Burkina Faso : « risque d’effondrement » du nord menacé par les jhadistes (OPPOSITION)

02/04/2020 – L’Union pour le Progrès et le Changement (UPC), le principal parti d’opposition au Burkina Faso, a alerté jeudi sur un « risque d’effondrement » du nord du pays menacé par des groupes jihadistes. « La région du Sahel, épicentre de la crise sécuritaire et humanitaire, est en train de s’effondrer sans que le gouvernement n’y apporte une solution », a déclaré le vice-président de l’UPC, Amadou Diemdioda Dicko, lors d’une conférence de presse. Continuer à lire … « Burkina Faso : « risque d’effondrement » du nord menacé par les jhadistes (OPPOSITION) »

Mali / Niger /Burkina Faso : Paris et G5 Sahel sollicitent le Tchad dans la zone des « trois frontières »

02/04/2020 La France et les pays du G5 Sahel ont insisté lundi dernier sur l’envoi « dès que possible » de 500 soldats tchadiens dans la région dite des « trois frontières », en proie à de fréquentes attaques jihadistes, entre Mali, Niger et Burkina Faso. Continuer à lire … « Mali / Niger /Burkina Faso : Paris et G5 Sahel sollicitent le Tchad dans la zone des « trois frontières » »

Pentagon officials say Russia’s presence in Libya more dangerous than ISIS

US defense and US Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials have told the US-based Washington Examiner that Russia inserted a paramilitary group in Libya to support Khalifa Haftar and position itself on the southern flank of NATO, adding that their presence is a graver danger than ISIS in the southern region of the war-ravaged country.

The newspaper said on Tuesday that the Russians are acting out on US strategic interests in North Africa, but at the same time, doing it at a low cost, because if they mess up, then the Kremlin has plausible deniability.

The US official told Washington Examiner that it is really about access in Libya for Russia and about having access to the ports, to the oil, as well as having a reason to be in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“When we talk about Russia, we have to be specific that it’s really the military contractors from Russia, the Wagner Group are there, and it’s really not the Russian government, the Russian military, that is in Libya. » The official explained.

He added that when Russia is pressed by the United Nations on their influence and impact in Libya, they would be quick to say that they are not really present there.

Since the U.S. departure from Libya following Haftar’s attack on Tripoli in April 2019, Russia has been strengthening its military partnership in Libya, said Kimberly Marten, chairwoman of the political science department at Barnard College, speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum Tuesday.

“There have been reports that they are people who are sharpshooters,” she said of the elite Wagner mercenaries operating on behalf of Haftar in Libya, adding that they have really been the pointy end of the stick, making a big difference in what Haftar is able to do.

Another defense official told the American newspaper that the Russian private military contractor, referring to Wagner Group, has been in Libya and other parts of the African continent since early 2018.

AFRICOM Navy Lt. Christina Gibson told the Washington Examiner in a statement that the command sees Russia increasingly using private military contractors for military training and security assistance, which offers Moscow greater flexibility to achieve its geopolitical and economic goals.

A senior defense official said if the US didn’t have a military presence in Libya – in a partner-building capacity or whatever – it would be put really far behind.

The senior defense official added: « From a military perspective, going back in would allow us to be engaged in training, as well as some US influence on the activities within the government of Libya, as well as allows us to keep track of ISIS Libya and other groups.”

« We believe that there will be a need in the future, an opportunity for us to get back into Libya again, but it’s a little difficult to answer that given the current crisis ongoing there and uncertainties that we’re seeing in Libya.” The US defense official said.

The Libya Observer

Sahel-Elite (Bamako-Mali)

France Should Give Mali Space to Negotiate with Jihadists

16/04/2020 – On March 8, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Sahel region — Jama‘at Nusrat al-Islam wa-l-Muslimin (“The Group for Supporting Islam and Muslims” or JNIM) — released a communiqué accepting an offer by the Malian government to negotiate a peace. The jihadists set only one precondition for entering into negotiations: “Ending the racist, arrogant, French Crusader occupation.” Continuer à lire … « France Should Give Mali Space to Negotiate with Jihadists »

How US troops survived a little-known al-Qaeda raid in Mali two years ago

16/04/2020 – U.S. troops were part of a multinational force that repelled a brazen daytime raid by militants inside the United Nations Super Camp near Timbuktu Airport in Mali two years ago, according to award documents obtained by Military Times. Continuer à lire … « How US troops survived a little-known al-Qaeda raid in Mali two years ago »

Military from second rotation of Carpathian Pumas Detachment mission take off for Mali

16/04/2020 – About 120 servicemen securing the second rotation of the Carpathian Pumas Detachment mission took off for Mali on Thursday.

They are participating in the UN Integrated Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Republic of Mali, informs the Ministry of National Defense (MApN). Continuer à lire … « Military from second rotation of Carpathian Pumas Detachment mission take off for Mali »

The UK Joins an Unwinnable Fight in the Sahel

13/04/2020 – The UK is set to deploy additional troops to the Sahel, but currently lacks a clear strategy.

The fight against Islamist groups in the Sahel is expanding. Operation Takuba, France’s latest counterterrorism operation in the Sahel, will be made up of special forces from France, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Mali, the Netherlands, Niger, Portugal, Sweden and a political support team from the UK. France will deploy roughly 500 troops, the Czech Republic 60, Estonia 50, with remaining countries yet to confirm deployment numbers. Norway, which had indicated its willingness to deploy special forces, has now withdrawn its offer.

Takuba –­ meaning ‘sabre’ in Tuareg ­– will have four priorities: counterterrorism, military capacity-building, redeployment of state authority and development. The mission will operate within the tri-border areas of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger and be headquartered in the Liptako region, near a French military base in the Nigerien city of Niamey. The operation is designed to eradicate groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which is led by Abu Walid Al-Sahrawi.

The UK is committing 250 troops (from the Light Dragoon Guards and the Royal Anglian Regiment) as part of the UK’s long-range reconnaissance force, deployed alongside the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). According to the International Civil Service Union – an expert body established by the UN General Assembly –  at least 423 UN and associated personnel have been killed in deliberate attacks in Mali as a result of IEDs, rocket and artillery fire, mortar shells, land mines, grenades, suicide attacks, targeted assassinations, and armed ambushes.

An Overcrowded Space

Operation Takuba is designed to improve coordination, equipment and training. The operation is intended to complement an already crowded regional security environment which includes France’s Operation Barkhane, MINUSMA, the regional G5 Sahel and other supporting and training missions, including the US-led Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative. The G5 Sahel was established in 2014 but has been operationally active since July 2017. This French-led initiative was designed to facilitate regional coordination and to train 5,000 local troops from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad so they can combat security threats under a single command.

Despite international and regional efforts, the levels of violence in the Sahel have been rising. On the one hand, old grievances have manifested themselves between nomadic herding and farming communities leading to clashes and the creation of local self-defence and militia groups. On the other hand, new grievances around governance, security and development, perpetuated by the ineffectiveness of the regional and the international responses, has created new grievances which are being used as a recruitment drive by Islamic groups. Despite the presence of national, regional and international militaries and training programmes there is still no strategy to deal with the root causes of the grievances and their associated conflicts.

Local grievances and the Jihadist Fight

Conflict in the region has intensified and evolved. Since 2015, the violence in Mali has spread to Burkina Faso, but there has been no clear international response and the situation has continued to deteriorate, spreading to the borders with neighbouring countries. There is no formal peace process with any of the groups operating in Mali. Groups such as the Macina Liberation Front, an offshoot of Ansar Al-Din, continue to take advantage of the largely unprotected borders. Local militia and Islamist groups like Ansaroul Islam, Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara control vast parts of this area, with no government presence.

Over time the operations of the Islamist groups have evolved from small-scale ambushes with IEDs, to large-scale tactical and coordinated operations. Their activities now include the operation of illicit economies, trafficking, and the control of gold mines.

Clashes between nomadic herders and sedentary farming communities provide a key opportunity for Islamist groups operating within the Sahel. As a strategy, Islamist groups seek to embed themselves in communities and to recruit locally. They establish themselves as actors in local governance systems, offering security, aid and adjudicating disputes that often take months or years for the state to resolve, and providing a channel for disaffected individuals and communities to mobilise in response to grievances. Once recruited, local people provide knowledge, and logistic and operational support.

Challenges facing the UK’s deployment to the Sahel

Since 2000, both the US and the EU – and, in particular, France – have deepened their engagement in Africa, with a focus on security. Many of these security programmes and partnerships have produced mixed results. While they have contained widespread instability, they have not done enough to address the root causes of conflict and instability and have added new layers of insecurity which is now spreading throughout parts of Africa.

The UK government views troop deployment as crucial to fighting terrorism in the region. 30 soldiers from the Royal Marines and 1 Scots Guards are already conducting counterterrorism training with West African troops in Senegal. A further 100 UK personnel currently operate in Mali, from where the UK supports French forces with Chinook helicopters. Yet, to date, the government has failed to demonstrate how the proposed deployment of 250 reconnaissance troops fits into a long-term strategy for peace and security in the region.

Before the UK deploys troops, the government should, therefore, conduct an accurate analysis based on the following questions:

  • Have all means of peace been exhausted? What is its plan for achieving sustainable peace in the region?
  • Will UK troops be adequately equipped? Do the mission commanders understand the regional context enough to have a significant impact and are they willing to learn from their African counterparts? How will UK forces deal with issues of accountability in an urban warfare setting? How will President Donald Trump’s intention to pull US forces out of the Sahel impact UK operations?
  • Should the UK take a different approach? Does arming states in the region without a long-term strategy of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration and security sector reform risk contributing to the establishment of authoritarian regimes? Does military support create further dependency, and will this cause African leaders to be less accountable to their populations?
  • Will opportunities to deal with the root causes of the conflict be missed and what impact will this have on issues like migration, reintegration, development and democracy.
  • Finally, as Africa is already seeing an influx of international private security contractors filling its fragile security space, does UK involvement further risk blurring the lines of accountability and increasing the chances for states to use counterinsurgency operations as a mechanism for abusing human rights?

What the UK could do in the Sahel

The current UK strategy in the region – which consists of opening embassies in the Sahel, sending troops and a few Department for International Development projects will not reduce the threat of terrorism. Instead, the UK should consider the following actions:

  • Support international and national instruments of dialogue to bring communities closer and help support the creation of a comprehensive and sustainable peace project. Fund peace programmes and encourage tools like dialogue, local peacebuilding, negotiations and conflict mitigation to be adopted.
  • Create synergy by offering support for existing Africa military operations.
  • Create a pan-Africa–UK initiative, focusing on combatting instability and violence though early-warning response to conflict and fragility, strengthening state capacities, and building strong and sustainable institutions with integrated support from the MoD, FCO, Stabilisation Unit, civil service, Metropolitan police and parliament.
      • Focus on building accountable and strong states through institutional training, intelligence-gathering and capacity-building with embedded accountability mechanisms.
      • Increase programming support for fragile and conflict-affected states through the UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund with support from the UN Development Programme.There is a unique opportunity for the UK to support sustainable peace and conflict prevention by moving towards an approach that uses accountability mechanisms to support African troops. On the civilian side, providing and supporting counter-violent extremism programmes and training would help reduce people joining armed groups. The above suggestions would help to stem the overall levels of violence and help place parts of the region onto a path of dialogue and avoid fuelling old and new conflicts.Andrew Tchie| RUSI
        The views expressed in this Commentary are the author’s, and do not represent those of RUSI or any other institution.

        BANNER IMAGE: Courtesy of TM1972/Wikimedia Commons
        Sahel-Elite (Bamako-Mali)