Mali as the model for future U.S. counter-terrorism in Africa

The US Army’ s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point has emerged as one of the key DOD research and policy centers among many sites of research and planning on “terrorism in Africa.” In the lead article in this month’s Sentinel journal, Michael A. Sheehan and Geoff D. Porter highlight how the turbulence in northern Mali and the joint response of French/AU/UN/and the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) with US AFRICOM is a model for future AFRICOM responses to actions of “alQaida-affiliated groups” from Somalia across the Sahel and Maghreb to Nigeria, Mauritania, and Western Sahara.” In the same issue of Sentinel are reports by the Center’s staff on the turbulence in Kenya, Somalia, Alteria, Tunisia, and Nigeria.

In his State of the Union on January 28, 2014, President Barack Obama’s speech focused on domestic issues, but singled out Africa, specifically mentioning Somalia and Mali, in reference to the evolution of the al-Qa`ida threat, the emergence of al-Qa`ida affiliates and the need for the United States to continue to work with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. … Operation Serval (in northern Mali) may be seen as a template for future counter-terrorism engagements: a threat is perceived, it is quickly acted on, and objectives are clearly delineated. The U.S. commitment is limited, but its strategic objectives are achieved. “The challenge going forward will be to try to apply the lessons learned from Operation Serval elsewhere in Africa and against more diffuse targets than a coordinated­ but ultimately heterogeneous and disparate­ rebel offensive…”

Also see seven related articles in the same April 2014 special AFRICA issue of the CTC Sentinel plus Recent Highlights in Political Violence during the previous month.

  • Al-Shabab’s Capabilities Post-Westgate By Ken Menkhaus
  • An In-Depth Look at Al-Shabab’s Internal Divisions By Stig Jarle Hansen
  • The Malian Government’s Challenge to Restore Order in the North By Bruce Whitehouse
  • The In Amenas Attack in the Context of Southern Algeria’s Growing Social Unrest By Hannah Armstrong
  • Will Terrorism in Libya be Solely Driven by Radical Islamism? By Geoffrey Howard and Henry Smith
  • Religious Violence in Tunisia Three Years after the Revolution By Anne Wolf
  • Leadership Analysis of Boko Haram and Ansaru in Nigeria By Jacob Zenn
  • Recent Highlights in Political Violence

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