U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday Africa has become a recruiting ground for Islamic extremists. They expressed concern about the impact that political instability and poverty are having on the fight against terrorism on the continent.
"Chronic instability will continue to hamper counter-terrorism efforts and pose heavy humanitarian and peace-keeping burdens on us," said Porter Goss, Central Intelligence Committee director, who was among offiicials who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee:
"It is a fertile ground in the Muslim populations in Africa for recruitment to extremist causes. Disaffected youth, youth bulge (large population of young people), socio-economic situation and education shortfalls, unemployment and so forth make inviting recruiting targets," agreed Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.
CIA Director Goss cited Nigeria, where he said extremist groups are emerging from the country's majority Muslim population. He said the military is struggling to contain militia groups in the oil producing south and to control ethnic violence that often erupts throughout the country.
In Sudan, Mr. Goss said the peace agreement signed in January will result in de-facto southern autonomy and may inspire rebels in the troubled Darfur province to press harder for a greater share of resources and power. He said Islamic extremists could reassert themselves in the north of the country unless the Khartoum government stays unified.
The CIA director said unresolved disputes in the Horn of Africa made it vulnerable to exploitation to foreign terrorist groups. He noted that Ethiopia and Eritrea still have a contested border, and that armed factions in Somalia have indicated they will fight the authority of a new transitional government.
Mr. Goss acknowledged that Africa needs more attention from the U.S. intelligence community. "This is an over-neglected area that is under-resourced for American interests from my perspective," he said.
Mr. Goss and Mr. Jacoby made their comments as part of an assessment of world-wide threats to the United States.