This important report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it became apparent to U.S. foreign policy makers that Northwest Africa was more than just a humanitarian concern. This realization led to the establishment of a multi-pronged, multi-year counterterrorism strategy in the Trans-Sahara region that incorporated diplomacy, development, and defense. Despite these unprecedented efforts, the Sahel sub-region has witnessed a steady rise in the presence of Salafi-Jihadist organizations since 2003. Furthermore, the states in the region remain incapable of defending against these organizations without significant outside assistance. This study examines the efficacy of U.S. counterterrorism strategy in the region vis-a-vis African states' capacity to explain the persisting Salafi-Jihadist organizations in the region. Exploring Salafi-Jihadism's ideological, doctrinal, and historical aspects illustrates that these organizations have limited interest in political solutions. The study uses Nigeria, Mali, and Mauritania as three case studies to examine the period between 2001 and 2014 to demonstrate how Salafi-Jihadism's components have successfully exploited these states' limited capacity, thereby undermining U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The study concludes by considering the impacts that these conclusions will have on future counterterrorism initiatives.
This study examines the efficacy of the United States' counterterrorism strategy in the Trans-Sahara region and assess why Salafi-Jihadist organizations continue to thrive. The study is broken into five chapters. The second chapter outlines the origins, ideologies, and agendas of Salafi-Jihadist organizations including AQIM, Ansaru, Boko Haram, and MUJAO, with particular attention paid to the post-9/11 timeframe. The limited scope is necessary to assess why the U.S. counterterrorism strategy in the Sahel is not affecting these particular organizations. The third chapter discusses why the current U.S. counterterrorism efforts have not addressed the root causes of Salafi-Jihadism. The fourth chapter evaluates the particular cases of Nigeria, Mali, and Mauritania where Salafi-Jihadism has had varying degrees of success over the past decade. The fifth chapter analyzes if U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region have failed to halt the advance of Salafi-Jihadist organizations like Boko Haram, AQIM, and MUJAO. In addition, policy recommendations are made that may enhance future counterterrorism strategy in the region. The sixth and final chapter concludes with review of the major observations noted in the paper.
The major finding in this paper is that current counterterrorism policies in the Sahel lack the proper scope and design to effectively counter the unique agenda of the Salafi-Jihadist ideology. The limited and corrupt capacity of these states coupled with the military centered approach of counterterrorism operations does not properly counter the narrative of Salafi-Jihadism which views western ideals of the secular states and democracy as illegitimate and Sharia law as the only acceptable alternative.