The West Offers Little Reprieve to the Sahel's Jihadist Battle

Dec 13, 2019 | 10:30 GMT

French soldiers patrol the Tofa Gala forest in northern Burkina Faso on Nov. 9, 2019.

French soldiers patrol the Tofa Gala forest in northern Burkina Faso on Nov. 9.

(MICHELE CATTANI/AFP via Getty Images)


  • France and its allies' continued strategy of maintaining a light footprint while supporting and building up local security capabilities will continue to fail to contain or reduce growing jihadist militancy in the Sahel.
  • But as jihadist militancy continues to expand, these Western intervening forces will be faced with a difficult choice of either ramping up their commitment or cutting their losses to reduce their footprint.

As Western security efforts struggle to keep militants from exploiting local vacuums in governance in the Sahel, escalating jihadist violence across the region shows no sign of slowing down. France has led the counterterrorism charge in the Sahel since its 2013 intervention in Mali to halt an emerging jihadist offensive. But those gains have been slowly and surely slipping away, as the insurgent threat has now morphed into a complex mess of ethnic and religious insurrections throughout most of Mali, and well into Burkina Faso and Niger. In fending off this increasingly formidable threat, however, France largely has been left to go it alone. Local military forces aren't adequately equipped to fight off the insurgents, and other Western countries with smaller operations in the region, such as the United States, have been hesitant to pick up the slack. But without any additional help, the security situation in the Sahel will inevitably worsen. And...

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