U.S. Likely to Reduce Troops Fighting Ebola in West Africa

The U.S. is likely to cut the number of military personnel deployed in West Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak as major portions of their work end and the pace of infections continues to slow.

“Some of those major tasks are now winding down because they’ve been completed, for example, the construction and engineering phase,” Andrew Weber, deputy coordinator for Ebola response at the U.S. Department of State, said on a conference call with reporters. “There will likely be a reduction in the number of forces.”

American troops have helped build treatment units, train health-care workers, operate diagnostic laboratories, and provide logistics support in the region. Some of the essential capabilities will continue to support the response over time, said Weber. He did not specify the size of the reduction or when it would take place.

President Barack Obama authorized sending as many as 4,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa last fall to build treatment centers and do other work that doesn’t involve direct contact with Ebola patients. Congress in December allocated $5.48 billion to combat Ebola abroad and at home.

The Ebola outbreak has infected more than 21,000 people and killed about 8,400, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization.

At least 1,000 American troops deployed in Liberia to help fight the deadly virus should return home as their work was mostly done, outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African affairs Chris Coons said earlier this month.

— With assistance by Hui Li

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