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Old 07-04-2019, 04:38   #2
Intel NCO
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: N/A
Posts: 59
ISGS also stokes ethnic divisions to strengthen unity and cohesion among its members. To advance these interests, the Tuareg have often been singled out. In June 2017, al Sahrawi threatened attacks on Tuareg populations if pro-government Tuareg militias, such as the Imghad Tuareg Self-Defense Group and Allies (GATIA) and the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), did not disavow the Malian, Nigerien, and French governments.

ISGS’s narrative shifts depending on what can garner the most support from local communities.

In 2017 and 2018, ISGS mounted several attacks against Malian civilian nomad camps, markets, and villages, primarily targeting Tuaregs. MSA and GATIA combatants retaliated by killing some Fulani herders, exacerbating tensions between Tuaregs and Fulanis in the Liptako region. In February 2018, Tuareg militias, which are members of the Platforme coalition linked to the Malian government, launched a joint offensive against ISGS in the tri-border region between Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. The campaign reduced ISGS’s ability to operate along the border area but also increased tensions between local communities. In April 2018, ISGS is believed to have orchestrated the massacre of 40 Tuaregs from the Daoussahak tribe. This pattern of intercommunal retaliation continues.

ISGS often targets government representatives in its attacks. In 2018, ISGS claimed responsibility for the killing of the mayor of Koutougou commune because he was working “with Burkina’s armed forces, for the crusaders.” Starting in 2018, ISGS has also repeatedly targeted schools, with devastating effect. Over 1,100 schools have been shut down in Burkina Faso after threats, attacks, and the murders of teachers and administrators. ISGS is now linked to nearly 30 percent of all militant Islamist attacks in Burkina Faso, sharply contributing to the escalating Islamist insurgency in the country.

Given that it plays on ethnically-based and anti-government grievances, ISGS’s narrative shifts depending on what can garner the most support from local communities. For example, despite provoking Fulani confrontations with Tuaregs in Mali, ISGS convinced Fulanis in Niger that the enemy was “not actually the Tuareg but the state.” This included a January 2018 raid targeting Operation Barkhane. In May of 2019, Islamist militants attacked a high security prison in Koutoukalé, 45 km north of Niamey. Nigerien troops who were pursuing the militants were subsequently ambushed near Tongo Tongo, not far from the Mali border. Three dozen Nigerien soldiers were killed in the incident for which ISGS claimed responsibility. ISGS characterized the ambush as an attack against an apostate military along the artificial border of Mali.

Responses against ISGS
Despite reports that al Sahrawi was injured and forced to relocate in 2018 following clashes with Tuareg militias GATIA and MSA, ISGS’s pace of attacks has not abated. Pressure on the group has grown, however. In May 2018, the United States placed ISGS on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, and al Sahrawi was designated a global terrorist by the U.S. Department of State. Operation Barkhane has increasingly targeted ISGS’[s] members, imposing a growing military toll on the group. The G5 Sahel Joint Force, established in 2017, aims to fight militant groups in the border areas, notably in the Soum province in northern Burkina Faso. The operationalization and deployment of this force is still in process, however.

In August 2018, Sultan Ould Bady, the Malian head of Katiba Salaheddine and allied to ISGS, surrendered to Algerian authorities under pressure from counterterrorism efforts targeting ISGS leadership. Later that month, Barkhane announced that Mohamed Ag Almouner, one of al Sahrawi’s most important lieutenants who was believed to have orchestrated the 2017 Tongo Tongo attack, had been killed in a raid. Nonetheless, ISGS has been resilient.

In Burkina Faso, the security apparatus is having to adapt to the sudden escalation of ISGS activity. It is widely believed that former president Blaise Compaoré had negotiated nonaggression pacts with extremist groups in an attempt to preserve Burkina Faso from attacks. His sudden departure from office required a major reorganization of law enforcement agencies. In October 2017, a National Security Forum was launched by newly elected President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré in order to reform and reorganize the security sector.

In June 2017, a 3-year emergency fund program for the Sahel region of Burkina Faso of 455 billion CFA (about $778 million) was setup with the objective of improving local and administrative governance. Intended as a holistic response targeting the intersection of socioeconomic and security challenges, this plan aims to fund new infrastructure, the expansion of public services (health care centers, police stations) and support for resilient agriculture projects. In 2018, about $265 million was secured for priority investments.

Importantly, many Sahelian countries already have the bilateral and multilateral agreements in place to improve security cooperation. For instance, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger are all part of the 1992 Legal Assistance Convention in criminal matters, the 1994 Extradition Convention, and of the 2012 Charter for Sahel Countries Judicial Cooperation.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has similarly undertaken a wide range of initiatives in order to strengthen cross-border cooperation in border management. Several international organizations such as INTERPOL and the International Organization for Migration have also supported Burkinabe authorities by launching border management and control programs and supporting the installation of more effective police information collection and management systems.

While promising in their holistic approach and regional scope, the impact of these initiatives often remains muted due to limited human, financial, and institutional resources. These undertakings, therefore, will need to be enhanced and sustained over time. In the meantime, keeping pressure on ISGS will require further strengthening of local, national, regional, and international alliances along the borders where they have thrived.

Additional Resources
Africa Center for Strategic Studies, “A Review of Major Regional Security Efforts in the Sahel,” Infographic, March 4, 2019.
Pauline Le Roux, “Confronting Central Mali’s Extremist Threat,” Spotlight, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, February 22, 2019.
Africa Center for Strategic Studies, “The Complex and Growing Threat of Militant Islamist Groups in the Sahel,” Infographic, February 19, 2019.
Terje Østebø, “Islamic Militancy in Africa,” Africa Security Brief, No. 23, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, November, 2012.
Helmoed Heitman, “Optimizing Africa’s Security Force Structures,” Africa Security Brief, No. 13, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, May 2011.

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Very Respectfully,
Intel NCO
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