Twenty years after 9/11, jihadist terrorism is on the rise in Africa


20th Anniversary 9_11 Drawing (1)The rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban is reviving the nightmarish idea that global jihadist terrorist groups will once again find a haven where they can reorganize and thrive. It also draws attention to Africa, where jihadist groups have been on the rise. Twenty years after 9/11, they are spending their terrorist war in large parts of the continent. The scenario in which jihadist groups overwhelm a country like Mali—with its corruption, lack of political cohesion, and weak armed forces—is realistic: It could happen in 2013. Thinking about the lessons of Afghanistan for Africa is urgent, like Western countries I became very hesitant To increase their participation in fighting these insurgencies after the fiasco in Afghanistan.

Terrorism linked to radical Islamic movements Since 2014 When it reached a record year, in terms of the number of accidents and deaths. Terrorism outside countries experiencing a jihadist insurgency has declined more sharply, indicating that the ability of many groups to launch attacks against civilians outside their areas of daily operations has been seriously curtailed. The Global Terrorism Index, which measures terrorist incidents worldwide, shows that deaths linked to terrorist attacks fell 59% between 2014 and 2019 – to a total of 13,826 – with most linked to countries experiencing jihadist insurgencies. However, in many places across Africa, deaths have risen dramatically.

Violent jihadist groups thrive in Africa and in some cases expand across borders. However, there are no countries At risk of immediate collapse As it happened in Afghanistan. Islamist insurgencies in Africa have three main geographic areas of operation. One is Somalia, where a very old insurgency for years has caused instability in Kenya’s border regions and is now Inspiring violent groups in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The second is in the Sahel region of West Africa, where the border region between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso has been particularly affected, as well as neighboring countries such as Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin. Finally the region around Lake Chad and northeastern Nigeria, where the conflict directly affects northern Cameroon, Chad and Niger. All these rebellions are practiced a Huge losses to the local populationWhich has been the target of most terrorist attacks.

Despite the tremendous efforts of European countries and the United States – with France and the UK on the front lines – and with the full support of multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and development banks, jihadist insurgencies have continued and even expanded. The United States has about 6000 soldiers in Africa, mostly involved in the war against terrorist groups. In the Sahel, France led two very large military operations. The first, known as Serval, halted the advance of the rebels and avoided the complete collapse of the Malian state through a coordinated attack by four powerful armed groups in 2013. This was followed by another operation, bulwark, which is currently transforming into the multinational Takoba Task Force which Paris hopes will have much greater participation than other countries. France had up to 5,400 soldiers in the Sahel until the era of President Emmanuel Macron the last decision to reduce its presence. In 2007, the African Union, at the request of the United Nations Security Council, launched its project Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) With the participation of 11 African countries and about 20,000 people deployed in the field, in addition to important financial and technical support from Western countries. In addition, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) Present in Mali since 2013 with 18,000 employees, driving what it has become deadliest For all ongoing United Nations peacekeeping operations.

The causes of these rebellions are complex, and they are usually roots In local grievances, competition for local resources (particularly land for grazing), mismanagement, and lack of government capacity to provide services and provide economic opportunities to their populations, especially in remote areas. Many of the more organized jihadist movements, as in Afghanistan, began during the civil wars. Al-Shabab in Somalia I started as a subsidiary to the Union of Islamic Courts that emerged to bring about some order at the end of the devastating civil war that began in 1991. In Mali, a number of jihadist organizations such as Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) Created or greatly enhanced At the time of the Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali in 2012. Also contributing to the jihadist rebellions is the search for a global identity and the search for purpose among marginalized and frustrated youth, amid the collapse of their traditional family structures. In this context, the proselytizing by Salafi religious groups, often funded by institutions based in Saudi Arabia, Contributes to the spread Divisive messages among young people.

Some of the conflicts in which jihadist movements participate have been brewing for generations and are oftentimes Rooted in a history of violence at the societal level. In order to gain the support of local youth, many jihadist groups tend to use specific ethnic grievances to their advantage. Boko Haram in Nigeria Recruitment began among the Kanuri youth, which accumulated many grievances against the Nigerian state and they felt that their region, Borno, had been largely marginalized by the government. Recently, the Macina Liberation Front, or Catepa Macina, has Appeared in central Mali Under the leadership of the Fulani preacher Amadou Koufa. Katiba Massina has managed to attract many young Fulani into its ranks who are frustrated after years of accumulated grievances towards the government and other groups, particularly regarding access to pasture, cattle rustling, and widespread marginalization. These insurgencies often present themselves as concessions to global jihadist movements such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda to bolster their image; However, today, in most cases they have very weak links with these movements and do not seem to receive financial or military support at any meaningful level. These groups often also split and their most capable leaders have been killed over the years in military operations or infighting. However, this has She didn’t really underestimate her lethality.

Today’s local insurgencies in Africa do not have the ability to operate globally but have a dramatic direct impact on the well-being of the civilian population. It is estimated that The Boko Haram insurgency has claimed 30,000 lives since 2009 and forcibly displaced three million people. In Burkina Faso alone, the number of victims rose from about 80 in 2016 to more than 1,800 in 2019, the number of displaced people increased tenfold to about 500,000, and another 25,000 sought refuge in other countries. According to the United Nations Continued insurgency undermines the credibility of governments and creates tensions among local populations while reinforcing existing conflicts. Mali, a country that had He has made impressive progress in the field of democracy Before the 2012 war in its north, He witnessed three military coups In the past eight years, all linked to a sense that the government is unable to respond effectively to these rebellions. However, if Western countries begin to seriously cut their support for governments, the rebels could seize large areas, communicate more effectively with global movements, and become a global threat. For example, the Biden administration recently reduced its support for the Somali military fighting Al-Shabaab and According to the officers in the field It has already translated into some of the jihadist group’s territorial gains.

Many lessons can be learned from Afghanistan, and countries like France are beginning to change their strategies. We now know that simply halting security efforts can be disastrous, and that development aid that is tightly controlled by Western governments tends to increase corruption and undermine local institutions, which ignore the kind of local governance mechanisms that have been around for centuries because we don’t. Admiring or understanding them is counterproductive, and alienating local actors is only in favor of delaying the crisis. We hope that the United States and its allies can reflect on and apply some of these lessons as they approach their battle against jihadist insurgencies in Africa. France is already trying to adjust its strategy in the Sahel. There is one clear lesson for Western countries: just going out doesn’t solve problems.

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