This article was written by Ana Maria Baloi and originally published on Grey Dynamics

This report examines the strategic concepts of AFRICOM as applied in West Africa, based on the U.S. interests in the region, military doctrine, and past experiences in other parts of the world. For collection and processing, the author used Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), therefore the report is safe to be further distributed.

Key Judgements

KJ-1. American military strategy in West Africa is to contain the terrorist threat by helping the local forces develop their own capacities and tactics. AFRICOM is offering training, technical and logistical assistance as well as intelligence and surveillance.

KJ-2. U.S.’s involvement in the fight against the Islamist insurgency in the Sahel pushed the regional armies to step up their efforts by increasing military budgets and rethinking Counterinsurgency (COIN) and counterterrorism (CT) strategies.

KJ-3. Despite major operational and tactical improvements, West Sahelian law enforcement agencies lack a coherent strategy capable of containing deeper social issues that contribute to the success of the Islamist insurgency expansion.

KJ-4. U.S. is likely to minimize its COIN efforts in West Sahel, due to geopolitical shifts. As the regional and French forces rely heavily on U.S. logistical and surveillance support, the efficiency of their operations is expected to decrease.

What is the AFRICOM Strategic Concept in West Africa?

Violence by militant groups in West Africa has spiked 250 percent over the last two years. Constrained resources and manpower have pushed the U.S. forces to switch strategies from degrading terror groups to containment. Resources for the overstretched American troops across Africa may be further limited should the Pentagon decide to cut funds and personnel. The U.S. Secretary of Defense is yet to decide whether the U.S. withdrawal from West Africa will be complete or partial.

Three groups, the Macina Liberation Front, Ansaroul Islam, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), are responsible for roughly two-thirds of the extremist violence in the central Sahel. Since 2017, the first two — alongside some other groups — merged into the Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin’ (JNIM). Their attacks are largely concentrated in central Mali, northern and eastern Burkina Faso, and western Niger.