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Revival of the Islamic State. Now in Africa

16.01.2021
2219

According to J. Cope

ISIS's pivot to Africa and new hotspots on that continent may prove more dangerous than those in IS's Middle East history. Today, the forces of the Islamic State are concentrating on strategic territories in the border areas. This tactic allows attacks and disappearances across borders, making ISIS forces virtually inaccessible to the attacked nations, which are also among the poorest, least prepared and weakest in the world. Several hotspots also coincide with natural resource basins, whose wealth, if captured, could greatly enrich ISIS and its capabilities. Four hot spots deserve attention. First, there is West Africa, which is experiencing many internal unrest. Most worrisome is the influence of Boko Haram, which sweeps across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Since 2009, Boko Haram may have been involved in the murder of 36,000 people, and 2.5 million civilians were forced to flee their homes when the group attempted to create a caliphate and overthrow the Nigerian government. However, its strategic positioning allowed Boko Haram to disappear into Chad. The group also infiltrated Niger, where twenty-eight residents were killed and about 800 houses were destroyed, and Cameroon (17 dead). At the same time, it is clear that if Nigeria was unable to contain Boko Haram, then the less effective actions should be expected from Chad, Niger and Cameroon: while the armed forces of Nigeria occupy 42nd place out of 138 countries in the rating of national armies, the rest of the countries are no higher than 87th place. They also lack financial resources and are among the poorest countries in the world. Of the 190 countries surveyed, Nigeria and Cameroon ranked 141st and 145th, while Chad and Niger were below 174th in terms of GDP per capita. Another major ISIS foothold in West Africa includes Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. There, the Islamic State in the Great Sahara conquered the "uncontrolled space" where three "failed" states meet. Given that Mali and Burkina Faso are no higher than 165th in GDP per capita and 96th in military power, these two probably will not do well in discouraging the formation of a new ISIS safe haven. The next major ISIS hotspot is in East Africa, particularly on the northern border of Mozambique with Tanzania, where since 2017 ISIS affiliates have been accused of killing 2,000 people and bringing in 430,000 refugees. In Mozambique, the Islamic State in the province of Central Africa has seized the "four tourist islands" and Mosimboa da Praia, a port in the state of Cabo Delgado, which boasts vast resources of roughly $ 50 billion in natural gas and rubies. These resources, if provided for production, can enrich the ISIS network. The Allied Democratic Forces, a group believed to be linked to ISIS, most likely deserve mention, with its stronghold in the mountains, in the DRC and Uganda. With four fortified safe havens, ISIS is reborn in sub-Saharan Africa and may be more dangerous than ever. Embedded in the borders of economically and militarily weak countries, ISIS is practically invulnerable. With no sub-Saharan government able to contain its expansion into the resource-rich region, the West may face a new "old" problem.

 

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