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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid