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Africa's Sahel Region Spirals into an Extremist Hell
Posted By Morgan Lorraine Roach On May 12, 2012 @ 11:00 am In Featured | Comments Disabled
Last year, the fall of the Qadhafi regime spurred a domino-like effect across Africa’s Sahel region. When approximately 2,000 well-armed Tuareg rebels loyal to the former dictator left Libya and returned to Mali, they escalated the destabilization of the country’s north.
At the same time the Malian military, reportedly frustrated by the government’s inadequate resourcing for the fight against the northern rebels, overthrew the democratically elected president, Amadou Toumani Toure. Approximately two weeks later, a Tuareg rebel group known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared Mali’s northern territory (referred to as Azawad) an independent state.
Complicating the situation is the spread of criminal gangs and extremist factions seeking to expand their influence throughout the region. These include:
Despite regional governments’ longstanding concerns about the rise in Islamic extremism, the U.S. has provided relatively few resources to address the threat. Relying on the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), a multi-year initiative instituted under the Bush Administration, the U.S. seeks to build regional counterterrorism capacity. However, considering the enormity of the region (geographically, Mali is larger than Texas) and the limited authority national governments possess within their borders, the U.S is fighting an uphill battle.
In addition to the destabilization caused by the myriad of extremist groups, criminal gangs, and rebels, the Sahel is facing a major humanitarian crisis caused by widespread food shortages and the influx of people internally displaced by conflict. According to UNICEF , 1 million children in eight countries—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Senegal—are at risk of severe malnutrition. Furthermore, the crisis has caused at least 320,000  Malians to flee their homes. Of these, approximately 130,000 are believed to be internally displaced, while 190,000 have fled to neighboring Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria, and Mauritania.
Solving this crisis will not be easy. Re-instituting a democratically elected government in Mali will take years, not months. The influx of extremist groups poses significant challenges not only to the region, but also for the United States and the international community.
Prudence Ukwishatse contributed to this blog post.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/05/12/africas-sahel-region-spirals-into-an-extremist-hell/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/tuareg-rebel-fighters.jpg
 Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM): http://blog.heritage.org../2012/05/07/seven-terrorist-groups-affiliated-with-al-qaeda/
 Boko Haram: http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2012/pdf/ib3549.pdf
 According to UNICEF: http://www.unicefusa.org/work/emergencies/sahel/?gclid=CLvrnZ35-K8CFYFo4Aod6l8jHQ
 320,000: http://m.state.gov/md189104.htm
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