In October, US forces were ambushed in Niger by reportedly ISIS-affiliated fighters. While the mainstream media focused their reporting around President Trump’s remarks about Obama’s conversations with the families of fallen soldiers, important questions were left by the wayside.
When learning about the attack, it seemed key officials were taken by surprise that US soldiers were stationed in Niger in the first place. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I didn’t know there were 1,000 troops in Niger,” bringing up questions of why the branch of government tasked with declaring war isn’t aware of the United States’ military actions abroad.
However, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argue that Congress was unneeded in this situation, citing the “Authorization for Use of Military Force” Congress passed after the attacks on September 11, 2001. Senior Pentagon officials said they were in Niger to train and advise the country’s security forces, partnering with the United States to investigate al-Qaeda and ISIS in Africa. It seems Congress would do well to catch up with the times, as the war on terror may be shifting its focus from the Middle East to Africa.
USA Today reports that as these groups lose ground in the Middle East, Africa is becoming the new battleground in the war on terror: “The collapse of the Islamic State’s stronghold in Raqqa (Syria) will cause a re-coalescence of fighters on the continent, most of whom come from North African countries.” Further, many expect terrorist networks to grow in West and Central Africa, such as al-Qaeda groups Ansarul Islam in Niger and Boko Haram in Somalia. With poverty, government corruption, and unemployment rampant in these regions, extremism is likely to continue to thrive.
European countries have stepped up their own anti-terror operations in Africa over the last year in response. Reportedly 4,000 French forces are deployed in West and Central Africa, and 1,000 German forces in Mali. According to the Defense Department, the number of US troops in Somalia has quadrupled in the past year, and it has also established an air base with 800 troops in Niger.
According to some analysts, military action alone will not defeat this new wave of terror in Africa. Many of these regions are impoverished, and with better economic prospects, people may be less inclined to turn to extremism. In any case, it seems Africa may be the future focal point of the never-ending war on terror.