What's Exactly the National Security Threat Begging US Presence in Niger?

By Scott Morgan

The fallout in Washington after the ambush in Niger - that resulted in the deaths of four Green Berets and the wounding of a fourth during the incident - has morphed from shock and confusion into a full fledged media circus regarding who knew about the troops being there, and under which circumstances they were deployed.

Instead of focusing on who said what to whom, there are several more pertinent questions that should be asked, such as, what is the National Security Threat that warrants a presence by the United States in the Sahel? The answer may fall back to a decision made during the Bush (43) Administration.

In the days and weeks after the horrific attacks against the United States on September 11th 2001, the Congress passed Public Law 107-40 which authorized the use of force against those the President determined to have planned, authorized, committed or aided the attacks launched on that date, those who harbored such people and organizations in order to prevent any further acts of terrorism directed against the United States by such persons, organizations or nations.

So, how does this AUMF cover what happened in Niger? To answer this we need to go back to two events in the Maghreb over the last few decades that have influenced events in the Sahel to this very day.

I. Algerian Civil War of 1922

This violent event erupted when the Algerian Military saw fit to cancel a run of elections for Parliament that led to violence between Islamic Fundamentalists and Secular Algerians. The Islamic Salvation Front was poised to win power after these polls. After that the carnage led to factions splitting from previous groups and charting their own course.

During the darkest days of the conflict one of those new groups emerged. That group was the GPSC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat). It first gained prominence in 1998 by splitting away from a previous group that it severed ties with. However, in 2017 it is now known as AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb) and it has spread its tentacles southward into the Sahel unchallenged for more than two decades now influencing events in Mali since 2012.

II. The Collapse of Libya

Another event that has to be considered to be a negative factor has to be the overthrow of former leader Moammar Qadaffi and the subsequent collapse of Libya into a sustained period of Civil War. There are several reasons why this event has influenced the Sahel negatively. Some of these reasons are:
  • The outflow of weapons from Libya into the region
  • The ability for fighters to move through the reason with ease
  • The Migrant Crisis that has affected Europe

Since the events of 2011 (that set into motion the crisis in Mali and subsequent terrorists attacks there and in Burkina Faso over the last couple of years) it has been assumed that the vacuum festering in Libya can be seen as a root cause for rising instability in the Sahel. Surely this situation could not be ignored could it?

In response to the growing instability in the Sahel the French set up a reaction force for the region its footprint in the region is under the moniker of Operation Bakhrane. This operation has been underway since 2014. Contrast that to the TSCTI (Trans Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative) which the United States has had in operation since 2006.

So, with the assistance of the French after the ambush is there any evidence of Franco-US cooperation in the Sahel? The answer is yes. There has been some contacts in the past between AFRICOM (US African Command) and the French in the Sahel to cooperate and share Intelligence. The extent of the contacts are so murky that there are two possible solutions to resolve this impasse and give both Congress and the public answers to the questions that they have.

The AUMF currently being used since 2001 has to be modernized. The Jihadist Movement in Africa has split into factions that support either Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. These groups have launched attacks against different Western Interests in the Region. Discerning Intelligence matters regarding who has launched the attacks may lead to the proper response.

Secondly is the response. Having the French Air Force to launch airstrikes and evacuate the US Casualties highlight the bond between the French and American Armed Forces. However, there is a MAGTF (Marine Air and Ground Task Force) that is designed for use in Africa and based in Spain. Why weren’t the Green Berets able to contact this force to ask for assistance? Could they have been deployed in time to render such aid?

There have been misgivings about having a US Military Footprint in Africa. But this ambush shows the downside of not actually having a large enough footprint. Special Forces are easy to use just like UAVs. Notwithstanding, it appears that a somewhat larger capacity is needed and very few inside the beltway will actually consider giving the Pentagon the proper tools to adequately fulfill the requests of the President. That should concern the voters just as much as the size of the presence in Africa.

(Image: Four Green Berets Killed - Military Times)

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. America needs to be in the Sahel to control AQIm but when I look at what is happening in the region I ask if America shouldn't have more control in the region, more than training soldiers.

  2. One other area to consider is the vast amount of Uranium and other precious metals and stones that they have in the area. This is also why France maintains a permanent presence in the Region.


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