Emily Estelle Perez | February 2023
- The next Salafi-jihadi terror threat to the West may originate in Africa. Insurgencies linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State have formed, re-formed, spread, and grown entrenched on the continent over the past two decades. As Salafi-jihadi groups mature, they gain capabilities that they can marshal toward both local and international goals. Counterterrorism interventions have failed to secure communities, allowing Salafi-jihadi groups to capitalize repeatedly on conflicts and grievances to establish and expand their presence.
- Africa is an increasingly important theater for geopolitical competition. The same conditions that benefit Salafi-jihadi groups also create openings for malign actors like the Russian Wagner Group. US policymakers should treat community security like public health, as a service provided to civilians that benefits Americans and Africans alike and helps maintain the world order that undergirds US freedom, safety, and prosperity.
- An approach focused on securing communities should not require intervening everywhere at a large scale, but rather smart investments in preventive action and refocusing counterterrorism responses. The United States should work with African partners to develop policy approaches for preventing Salafi-jihadi insurgencies from forming whenever possible and containing or rolling them back when necessary. These approaches will require changing the focus and risk tolerance of US security policy in Africa while reforming interagency coordination to facilitate this new approach.