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

    US, Allies Discuss Next Steps in Islamic State Fight

    Meeting comes a day after US Navy SEAL was killed while fighting Islamic State forces in northern Iraq

    In China, Traditional Banks Fight Challenge From Internet Firms

    Internet companies lent more than $150 billion to customers in 2015, which is an extremely small amount compared to the much larger lending by commercial banks last year

    Trump Faces Tough Presidential Odds Against Clinton

    According to analysts, early indications are that Republican front-runner faces daunting contest against likely Democratic candidate, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora