America’s Military Strategy in Niger
By admin October 12, 2017

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Last week, four Green Berets were killed while supporting a Nigerian counterterrorism mission near the Mali-Niger border. The news shocked America, as the elite commandos are known to be the most highly trained soldiers in the world. The deaths brought renewed attention to the United States military presence in Africa, which is largely unknown to most Americans while attention is placed on operations in the Middle East.

Although the American military operates in Libya and Yemen, the majority of resources are focused on counterterrorism initiatives in the Sahel region, an area that stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia between the Sahara Desert to the north and the Savanna to the south. The area is one of the most unstable regions in the world, with famines and political instability creating flashpoints for violence and reducing the influence of central governments. The Bush administration started the Pan Sahel Initiative in 2002, which is a program to support countries like Mali and Niger control rising Islamic militant groups that take advantage of instability in rural areas. American commitment in the region has only grown since the creation of the program in the early part of the millennium, as groups like Boko Haram, which is pledged to ISIS, and other Al Qaeda affiliate groups have steadily gained influence.

The overall strategy for America in the region is to support African coalition partners with training and intelligence to secure portions of the country that are hotbeds for insurgency groups to flourish. This mission has been difficult to achieve, as countries like Mali and Niger do not have strong institutions to prevent corruption or strong numbers in their military to stabilize the countryside. Similar to the counterinsurgency efforts in Vietnam or Afghanistan, troops will enter a town and clear it of militants and then leave to fight somewhere else, just to have militants return to the previous town or village.

Most of the American soldiers deployed are Special Forces training African troops to become the most effective they can be with what they have. The troops killed last week were on an advisory mission to support a patrol that was ambushed. Significant amount of American resources and capital have been spent on intelligence gathering in the region; however, officials are reluctant to share complete information with Niger officials due to the corruption that runs throughout their military.

The long-term strategy for the United States is to remain in the region as a support structure to the civil and military levels of Niger and other Sahel governments. The United States is currently building a $100 million dollar base in central Niger at Agadez for surveillance drones to support missions in the country and throughout the region. Along with the American forces supporting an offensive strategy against insurgencies, many of personnel in Niger are civil affairs officials that are tasked with supporting the government strengthen their institutions and create stability through development efforts. Although this strategy could take a number of years, establishing infrastructure and strengthening government authority would solve the root of the problem.

Additional Reading:

 What’s the US Doing in Niger? 

The Enduring American Military Mission in Africa

US Building 100 Million Dollar Drones Base in Central Niger

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