Thursday, December 16, 2004

Pan Sahel Initiative

Daniel Drezner had an interesting post yesterday about the sometimes forgotten, or at least less reported, Sahel front in the global war on terrorism. Since 2002 the U.S. has been involved with "foreign internal defense" training under the Pan Sahel Initiative. Under this program U.S. Army Special Forces and Marine units have been training selected units from the nations of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Chad, in the words of the Office of Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State, "to protect borders, track movement of people, combat terrorism, and enhance regional cooperation and stability."

As Drezner's post states, there are geostrategic consequences if the Sahel region were allowed to be used at will for training purposes by Al Qaeda or affiliate groups such as Algeria's Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC). The PSI nations share roughly 4425 miles of border to the north and east with the Maghreb (Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya) and Sudan and roughly 4654 miles of border to the south. To put this in some perspective, the driving distance from Boston to San Diego is “only” 3044 miles. Also, as this map shows, the nations of West Africa could serve as a tempting recruiting ground for Al Qaeda as it morphs and tranforms itself in order to counter or stay ahead of counterterrorism efforts.

I will continue to track this issue.


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