WASHINGTON (Middle East Eye) – Violence in the Sahel region of Africa linked to militant groups has quadrupled in the past three years, according to a report from the Pentagon, despite an ongoing U.S. counterterrorism mission in the area.
The report from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the Pentagon’s academic institution focusing on the region, reveals that seven administrative districts in the Sahel are each projected to suffer more than 100 violent events in 2022, a threshold only ever crossed five times before.
The report comes months into ongoing U.S. efforts to combat militant violence in the region.
In addition to the situation in the Sahel, years-long operations in Somalia targeting the militant group al-Shabab, namely, have yielded few results.
In May of this year, the U.S. announced it would shift from a policy of need-based attendance in the country to one of “persistent presence”, deploying several hundred troops and taking on an “advise-and-assist position” without directly intervening, according to the Pentagon.
U.S. Secretary of Defence John Kirby said in a May press conference that the new system would enable U.S. forces to continue “training, advising and equipping partner forces to give them the tools that they need to disrupt, degrade and monitor al-Shabab”.
But despite persistent military operations, the report says the violence doubled in just the past three years.
The Africa Center says Somalia and the Sahel are driving a rise in militant attacks in Africa, with a 300 percent increase in the past decade, according to the report, which revealed that the two regions are key drivers in the rise of militant violence in Africa.
In 2021, John T Godfrey, then-acting coordinator for counterterrorism and acting special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, characterized the U.S.’s partnership with Somalia on counterterrorism efforts as “very strong”.
But according to the report, roughly 95 percent of the increase is in the western Sahel and Somalia from those militant groups, with both the Daesh terrorist group and Al-Qaeda affiliated insurgencies at the root of expanded presence in the region.
The violent events in 2022 linked to these groups represent a 21-percent increase from last year, compared to the 18-percent average annual increase on the continent in the past decade. Fatalities linked to these groups have also been on the rise, reaching 14,635 in the past year - a nearly 50 percent increase since 2019.