The deterioration of the security environment in the western Sahel is marked by an array of differing actors, drivers, and motivations, calling for contextualized responses.
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Militant Islamist violence in Africa has risen continuously over the past decade, doubling in just the past 3 years.
Adapting Sahelian force structures to lighter, more mobile, and integrated units will better support the population-centric COIN practices needed to reverse the escalating trajectory of violent extremist attacks.
A Webinar on Thursday, December 3, 2020, designed to expand understanding of the key technological and geopolitical trends driving Africa’s digital revolution of most concern to African security sector professionals; explore the main ways in which rising internet penetration, technological innovation and the diffusion of cyber capabilities are influencing Africa’s national security landscape; discuss and consider how the COVID-19 pandemic influence how the digital revolution will impact Africa’s security landscape; and identify the cyber capabilities and intentions and of key national security actors, including states, criminal networks and terrorist groups.
A 70-percent annual increase in violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in the Sahel propelled a new record of extremist violence in Africa in 2021.
Violence linked to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) more than doubled in the past year. Concentrated along the Burkina Faso-Niger-Mali border areas, ISGS events target civilians nearly half the time.
Composed of distinct operational entities, the militant Islamist group coalition Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen serves the role of obscuring the operations of its component parts in the Sahel, thereby inhibiting a more robust response.
France has long conducted military operations in the Sahel, from its colonial wars to its present Operation Barkhane, which deploys around 5,000 soldiers across the region. Examining the evolution of French doctrine for such missions highlights how the focus of these operations has changed from a population-centric approach meant to increase the post-colonial administration’s legitimacy, to one that focuses on security. This adaptation recognizes the limited objectives that such operations can achieve but it also presents new challenges since it relies on others for the inherently political work such operations entail.
The disproportionate representation of Fulani in militant Islamist groups in the Sahel has led to the stigmatization of the entire Fulani community. Reversing this will require renewed outreach and trust-building between Fulani leaders, government authorities, and neighboring communities.
Rising violence by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel is straining intercommunal tensions, threatening the foundations of social cohesion in the region.
Reversing the escalating violence of militant Islamist groups in the Sahel will require an enhanced security presence coupled with more sustained outreach to local communities.