News / Africa

Obama to Visit Senegal Amid Growing Sahel Terror Threat

Obama to Visit Senegal Amid Growing Sahel Terror Threati
X
June 18, 2013 4:15 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama plans a visit to Senegal as the country, and the greater Sahel region, face unprecedented security challenges from transnational jihadist groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria and The Signed in Blood brigade, thought to be active from northern Mali to Libya. The United States is for the first time offering cash rewards to help track down the leaders of these and other terrorist groups in West Africa, a move that analysts say reflects the severity of the threat to the region as well the decades-old U.S. strategy of containing threats in Africa by helping local security forces fight them off themselves. VOA West Africa Correspondent Anne Look has more.
Anne Look
U.S. President Barack Obama plans a visit to Senegal as the country, and the greater Sahel region, face unprecedented security challenges from transnational jihadist groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria and The Signed in Blood brigade, thought to be active from northern Mali to Libya. The United States is for the first time offering cash rewards to help track down the leaders of these and other terrorist groups in West Africa, a move that analysts say reflects the severity of the threat to the region as well the decades-old U.S. strategy of containing threats in Africa by helping local security forces fight them off themselves.

France blitzed into Mali in January with air strikes and 4,000 ground troops to push back a southern offensive by al-Qaida affiliates still active in the Sahel-Sahara region.

That is not something you will see the United States doing in the region anytime soon despite the recent targeting and killing of Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and a natural gas facility in Ain Amenas.  

President Barack Obama said in May that America will not be opening new fronts in the war on terror.
 
“And while we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based," he said. "And that means we'll face more localized threats like what we saw in Benghazi, or the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives -- perhaps in loose affiliation with regional networks - launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations.”

U.S. military engagement in Africa centers on training missions like one conducted in Senegal in 2013.

An American-trained army captain overthrew Mali's government in March 2012. The U.S. had poured millions of dollars into Mali's army to help it fight the terrorists who then took over the north after the coup.

International Crisis Group West Africa Director, Gilles Yabi says training African troops is a good idea but the crisis in Mali offers some lessons.

"You can't just train a core nucleus of soldiers within the armed forces to be very competent in counter-terrorism, while not addressing the fact that the army as a whole is dysfunctional," he said.

Coordinated double suicide attacks in northern Niger that killed at least 26 people in May have been some of the worst regional fallout incidents from the French-led intervention in Mali.  Countries in the region are bracing for more.

"The Sahel-Sahara zone is very vast and not very populated. It is difficult to operate and fight in the desert," said retired Senegalese military police colonel and former defense attache to Mali, Djibril Ba. "Security forces must depend on locals who are infiltrated by militants. There are lots of potential sanctuaries for militants. Locals need to be patriotic enough to  help us identify them, track them and arrest them. This is not conventional warfare and our security forces need to be trained how to do it."

This year, the U.S. opened its second drone base in Africa, at the heart of the Sahel, in Niger.

Yabi says aerial surveillance is useful but countries in the region cannot rely on American drones.

"Drones are expensive and the country that owns them will ultimately use them for its interests," he said. "Drones should not be a substitute for countries in the region learning to work together to control their borders and work with local communities who are really the best source of surveillance and information."

The U.S. State Department is now offering a total of $23 million in rewards for information leading to the capture of Nigerian extremist leader Abubakar Shekau and four other top militants in the region.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid