The phenomenon of migrants traversing the hostile terrain of northern Africa to Europe is not new—not the routes or the dangers. A decade ago, experts estimated that about 2,000 migrants drowned each year attempting to cross the Mediterranean and untold numbers perished in the desert. But after the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in 2011,... Continue Reading
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The shootings of tourists on a beach in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse is the second such attack since the March 18 assault on Bardo Museum in the capital city. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) once again asserted responsibility for the attack that claimed 39 lives and injured 36, mostly foreigners.... Continue Reading
The growing competition between the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda for influence on Africa’s terrorist groups was the theme of a recent panel presentation by Drs. Benjamin Nickels and Joseph Siegle from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “The advent of the so-called Islamic State has catalyzed something of a re-alignment in African terrorist groups”... Continue Reading
Al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Boko Haram, while all different, each display three common characteristics that aid in understanding terrorist actors in Africa. The observation was made by Dr. Benjamin Nickels, Associate Professor of Transnational Threats and Counter-Terrorism at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, during a presentation on September 23, 2014,... Continue Reading
Dr. Noureddine Jebnoun, an Africa Center faculty member who focuses on governance and security in North Africa and the Sahel, authored an article titled “Changing Security Dynamics in North Africa and Western Sahel,” recently published in the Portuguese Journal of International Affairs, No. 8 (Spring/Summer 2014). In the article, Dr. Jebnoun provides an overview of... Continue Reading
Violence by Islamist insurgents in northern Nigeria and northern Mali continues to attract international attention. Boko Haram, which wants an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria, has killed hundreds in gun and bomb attacks since it intensified its insurgency two years ago. Its fighters operate across northern Nigeria and in neighboring states Chad, Niger, and... Continue Reading
The rise in Islamic militancy in the Sahel, northern Nigeria, and the Horn of Africa has elevated attention to this evolving security concern. Hopes that Africa’s historically moderate interpretations of Islam would suffice to filter extremist views from gaining meaningful traction seem increasingly misplaced. More generally, understanding of this unconventional security challenge is often based more on speculation than informed assessment. Responses must avoid conflating distinct Islamist actors while addressing local level perceptions of disaffection and under-representation that underpin support for militants.
Support for Boko Haram among some of northern Nigeria’s marginalized Muslim communities suggests that security actions alone will be insufficient to quell the instability.
Despite growing concerns across the Sahel and Maghreb over the increasing potency of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the diffusion of heavily armed mercenaries from Libya, the expanding influence of arms and drugs trafficking, and the widening lethality of Boko Haram, regional security cooperation to address these transnational threats remains fragmented. Algeria is well-positioned to play a central role in defining this cooperation, but must first reconcile the complex domestic, regional, and international considerations that shape its decision-making.
Increasing narcotrafficking and a more active Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are elevating concerns over instability in the Sahel. However, the region’s threats are more complex than what is observable on the surface. Rather, security concerns are typically characterized by multiple, competing, and fluctuating interests at the local, national, and regional levels. Effectively responding to these threats requires in-depth understanding of the multiple contextual layers in which illicit actors operate.
Combating irregular forces has become a common feature of the contemporary African security landscape. However, the security sector in most African countries is ill-prepared to conduct effective counter-insurgency operations. Realigning force structures to address these threats while building security sector professionalism to gain the trust of local populations is needed to do so.