2 years after the Niger ambush, the US reportedly plans on ramping up counterterrorism efforts in the region

news
Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct shooting drills at a Mauritanian range during Flintlock 2019, Feb. 15, 2019 in Atar, Mauritania. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Steven Lewis)

The United States plans on ramping up counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel region of Africa in response to an alarming rise in violent extremism there, Foreign Policy reports.

The Sahel includes Niger, where four U.S. Army Special Forces personnel were killed in a deadly October 2017 ambush carried out by Islamic extremists.


The Trump administration "is preparing to create a new special envoy position and task force" to handle growing security threats in the region, Foreign Policy reports, a move that reflects "a growing alarm in Washington about the rise of extremist groups in West Africa."

The U.S. has gradually ramped up counterterrorism efforts in the region since the 2017 Niger ambush. Weeks after the attack, U.S. Army Africa announced plans to increase security, intelligence, and training operations Niger, Mali, Chad, Cameroon, and other neighboring countries.

More recently, U.S. Africa Command announced the completion of a critical drone base in the Nigerien city of Agadez from which armed drones will conduct that intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations for the foreseeable future.

But according to a December brief from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, attacks involving violent extremist groups have only doubled in the region since 2015, so far that nearly 700 such incidents have lead to nearly 2,000 fatalities this year alone.

(Africa Center for Strategic Studies)

Those violent extremists include ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), the terror group thought to be responsible for the 2017 Niger ambush and perpetrator of several coordinated ambushes across Burkina Faso and Mali.

According to Foreign Policy, UN officials have in recent months come to worry that this current rise in violence in the Sahel will only worsen as other ISIS extremists return home from the battlefields of the Iraq and Syria following the group's territorial defeat there.

"We say we have wiped out the Islamic State in Iraq, in Syria. Do people ask the question where these people are going?" as Mahamat Saleh Annadif, special envoy for the UN peacekeeping initiative in Mali, told Al Jazeera in July. "There is a breeze going towards the Sahel."

Despite the recent influx of resources into the region, a renewed focus on the Sahel appears top of mind to U.S. officials.

"I think [the Sahel] is the most difficult and challenging situation we have now in the continent," Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy, the United States's top diplomat on Africa, told Foreign Policy in November. "The threat of terrorism and violent extremism is expanding."

Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, put it more bluntly at the sidelines of the U.S. exercise Flintlock back in February: "I would tell you at this time, we are not winning."

A Syrian commando-in-training applies the safety on his rifle during basic rifle marksmanship training in Syria, July 20, 2019. (U.S. Army/Spc. Alec Dionne)

The U.S. government failed to effectively account for nearly $715.8 million in weapons and equipment allocated to Syrian partners as part of the multinational counter-ISIS fight, according to a new report from the Defense Department inspector general.

Read More
REUTERS/Scott Audette/File Photo

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), has long been seen as an apologist for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whom she met during a secret trip to Damascus in January 2017.

Most recently, a video was posted on Twitter shows Gabbard evading a question about whether Assad is a war criminal.

Since Gabbard is the only actively serving member of the military who is running for president — she is a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard — Task & Purpose sought to clarify whether she believes Assad has used chlorine gas and chemical weapons to kill his own people.

Read More
Barrett's bolt-action Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) system (Courtesy photo)

The Army is almost doubling its purchase of new bolt-action Precision Sniper Rifles as its primary anti-personnel sniper system of choice, according to budget documents.

Read More
The GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon (U.S. Air Force photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Air Force gunsmiths recently completed delivery of a new M4-style carbine designed to break down small enough to fit under most pilot ejection seats.

Read More
(Navy photo / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis)

NEWPORT -- The Office of Naval Inspector General has cleared former Naval War College president Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley of most of the allegations of misconduct claimed to have occurred after he took command of the 136-year-old school in July 2016, The Providence Journal has learned.

Harley, in one of a series of interviews with the The Journal, called the findings "deeply gratifying." He said many of the most sensational allegations -- "offers of 'free hugs' and games of Twister in his office" -- reflected a misunderstanding of his sense of humor, which he describes as "quirky," but which he says was intended to ease tensions in what can be a stressful environment.

The allegations, reported last year by the Associated Press, prompted a national controversy that led to Harley leaving the college presidency after almost three years in office.

Read More