: US is assessing Senegal's security

Secretary of State Pompeo: US is assessing Senegal's security 02:10

Secretary of State Pompeo says US must balance Senegal's security needs with its own interests on Africa tour.

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