counterterrorism activities


The following is a research paper detailing counterterrorism activities that the United States has employed over time. The study purposes to elucidate on essential tools required in the war against terrorism, specifically in the investment of intelligence and tactical support within regions affected by terror groups’ infiltration. The piece specifically aims at displaying essential components that the United States governance has set to guarantee best benefits to all the other departments. The research explains in details how American government has continually enacted measures to benefit of communities along Sahel region.


















Counter-terrorism in the Sahel: Implications for U.S. Policy


The Trans-Saharan region situated within Sahel and Maghreb is among the areas where terrorist activities have occurred in recent years. The United States policy within these regions on counterterrorism is a subject of debate. Notably, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups remain an immense threat to nations, for example, the Boko Haram’s violent attacks. Groups including Ansar-al Dine, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa have perpetrated the Trans-Saharan region consequently weakening the region’s defense power. Among the reasons contributing to the polarization of Sahel region translating it to a breeding ground for extremist units are inclusive of the disenfranchised population in social terms, ineffectual governments, and porous borders within the region’s vicinity. Counterterrorism ordinances enacted by United States purpose to address different trigger and causative elements providing a haven for development, sustenance and mushrooming of terrorist group insurgencies. However, the strategies fail to provide essential resources towards anchoring achievement of this goal. The long-term success intent of counterterrorism endeavors staged by the United States depends mainly on identification of necessary machinery to surmount the challenge. The research purposes to elucidate on essential tools required in the war against terrorism, specifically in the investment of intelligence and tactical support within regions affected by terror groups’ infiltration.






Overview of the Trans-Saharan Region

Review of the Strategic Interest in the Sub-Saharan Sahel Region

Following aftermath of the event on September 11th terrorist attacks, the United States National Security priorities were configured to embark on counterterrorism war, particularly on Global measures. The occurrence of the terror attacks on September 11th led to massive killings and destroying of property worth millions, which deterred the de4velopment of the United States. The conviction that Northwest Africa and Trans-Sahara regions harbor terrorists following prodigious spaces which are ungoverned is somehow not the case. The regions have insular governments comprised of populations which are disenfranchised providing centers for terrorist recruitment and training. The Trans-Saharan region has scarce resources and is combated with indigence and massive sicknesses. The encumbrances, coupled with poor governance, provide the propitious training and harboring spots for terrorist’s activities. According to Karimi (2017, p.70), the Sahel, one of the regions in the Trans-Saharan area is derived from the word ’Sahil,’ which is an Arabic phrase meaning a shore. The area is not only sandy and rocky, but it is also semi-arid thereby suiting the terror group training in the said regions. The United States widespread vested interest in Sahel purposes to bring to a halt the militia permeation and flush out terrorist camps which provide auspicious grounds for terrorist activities.

In November 2002, the State department presented the Pan-Sahel Initiative— a program intended to battle psychological oppression, increment of fringe security, and advance provincial participation in Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. The Pan-Sahel Initiative superseded the piecemeal endeavors that characterized the United States’ counterterrorism strategy in Africa from the halting of the Cold War until September 11, 2001. Notably, while the outline, purview, and expectation of the program drew colossal feedback, the stratagem immediately extended to as battle operations in Afghanistan. The initiative offered advice approach producers and choices in regards to Islamic radicalism which spiraled against a feeling of urgency. In 2005, the Department of State substituted the Dish Sahel Initiative with more extensively perused Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), which grew geologically to incorporate Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia (later including Burkina Faso in 2009 and Cameroon in 2013).

Additionally, the outline and goal of TSCTP extended past that of PSI—that concentrated fundamentally on military-to-military help—to incorporate formative aid and strategic efforts. As a community exertion between the Bureau of State and Department of Defense United States Agency for Worldwide Development, TSCTP is an entirely rolled government blueprint focusing on countering fear mongering and savage radicalism. Setting these goals has helped the United States government in the setting of counterterrorism policy and when delegating both funds and human resource in achievement of the strategic plans.

As an interagency exercise, TSCTP attempted “to improve the indigenous limits of governments in the Sahel, and transcend the challenge staged by militia associations in the Trans-Sahara. The assignment purposed to encourage collaboration between the nations along Sahel and U.S. accomplices in the Maghreb.” It did not realize intent objectives before the extent of counterterrorism endeavors extended much further with the creation of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) as the most up to date geographic warrior in charge of operations. These groups have continued to set policies and develop the strategies that the troops from the United States must engage with in their counterterrorism approach.

The requirement for broad counterterrorism endeavors is recognized all through the 2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism. The methodology points of interest revolves around assortment of reciprocal and multilateral projects which the United States connects with to manufacture short and long-haul accomplice limit in the military, legal requirement, government, and shared social areas. The projects anchor strategic endeavors by tending to necessary conditions that psychological oppression misuses, anticipating fear based oppressor movement, and upgrading country stability. Also, within the TSCTP, the Department of Defense conducts military undertakings and security division preparing under the assignment Operation Enduring Flexibility Trans Sahara. Enhancing military limit transpires fundamentally through Title 9, military-to-military workouts and Title 10, acclimation programs including the International Military Education and Training program, which endows remote officers with the capacity to brace in U.S. benefit schools. Bankrolling for these projects in TSCTP nations was around $7.5 million from 2009 through 2013. The financing was the same in 2014.

Furthermore, in 2015, notwithstanding preparation openings, there existed gear deals manouvered under the umbrella of Global Train and Equip “1206” program, a body that approved the Department of defence undertakings to convey military machinery, supplies, and external missions considering the end goal of fabricating their ability to control counterterrorism operations. At first, the function allotted $200 million in 2006. However, following approvals, it expanded the reach to $350 million. TSCTP represented approximately 14% from 2006 until 2011. Questions remain on how and where these funds have been utilized till date, as there are terrorist activities that continue to affect the lives of persons in both the United States and other locales.

According to Karimi (2017, p.71), the feeble states, particularly the Trans-Saharans, serve as harboring centers for thriving of terrorism. The unprecedented interest in Maghreb and Sahel states from Northwest Africa by the United States aimed at curbing the terrorism menace. Counterterrorism master plan aimed at improving the socioeconomic militia fighting strategies and develop stable governments to monitor and control operations within the stated regions, improve local bonds and secure frontiers for efficient and sound game plan implementation. Modernization and militarization are among essential approaches which the United States had previously adopted to effect counterterrorism measures while balancing the funding strategy (Lambert, 2008, p.77). However, intelligence gathering is among the most essential plans that the United States must embrace in the counterterrorism measures. Moreover, continuing with the slow movements into the enemy territories can help to eliminate the terror attacks in various regions.

It is important to note that the safety of the officials, agencies and the troops sent in the Trans-Saharan region must be valued, as without their activities then the terror attacks cannot be reduced, or better yet, eliminated entirely. The attack in Niger on October posed an immense danger to the United States’ forces in Africa as intelligence failure resulted in fatalities during the battle. A total of five Nigerian troops and four Americans died in the Tango ambush where armed fighters with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the state. The militants are traced to have cropped from the Sahel region along the Trans-Saharan stretch. The outcomes of the approach heightened the need for the United States to embark on strategies that would help counter-terrorism activities from the said areas. Moreover, policies enacted by the United States to serve as counterterrorism measures, since then, have been questioned of their effectiveness owing to the demise of the military troops under their care. Therefore, it became paramount to examine the requisite measures and strategies that can be put in place to mitigate terror attacks from affiliate terror groups. Intelligence gathering constitutes one of the essential investments that the United States is expected to focus on to have an understanding of the terror groups and their base of operations. Moreover, slow movement of the troops and utilization of technological gadgets such as remote-driven drone is necessary in the fight against terror groups within the Trans-Sahara region.

One of the terror groups that have had a great impact in terrorism activities, and are among the listed teams which the counterterrorism activities are aimed at eliminating is the Boko Haram. Boko Haram, regardless of its free hierarchical structure, operates an expected 200– 300 militia camps offering instructional classes that last within the range of one to two years. These terror bases produce a multitude of new radical jihadists to ingest the losses that Boko Haram incurs through the group’s confrontation with Nigerian security powers. Notwithstanding the ideological trappings of such an association, there exists budgetary motivations that take advantage of the financial trouble that maladies many Nigerians. Volunteers are required to secure a €100 admission expense, while military activity wins €1,000. Moreover, obtaining weapons earns them a €2,000 reward. The statement explains that Boko Haram maintains a functional standpoint which is an understanding that only one out of every odd select is ideologically inspired. Besides, the elaboration unravels the fact that the monetary capacity of Boko Haram aims at countering and degenerating the state of Nigerian, where the standard yearly family unit pay is $3,000.

All Salafi-Jihadists have not entirely seized Boko Haram’s association in Nigeria. Notably, some of the cohorts dissent with the brutal strategies utilized against Muslims. The distinctions have spurred partial disputes within the gathering and brought about the January 2012 landing of Ansaru, which declared its reality using a committee statement. The group, whose full Arabic name is Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan, meaning “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa,” rebuked Boko Haram’s focusing of Muslims, expressing that they would target only the Muslims in self-defense. The strategic contrast, combined with the militia’s unpretentious philosophy is likely seen to be the aftereffect of Mohammed Nur’s impact. His approach was aimed at demonstrating the ideological impact of AQIM. Also, while Ansaru’s global objectives put the associating far beyond the AQIM, their shared objective of ejecting the collective administration of Nigeria has seen them partner with Malian-construct MUJAO concerning issues of shared interest. Furthermore, a large number of individuals appear to openly stream back to Boko Haram recommending that the gatherings are willing to set strategic contrasts aside for the accomplishment of the Islamic region’s principle objective.

United States Counterterrorism Strategy in the Trans-Sahara

Counterterrorism policies in the United States concerning Trans-Sahara region dates back in November 2002, characterized with the introduction of Pan-Sahel Initiative. The Pan-Sahel strategy was designed to curb terrorism issues, promote cooperation of regions in Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania while reinforcing border security. Over the scope of their development, counterterrorism measures have incorporated several agencies including the USAID and Department of Defense in the United States. The operations by the said organizations concerning counterterrorism measures in the Trans-Sahara region have been subject to significant fluctuations regarding distribution of funds and implementation of uneven programs within the terrorism affected regions. There exist multiple terrorist threats specifically from the Sahel having a high capability of affecting operations in the regions during possible strikes. Dixon (2017 , p.76) asserts that the Boko Haram, AQIM, MUJAO, Ansaru and other Islamic fundamentalist groups are known to be subdued by the policies and counter-schemes enacted the United States.

Among the strategies set by the United States government comprise of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), which combines efforts of both military and civil agencies to counter terror attacks arising from the region. The merger involves partner nations including Niger, Nigeria, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, and Chad, among others. The unit has utilized over $500 million during its six years of operation as an approach to support the fight against terror threats perpetrated by groups such as Boko Haram and the Al Qaeda. However, the interventions have not been sufficiently effective, particularly considering the impact of terror group activities occurring in recent times consequently claiming several lives. Their intervention in policy making and fight against terror activities within the Trans-Saharan region have been questioned, owing to the relatively high number of terror groups within the area, increased intake and training of gangs and continued terror activities in other state regions. The application of other strategies is essential and should be required for best practices that guide and control the United States policy on the counterterrorism activities.

As a multi-agency attempt that spans across the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and USAID, in addition to numerous other agencies TSCTP is exceptional in the U.S. foreign policy landscape. Their interventions on policies regarding the counterterrorism activities and how these practices should be conducted has been seen to be fruitful especially since terror threats have reduced in many regions. As such, the development and execution have not been without severe issues that stem from this unique interagency effort—the most notable being the lack of a standard strategy (Andre, 2015,  p.89). The creation of AFRICOM is a hybrid of diplomacy, development, and defense which saw execution authority for TSCTP activities and transition from EUCOM. Implementation of counterterrorism programs augmented following the additional personnel. Despite AFRICOM’s coordination, a 2010 review of TSCTP activities revealed that an actual inter-agency concept had not yet emerged and that a coordinated approach to counterterrorism in the Trans-Sahara was not evident. This supports the notion that the terror activities have not been eliminated owing to failed attempts and improper utilization of funds in counterterrorism strategies (Kennedy-Boudali, 2009, p.301) A good example is the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber” who sought to destroy an aircraft over Detroit on Christmas Day, 2008.

Furthermore, TSCTP operations have been subject to oscillation in the disbursement of funds and lopsided execution of programs across the region, resulting in some nations getting receiving relative to others. Although data shows that countries such as Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger secure more funding than Senegal and Nigeria, the differences are likely the result of a country’s capacity or willingness to absorb training and assistance. Some of these countries may opt not to be trained on counterterrorism practices, or they may lack the capacity for the same, while the others may be fully capable and willing to engage in such educational activities (De Lint, and Kassa, 2015, p.350). Likewise, the disparity in programs that exists between the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and USAID is attributed to capacity of a workforce to execute programs as it does with budgetary variations across the said agencies (Andre, 2015, p.92). For example, the Department of Defense has an unalterable presence in every embassy with the Defense Attaché and Office of Security Cooperation compared to USAID, which runs projects out of regional offices. Recently, funding has reflected that the aforementioned disparities are fading and the commitment towards countering terrorism in the Trans-Sahara via an interagency design remains efficacious (Fuller, 2017, p.29).

The financial plan for counterterrorism activities in the Trans-Sahara has developed extensively from the formation of the Pan-Sahel Initiative to date. At its commencement, the Congress affirmed $6.25 million of every 2004, with particular nation assignments for “Mali $3.5 million; Niger $1.7 million; Mauritania $500,000; and Chad $500,000.”60.  As the Pan-Sahel Initiative ventured into the TSCTP, the monetary allowance extended fundamentally. From 2005 through 2008, the United States committed $353 million, with around 74% of the assets being conveyed to Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger (Andre, 2015, p. 101). The emphasis on spending in the Sahelian nations is the ramification of U.S. counterterrorism arrangements, and the accomplice nation’s eagerness and ability to retain TSCTP exercises. Regardless of being the head counterterrorism strategy instrument in the district, from 2009 through 2013, the TSCTP spending plan shran primarily as a response to the budgetary emergency with the United States committing $288 million. Moreover, noting that Mali, Mauritania, Niger still solicited a majority of the assets of roughly 38%, which was not as much as the 74% received from 2004, the nations asked for $45 million for TSCTP exercises. The expanded change of assets spread among nations in the Sahel, Sahara, and Maghreb delineating an expanded ability and capacity of partner nations to process TSCTP operations and the enlarging extent of the United States’ counterterrorism procedure in the locale. The assets additionally represent the long-haul devotion to the area as a vital need with nearly $750 million connected all through the environs. Despite the high amount of funds set aside in eliminating terror activities, there is need to not only invest more in the purchase and integration of technological gadgets such as drones and remote intelligence gathering devices, but also in the sourcing for technical teams to use these devices properly.

The United States Military, however, despite the administration professing on nationalist foreign policy, have opted to run their clandestine operations quietly. The approach staged by American military carders involve preparation of troops, training on tactical and intelligent operations which the teams deploy to handle counterterrorism activities from the ISIS and the Al Qaeda affiliate groups (Jackson, 2015, p35). The strategy came to be known soon after the announcement by former United States President, Barack Obama to have 100 military personnel deported in Niger since 2013 (Dixon, 2017, pg. 83). The regions enveloping Niger is close to Chad and Mali, which are among the bridging points for North and Sub-Sahara areas where significant terrorist activities of terror groups operate. The route has been employed for expansion, recruitment, and orchestration of attacks, which places it among significant points for deployment of United States Military troops.

Despite stationing several military troops in Niger within the Trans-Saharan region, United States has collaborated with various allies in their counterterrorism measures. France is among the partners, which supply about 5,000 forces within the region in their counterterrorism operations embodying countries such as Germany, Niger, and Mali. Moreover, the United States launches and directs drones in these regions for surveillance including the MQ9 Reaper drone fitted with intelligence gathering capabilities. The devices are useful tools known to supplement counterterrorism measures courtesy of their remote usage, speed, and clarity. The technology employed in the design of such gadgets has played a pivotal role in having clear images of terror group base operations by supplying intelligence information for military troops to brace and act while attacking these camps. Significant changes can be seen after the involvement of such gadgets, as terror activities have significantly reduced and more information concerning their attempted attacks have been noted in advance.

Salafi-Jihadism in the Trans-Saharan

Terrorism activities have been aligned with the religious landscape primarily following the absence of secularism in approaches provided by Counterterrorism roadmaps. The Salafi-Jihadism groups constitute one of the Islam amalgamate terror groups within Trans-Sahara region engaging in terrorist activities and pursuing the support for anti-secularism practices. The militia is a terror group created in the 1980s and has had a role in blossoming of terrorism practices within the Trans-Sahara region. In any progressive thought, there are ideological, doctrinal, and chronicled impacts that shape it; however, Salafi-Jihadism is the same organization (Lowenthal, 2016, p.40). The principal ethical impact dates back to the post-WWII time portion and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that lectured on ways the western colonialism had caused a flop in Islam and the need to rebuild the caliphate which was an essential move to remedy the situation. The second significant ideological impact exudes from Salafism, a philosophical development inside Sunni Islam that is fundamentally concerned with purging Islam by decimating worshipful approval and asserting monotheism. The two schools of thought clarify the counter Shi’ite components of Salafi-Jihadism and the oppression of the individuals partaking a majority rule system. Furtermore, there exists attempts mandated with establishment of transnational belief system of preparing against the adjacent rival of mainstream governments for the common good spoken for the Western side. Amid this time, the belief system was given a doctrinal premise by Sayyid Qutb, who thought of crafting a portion of the most compelling reports inside radical Islam.

Despite many years of improvement, it was not until the 1980s that the practices and objectives of contemporary Salafi-Jihadism rose and started to develop into a worldwide development. Starting with the Soviet attack on Afghanistan in 1979, the ideological and doctrinal structure was given a down to earth outlet through various recorded occasions that gave Salafi-Jihadists ideological difficulties and open doors for commonsense the said preparations (Lowenthal, 2016, p.45). Thus, while the belief system that supports the development goes back to the 1950s, the contemporary Salafi-Jihadists auxiliary advancement follows back to the Soviet attack and control of Afghanistan that ended in 1989. The ceasing of this war took scores of jihadi warriors back to North Africa, where their fruitful battle against an unbeliever control in a Muslim country, combined with their battling keenness (increased following a time of battling Soviets) encouraged them and placed the followers on head-on showdown with provincial governments, most outstandingly the administration in Algeria. Notably, the rise of the battles resulted in the development of Salafist Group mandated to preaching and combats in the year 1998. The movement in 2007 moved towards becoming AQIM.

While the quality of connections between AQIM, al-Qaeda, and provincial gatherings including Boko Haram and Ansaru stayed under open deliberation, the impact of the Salafi-jihadist belief system on the district without a doubt followed back these improvements in Afghanistan and Northwest Africa and filled in as a shared factor for a large number of present assemblies. The result of the September eleventh assaults fit adequately into the account creation, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq conveying advantageous battles for a considerable lot of these Salafi-Jihadists to admire and, much of the time, become successful. Regardless of diligent endeavors by the United States government to stay away from the appearance of the war against Islam, numerous radical Islamists saw the engagements as a mere war against Islam. Moreover, with the opening of an accepted front in the Global War on Terror spoke to by the TSCTP and OEF-TS in the Sahel, the belief systems of the West and the Salafi-Jihadist would come to a face to face showdown with each other (Emerson, 2014, p.45).

As religious based radicals, Salafi-Jihadists have a prominent part from mainstream psychological oppressor teams in various components. Also, while belief system assumes a focal part in all fear monger associations, the religious measurement of radical Islamist associations permeates their philosophies with a hallowed quality not found in conventional associations. There are various striking focuses to draw from this contrast between the mainstream and the religious (Heller, Kahl, and Pisoiu, 2012, p.290). One of the characteristics of these persons is that they have trust in undertaking their obligations, which forces them to neglect the laws set by the government against terrorism. Moreover, their events are undertaken against the expanded security territories for their specialized technology and well trained teams.

The Salafi strain of Islam has some particular ideological viewpoints that differentiate it from different conventions inside Sunni Islam (Lowenthal, 2016, p.48). While all Salafists look for the foundation of a religious state given their Islamic law, there are remarkable contrasts in their strategies. These refinements break Salafists into three distinct classifications: scriptura lists, whose strategic approach depends on profound effort, philanthropy, and training; political-Salafists, who advance their objectives through cooperation in the political framework; and the Salafi-Jihadists, who wage a savage battle to advance their goals. The last gathering presents a specific worry to the Sahel because they do not show their interest in the political procedures, but their battle has significant outcomes that can affect the state.


After over a time of counterterrorism endeavors in the Trans-Saharan district, the viability of the United States’ approaches in the district stays contestable. Information appears that counterterrorism endeavors have not mobilized the Sahel and that, regardless of a few automatic difficulties, the counterterrorism activities remain suitably subsidized. Correspondingly, information outlines that domestic financing for social projects has not fundamentally diminished over the interceding years, showing the truth of the entire of government approach that the United States’ counterterrorism strategies depend on so intensely. Regardless of these positive markers, Salafi-Jihadism has risen consistently since 2001 and constitutes a critical risk to the locale. What’s more, the change of state limit keeps on moving at a slow pace over the locale, undermining any substantive changes. These patterns represent the occasionally conflicting nature of political objectives and security objectives in the Sahel, which severely affects counterterrorism activities. Intelligence gathering constitutes one of the essential investments that the United States is expected to focus on to have an understanding of the terror groups and their base of operations. Through proper implementation of these strategies, it is possible to counter terrorist attacks.


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