The United States to combat terrorism in Africa | Opinion

Four years ago this week, a group of US special operators escorting partner forces of the Nigerian army was ambushed by Islamist militants, about 120 miles north of Niamey, the capital of Niger. the size Al-Qaeda The unit crossed the border from neighboring Mali, another African country in the Sahel that has experienced significant jihadist violence over the past decade. Unsurprisingly, the ambush surprised the American forces that were in the area that day, turning what should have been a mission of advising and assisting into a deadly confrontation. When the attack ended, four American soldiers They lost their souls.

The ambush in Niger came as a shock to lawmakers in Washington, some of whom were directly responsible for overseeing the Department of Defense’s counterterrorism operations. When asked weeks later if he had any idea that US forces were even in Niger, Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, frankly admitted that he had not. Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C), who served in the Armed Forces Committee at that time, presented equally damned confession: “I didn’t know there were 1,000 soldiers in Niger.”

The entire episode was a scathing indictment of how the system of checks and balances operates on war and peace—the most weighty topic that policymakers and lawmakers will tackle in their careers. Like Brian Finucane, a former State Department attorney who now works for the International Crisis Group books This week, the executive branch has long neglected to submit the required reports to it Congress When US forces are introduced into a hostile environment, a flagrant violation of the 1973 war powers resolution. In fact, in order to avoid returning to Congress for an express use of force authorization, successive US administrations have essentially Created a whole new category of the militant groups allied with al-Qaeda, which allowed the executive branch to expand the war against al-Qaeda and Problems One-sided (even if those alleged relationships are ambiguous at best).

But the 2017 incident in Niger also revealed a creeping militarization of US policy in Africa that only expanded in the years since—all without a quick discussion of whether simultaneous counter-terror operations across the African continent are desirable, necessary, or sustainable. The US National Security Perspective.

The above sentence is not an exaggeration. The United States Army Presence in Africa, directed largely by training, advice and assistance that often turns into kinetic struggle, has spread like wildfire from coast to coast. War Cost Program at Brown University guess More than two dozen U.S. counterterrorism training operations on the continent between 2018-20, from as far away as Morocco to Madagascar. Publish research This Summer by Michael A. Allen, Michael E. Flynn, and Carla Martinez-Machine discovered that the U.S. Army has deployed more military personnel to more countries in Africa, across a wider geographic area, over the past fifteen years. As shown on September 30th send by time National Security Reporter W.J. Hennigan, US counterterrorism operations are particularly hectic in the Horn of Africa, where American operators, trainers, and pilots are effectively serving as the Somali Air Force against a 15-year insurgency that has proven as deadly as it continues. Hundreds of miles to the west, in the Coast region of Washington Brown a CIA A drone base in Niger, where the agency carries out surveillance missions to monitor various terrorist organizations operating in Mali, Niger and Chad.

Soldiers of the Niger army on a security patrol in the restive Tillaberi region of western Niger.
Giles Clark / Getty Images

If the purpose of the American presence is to eradicate terrorism in Africa or create a series of security partners that can contain the alphabet set of terrorist groups operating across the continent, Washington is still far from achieving the goal. The number of terrorist attacks in the Sahel and West Africa has reached A significant increase over the past several years. Despite losing thousands of militants over a decade, Al-Shabaab remains a powerful force within Somalia, benefiting from a weak, poor, and divided government whose powers it is fortunate to extend well beyond Mogadishu. Some African soldiers trained by Washington have used the skills acquired not to fight terrorism in their own countries, but to overthrow their own governments.

In September, Guinea’s security forces used their free time from exercises with the US Green Berets To launch a successful coup attempt Against the current president (US training program since commented). A similar case occurred last year, when Colonel Asmi Gueta, a Malian military officer, appointed a government led by the junta. After spending years Work with US Special Operations Forces on counter-terrorism and extremism missions.

To be fair, some of these events are impossible to predict. If US defense officials knew in advance that their training efforts could help enable the kinds of coups seen in Mali and Guinea, they might have had other ideas before implementing the program. Even US Special Forces, the cream of the crop, can’t be perfect all the time.

But one cannot help but wonder whether Washington’s extensive military activity in Africa is doing the United States any favor, especially when the terrorist groups the United States seeks to eradicate are generally more interested in local battles than in killing Americans back home. . And herein lies a vital question: Is there a better way to defend the United States against anti-American terrorism, other than to engage in internal battles on behalf of governments that often frustrate the illusions of their people? Or are we doomed to continue on the current path, treating all terrorist groups as equally dangerous, regardless of their goals, capabilities and intentions?

Daniel R. Diptris is a fellow at Defense Priorities and a foreign affairs columnist at Newsweek.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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