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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More