Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States of America in coordination with allies have decimated ISIS in Syria and Iraq. As the Islamic State (ISIS) loses control of territory they intended to use as a caliphate, they begin to spread into various areas where government control is scant. Most notably North Africa.
The United States must track where the bulk of these fighter flee to and address threats with continuing bombardments of any Islamic extremist uprising. Many of the ISIS militants come from Northern Africa and are expected to return after being run out of Iraq and Syria. This prompted Nathan Sales, ambassador at large for State’s counterterrorism bureau, to make the following statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Counterterrorism:
“ISIS is on the ropes in Iraq and Syria. But as the group loses control over territory in its core, it is essential that we prevent it from reconstituting itself elsewhere. In particular, ISIS maintains networks in North Africa that seek to conduct or inspire attacks on the continent, in Europe, and against U.S. interests.”
Northern African foreign terrorist fighters have traveled to the Middle East in order to join the ranks of ISIS. Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Joan Polaschik made the following statements before the Senate subcommittee:
“A complex web of interrelated factors have spurred radicalization and prompted approximately 3,000 to 6,000 Tunisians to join ISIS: chronic youth unemployment and economic stagnation, feelings of social marginalization, and terrorist recruitment techniques honed to highly localized grievances.”
In essence, ISIS militants are exploiting poor economic conditions within Northern Africa in order to increase recruitment and facilitate settlements.
ISIS is only a portion of the problem within Northern Africa. There are numerous radicalized Islamic terror groups operating in North Africa and are currently spreading into the territories of sub-Saharan Africa as time marches forward.
Along with ISIS, there is Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Shabaab, as well as lone attackers whom are self-radicalized ISIS sympathizers.
Boko Haram has been responsible for mass-casualty attacks against civilian and security interests throughout north-east Nigeria. North Africa saw a slight decrease in attacks by Boko Haram in 2017 however, that was largely due to the group refocusing resources in order to spread their operational presence throughout Camaroon, Niger, and Chad. The slow-down in violence is sure to ratchet up as they begin to tighten their grips and impose their influence on these regions.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) targets mostly security personnel and interests. AQIM is currently thriving in the region due to the method by which they recruit which has proven to be very effective. AQIM has employed a recruitment method called the Matryoshka doll strategy in that they create splinter movements that will then splinter off again as numbers grow. Many of the splinter movements gain traction through exploiting local grievances that are unique to a specific region and are often codified along ethno-political lines. It appears AQIM has focused mainly on the country of Mali, more specifically the Mopti, Koulikoro, and Segou regions. Their violence has been continuous throughout the year as they move closer to Mali’s capital city of Bamako. AQIM has targeted French interests in and around Francophone Africa as a result of French counter-terrorism operations conducted in Mali.
Al-Shabaab mainly operates out of Somalia in that they have been very effective in exploiting the nascent government and divergent pro-government forces. Due to a lack of resources to hold settlements once eradicated of al-Shabaab, they have recaptured them and are launching complex attacks on the capital city of Mogadishu. In a very similar tactic used by AQIM, al-Shabaab garners sympathizers and supporters through citing ethno-religious marginalization on behalf of the secular government. Al-Shabaab has effectively employed this technique within Tanzania where they are expected to continue to spread violence and radicalization as their number of supporters grows.
Lone Attackers on the African continent remain an issue however, their success rates have been dismal as their efforts have been aspirational in nature and extremely unorganized. Both in Rwanda and South Africa, lone-wolf sympathizers of ISIS have been successfully thwarted from carrying out attacks on American interests and Jewish interests.
The Institute for Global Change predicts the Islamic-extremist activities in and around the central and southern regions of the African continent will remain informal and aspirational as opposed to organized and operational however, that is an optimistic outlook that ignores the organized threats just to the north. The organized outfits of Boko Haram, AQIM, al-Shabaab, and ISIS are making inroads into sub-Saharan Africa and will see the lone-attackers of the central and southern Africa as recruitment targets.
In order to avoid having to disband another caliphate in one form or another, America must follow the terror outfits wherever they go. Wherever they open up shop, we need to immediately close it down with extreme prejudice. Regardless of what their name is, if they employ radical Islamic extremism/terrorism then their goal is to destroy western civilization. And that is precisely why America, alongside our allies, must stand up to radical Islamic terrorism regardless of where is arises. The next stop in the global fight against terrorism must be North Africa since that is where the cockroaches dispersed to since the light turned on in Iraq and Syria.