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US trains West African militaries as jihadi menace spreads

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DAKAR, Senegal — As extremist violence in West Africa’s Sahel area spreads south towards coastal states, the US navy has launched its annual navy coaching train aimed toward serving to armies include the jihadi menace.

Troopers from a number of African nations are being educated in counter-insurgency ways as a part of the annual U.S.-led train often known as Flintlock, that started this week.

Some 1,300 navy personnel from 29 nations are coaching in Ghana and Ivory Coast, amid surging jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that is killed 1000’s, displaced hundreds of thousands and plunged nations into crises.

Whereas many of the extremist exercise is concentrated in West Africa’s inland Sahel area in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the violence is quickly spreading to coastal states like Ghana, which is experiencing an upsurge in assaults by unidentified teams, which might have hyperlinks to jihadis. Northern Ghana had only one violent incident related to an unidentified armed group in 2021 however that determine rose dramatically to 19 in 2022, in keeping with the Armed Battle Location & Occasion Information Challenge.

This yr’s U.S. Flintlock, a two-week occasion, is going down amid rising anti-French sentiment in West Africa. Mali and Burkina Faso have ended their navy cooperation with France, complaining that the French navy presence over a number of years has finished little to stem the expansion of Jihadi violence. The navy juntas ruling Mali and Burkina Faso are actually getting navy assist from Russia, and Mali can be working with the non-public mercenary outfit, the Wagner Group.

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The U.S. says it desires to assist African nations stem the extremist menace earlier than it spreads additional throughout the the area.

“If the instability will get too broad or too dangerous then it opens the aperture for different malign actors to try to affect and try to corrupt the messaging to realize entry to a few of these governments,” stated U.S. Col. Rob Zyla, deputy commander for Particular Operations Command Africa.

Whereas the U.S. is not increasing the variety of its troopers in West Africa, U.S particular operations forces will proceed to conduct joint trainings with companions primarily based on their wants and requests, he stated.

For the primary time at Flintlock there’s a web site devoted to maritime coaching the place navy forces apply search and seizure and different ways, in an effort to stave off the rising menace of piracy within the Gulf of Guinea.

Ghanaian navy officers say they fear jihadis will quickly work with the pirates to make the waters unsafe which might restrict financial exercise for the coastal nations.

“We already know that they’ve intent to hyperlink up with piracy and improve operations,” stated Col. William Nortey with the Ghanaian military. “That may be a recreation changer for the littoral (coastal) states so we have to forestall this in any respect prices,” he stated.

Because the extremist violence spreads south, Ghana is investing cash to beef up safety alongside its border, shopping for greater than 100 armored personnel carriers, amongst different tools, President Nana Akufo-Addo stated in his State of the Nation handle this week.

“The truth of the state of affairs in our neighborhood calls for that the federal government goes to nice lengths to make sure the safety, security and stability of our nation,” he stated. Ghana can be a part of the Accra Initiative, a navy platform involving Burkina Faso and close by coastal nations to battle the additional unfold of extremism within the Sahel.

The unfold of extremist violence throughout the Sahel area reveals that greater than a navy resolution is required to forestall the insurgency from infecting the coastal space, regional consultants say.

Widespread poverty, excessive inflation and the scarcity of jobs for younger males present favorable circumstances for jihadi recruitment, stated Rukmini Sanyal, a Ghana analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“A worrying instance is the continuing battle (over chieftaincy) between the Mamprusi and Kusasi ethnic teams within the Bawku area, in northern Ghana, whereby widespread dissatisfaction might create area for militant infiltration,” she stated. “(The) authorities must undertake a multi-pronged method targeted on constructing group resilience alongside extra conventional safety approaches,” she stated.


Related Press reporters Modestus Eloame Zame and Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana contributed.

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