A NATO expert on peacekeeping operations in the African Sahel led a discussion among U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa staff members on Caserma Del Din, Vicenza, Italy, March 11 about the history and future of counter-violent extremist organizations in the region.
Dr. Geoffrey Jackson, a military history instructor from Mount Royal University in Canada and consultant to NATO’s Strategic Direction South Hub in Naples, Italy, shared his thoughts on the history and future of the West’s efforts in the African Sahel to curb violent extremist organizations there over the past decade.
“The current strategy (in the Sahel) will not work,” Jackson said to a group of SETAF-AF staff members listening in person and remotely via virtual conference. Jackson explained the history of the French-led and U.S.-supported Operation Barkhane. Jackson pointed to a convergence of multiple conditions that continue to fuel VEOs in the region: global pandemic, climate change and economic downturn in the region. Jackson said France, the U.S. and other nations are reconsidering their military strategies in the Sahel, as “a military approach that doesn’t touch other issues” does not fix the circumstances that allows some VEOs to thrive in the region. A whole-of-government approach is the only means by which the West can help the G5 Sahel (Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania), he said.
“Peace-building has not been effective and we need to have serious talks,” Jackson said. “We need to re-visit our military-led strategy.”
The subject is certainly going to come up again at SETAF-AF’s annual African Land Forces Summit, scheduled for March 21-25 at Fort Benning, Georgia, said David Sutton, SETAF-AF Lake Chad region desk officer. Sutton organized the speaking event with Jackson as a primer for the SETAF-AF staff going into the summit.
“It is especially important as we go to ALFS” to know what is at stake for the G5 Sahel and partners and Allies, Sutton said. "The rest of the world is watching eastern Europe, but SETAF-AF is focused on Africa.”