The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Niger’s coup is an uncomfortable reality of the region, but it shouldn’t prompt America to abandon the region.

Terrorism continues to pose a significant threat to many parts of Africa. Its impact resonates beyond human rights to social and economic development, crippling economies and destabilizing entire regions.

In recent years, terrorism and violent extremism have expanded across the African continent, most notably in the Sahel region. The upsurge of violence in the Sahel has claimed the lives of thousands of people and inflicted significant economic damage. Various terrorist groups have emerged from the chaos of local or regional conflicts, fueled by inter-communal violence, border insecurity, socioeconomic marginalization, and extremist religious beliefs.

ISIS and al-Qaeda, the most prominent of these terrorist organizations, continue to undermine peace and security, particularly in Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. By attacking security forces and exploiting insecurity in certain areas, they continually terrorize local populations.

The vulnerability of the Sahel region further compounds the issue. Terrorism and violent extremism can escalate conflicts in Africa, weakening affected states in terms of security, stability, governance, and socio-economic development. Despite these threats, the current situation offers the United States a strategic opportunity to fortify its role as a state capable of materially contributing to the security, stability, and development of the region.

The United States has consistently pursued a comprehensive approach to conflict resolution in regions like the Sahel, targeting the deep roots of insecurity and instability.

As an African partner eager to take a more dominant role in regional development and counterterrorism, the United States’ commitment to the Sahel has evolved into a pioneering model.

Given that terrorism in the Sahel is a critical threat to peace, security, stability, and development, it represents a significant geopolitical and geostrategic concern for the United States.

Cooperation between the United States and the G5 Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad) is essential for an effective response that transcends an exclusively African approach.

This necessitates joint, immediate, and concerted action by the G5 Sahel and its partners, including the United States, to promote security and economic development, addressing the root causes of extremism and terrorism.

To this end, the involved parties must craft a strategic security vision and implement corresponding institutional, organizational, and budgetary measures to address the myriad risks, threats, vulnerabilities, and fragilities facing the region.

The United States, with its globally recognized experience in counterterrorism and deradicalization, is positioned to play a vital and predominant role in securing the Sahel.

Further, the recent coup in Niger risks exacerbating security issues in the Sahel, as a region without territorial integrity and with a feeble central power could destabilize the area.

Consequently, a revamp of the G5 Sahel’s security system, backed by African partners and led by the United States, is urgently required to foster broad, structured cooperation, and develop anticipatory strategies for emerging risks and threats.

Recent waves of military coups across the Sahel have cast doubts on existing security strategies and interventions. Ongoing military and security cooperation between Sahelian countries and the United States is essential, lest the region’s political conflicts and coups allow Russia to supplant America’s influence.

Khalid Cherkaoui Semmouni is a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Rabat Center for Political and Strategic Studies.