US mil­i­tary down­grades ef­forts against ex­trem­ists in West Africa

Pretoria News - - BUSINESS REPORT | WORLD -

THE US mil­i­tary has switched from try­ing to de­grade Is­lamic ex­trem­ist groups in West Africa’s sprawl­ing Sa­hel re­gion to merely try­ing to con­tain them as their deadly threat in­creases, a US govern­ment re­port says.

The top con­cerns in Africa in­clude the fast-grow­ing threat from mul­ti­ple ex­trem­ist groups in the Sa­hel re­gion just south of the Sa­hara Desert and the en­dur­ing threat by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab in So­ma­lia, which con­sis­tent pres­sure on ex­trem­ist groups is needed to weaken them, the re­port says, cit­ing De­fence Sec­re­tary Mark Esper, who has com­pared it with “mow­ing the lawn”.

That need, along with the of­ten slow de­vel­op­ment of lo­cal part­ners’ mil­i­taries, “could re­quire on­go­ing com­mit­ment of US mil­i­tary re­sources”, the re­port adds.

It also says the US Africa Com­mand has ex­pressed con­cerns to the Pen­tagon’s in­spec­tor gen­eral that some re­sources will be moved from So­ma­lia to Libya, where about 6 000 US mil­i­tary per­son­nel are de­ployed across Africa, in­clud­ing 500 spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces in So­ma­lia and about 800 per­son­nel in West Africa.

The se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in ex­trem­ist groups linked to the Is­lamic State group and al-Qaeda in West Africa “are nei­ther de­graded nor con­tained”, the new re­port warns, cit­ing Africom.

The new US mil­i­tary strat­egy has changed from try­ing to de­grade, or re­duce the ef­fec­tive­ness, of those ex­trem­ist groups in the Sa­hel to try­ing to keep them from grow­ing their mem­ber­ship and spread­ing into new ar­eas, Africom told the Pen­tagon in­spec­tor gen­eral in late De­cem­ber.

Mali’s pres­i­dent Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta this week told French me­dia his govern­ment had 1 000 to 2 000 fight­ers and its goal was to “unite all ter­ror­ist groups in the Sa­hel and elim­i­nate West­ern in­flu­ence in the re­gion”, the new US re­port says.

The US mil­i­tary in the Sa­hel largely sup­ports the mil­i­taries of France and lo­cal coun­tries in their fight against the ex­trem­ists.

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