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Trump and the Al Qaeda and ISIS Networks in Africa

Trump et les réseaux d’Al Qaeda et de Daesh en Afrique
Christopher Griffin

Résumés

La politique africaine de Donald Trump se caractérise par une certaine indifférence envers le continent. L’annonce de quatre soldats américains morts en combattant Daesh à la frontière du Mali et du Niger a cependant démontré qu’en réalité l’armée américaine est en train d’accroître ses activités antiterroristes sur le continent. Cet article examine la politique militaire de l’administration Trump, mise en place depuis l’incident au Niger pour lutter contre les groupes liés à Al Qaeda et Daesh en Afrique. La rhétorique de Trump contraste avec la réalité sur le terrain, où la guerre contre le terrorisme en Afrique est devenue une priorité pour les États-Unis. La présence et les activités militaires de l’armée américaine en Somalie, au Libye, au Niger et au Nigeria démontrent la continuité avec les politiques du George W. Bush et Barack Obama. Cependant, Trump a réduit les crédits pour l’aide au développement et les opérations de maintien de la paix en faveur des opérations militaires et de la puissance de feu afin de détruire les réseaux locaux d’Al Qaeda et Daesh. Les guerres américaines en Afrique font partie de la grande stratégie d’une guerre mondiale contre le terrorisme et l’administration Trump s’est montré prête à accepter beaucoup de pertes.

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  • 1 Dionne Searcey, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “Conflicting Accounts in Niger Ambush are Subject o (...)
  • 2 This account is based on a description of the events leading up to the battle by the New York Times(...)
  • 3 Richard Sisk, “Command Failures Led to Niger Ambush, Explosive Report Shows,” Military.com, Februar (...)
  • 4 U.S. Defense Department, “Oct 2017 Niger Ambush: Summary of Investigation,” Defense.gov, May 10, 20 (...)

1On October 4, 2017, the announcement of four American soldiers killed in combat in Niger made it clear to the public that the US military was involved in fighting terrorism in Africa.1 The ambush took place in a remote border area between Mali and Niger, where soldiers from the Third Special Forces Group were patrolling with Nigerian forces. What was supposed to be a normal, routine patrol of the area, turned into a combat operation at some point, when the military went after a local ISIS leader, Doundoun Cheffou, thought to be in the vicinity. The soldiers were attacked on their way out of a village far from their base and two hours passed before French air support arrived to help.2 This patrol was not intended to go into combat, as it was designed to support a larger helicopter assault mission. The assault mission, however, never occurred.3 A short summary (8 pages) of the Niger incident report was released to the general public in May 2018. The report cites a number of deficiencies in the chain of command for the mission.4 One of the questions that remains is who ordered the Special Forces patrol to go after Cheffou. On October 25, 2017, President Donald Trump denied ordering the attack, but at the same time took responsibility, saying:

  • 5 Donald J. Trump, “Remarks in an Exchange with Reporters, October 25, 2017,” Online by Gerhard Peter (...)

I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have. I want to win, and we’re going to win, and we’re beating ISIS very badly. You look at what’s happened in the Middle East: We have done more in 8 months than the previous administration has done in many years. Now, what happens is, you decimate them, and that’s all we’ve done. We have decimated ISIS in the Middle East. They go to Africa, they go to places. When they get there, we meet them there. That’s what goes on. It’s a tough business. It’s a tough war, but we are winning it. And you know what? We’re going to continue winning it. With that being said, my generals and my military, they have decision-making ability. As far as the incident that we’re talking about, I’ve been seeing it just like you’ve been seeing it. I’ve been getting reports. They have to meet the enemy, and they meet them tough, and that’s what happens.5

  • 6 “Raqqa: ISIS ‘capital’ falls to U.S.-backed Syrian forces,” BBC News, October 17, 2017. <https://ww (...)

2Trump’s statement reveals that fighting ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in Africa is a logical extension of the battle in the Middle East, as it is the pursuit of the enemy back to its sanctuaries following battlefield defeat. Raqqa, ISIS’s main base, fell in October 2017, not long after the Niger ambush, which explains Trump’s comment about considerable victories in the Middle East.6 The US wars against Al Qaeda and ISIS continue to be part of a larger worldwide war against terrorism, carried down from the George W. Bush and the Barack Obama administrations.

  • 7 Adam Roberts, “NATO’s ‘Humanitarian War’ Over Kosovo,” Survival, vol. 41, n° 3, automne 1999, 110.

3This statement also demonstrates that Trump is clearly open to giving the military the authorization to act as it sees necessary. Casualties are also acceptable for the President, and his comment, “that’s what happens,” clearly indicates that loss of life is to be expected. This shows a considerable evolution in the thinking by US administrations since 1999, when, in the war in Kosovo, (US and European) battle deaths were considered almost unacceptable in overseas interventions.7

  • 8 Domenico Montanaro, “Gold Star Widow: Trump Call ‘Made Me Cry Even Worse’,” NPR, October 23, 2017. (...)
  • 9 Ibid.
  • 10 Hannah Parry, “Second Niger Special Forces widow comes forward to PRAISE Trump for his ‘brave’ and (...)

4Trump soon turned American attention away from the battle itself to the family of one of the soldiers killed. As is often the case with the Trump administration, the President’s personal remarks, usually via Twitter, attract more attention than his policies. When calling Myeshia Johnson, a widow of one of the soldiers killed in the operation, Trump said two controversial things: first, he apparently had trouble remembering the name of the soldier killed in action; second, he reportedly said, “he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways.”8 Trump denied that he had been callous in a tweet following the controversy, and said he remembered Sergeant La David Johnson’s name “without hesitation.”9 In a much less reported instance, another widow of a fallen soldier, Michelle Black, showed her gratitude to Trump for his phone call.10

  • 11 Maya Kandel, “Pour l’armée américaine, l’Afrique est un laboratoire de la lutte antiterroriste,” Le (...)
  • 12 Maya Kandel, “La stratégie américaine en Afrique: les risques et contradictions du « Light Footprin (...)

5It is important to go beyond the American media coverage of the incident, which focuses on the particular personality of President Trump, to look at the context for how Trump’s African policy has evolved since his election. Africa has never been a strategic priority for the US.11 On the other hand, however, following the US Embassy bombings by Al Qaeda in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the 9/11 attacks, American administrations began to take more notice of the security issues and terrorism on the continent.12 Although Africa is not placed on the same level of security interests as Afghanistan or Iraq, the US has begun taking more military action against terrorist groups there.

6As described further below, the creation of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2007 and its subsequent actions against Al Qaeda and ISIS groups fit into this logic. It is important to note, however, that military action represented only a part of overall US Africa policy prior to Trump’s election. Economic interests are also key, and J. Peter Pham has argued that a US priority has been to protect “access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance.”13 Humanitarian relief and development aid were also considered very important by the Obama administration. A priority was emergency food aid with funds for improving agriculture. The 2012 US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa also pointed to US programs to reduce poverty, help women and youth, improve health on the continent, work on climate change and promote longer-term food security.14

7This paper will examine how US African policy has changed under President Trump, and in particular, the refocus on the fight against the Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorist networks on the continent. The Niger ambush shows continuity with Obama’s and George W. Bush’s military operations in Africa. Trump’s readiness to carry on the war and to make it the primary US priority in Africa, however, is a surprise, given both his open isolationist stance and an apparent lack of interest in the continent. The first section of this paper will examine Trump’s statements about African policy fit in the context of his larger “America First” strategy. The second part will examine the reality of American counter-terrorism in Africa – more specifically in Somalia, Libya, Niger and Nigeria. Trump has both furthered his predecessors’ gradual increase in the American military presence in Africa, simultaneously refocusing US efforts away from aid and peacekeeping toward the use of military force. In August 2018, however, the Trump administration implemented a sudden reverse in policy, which was to announce a substantial drawdown of U.S. troops stationed on the continent.

Trump’s Foreign Policy in Africa – America First, Twitter, and the State Department

  • 15 “Donald Trump must apologize for comments – African Union,” BBC News, January 12, 2018. <https://ww (...)
  • 16 Ibid.

8Before discussing Trump’s foreign policy in Africa, it is necessary to address a controversy from January 2018, regarding a purported insult in which Trump allegedly called Haiti and a number of African countries “shithole countries.” Trump was accused of making the insulting remark at a closed meeting about immigration. The President denied ever saying it, and it is, at least for the time being, unverifiable.15 The African Union, however, demanded an apology, saying the “remarks dishonor the celebrated American creed and respect for diversity and human dignity.”16 Even if the President did not actually say it, African leaders were ready to believe that he did, and it surely caused lasting damage to relations between the US and certain heads of state.

9Trump’s foreign policy platform in the presidential campaign was based on the principle of “America First.” The main outlines of this policy were clear in Trump’s inaugural address on January 20, 2017, where he said:

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own… from this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.17

  • 18 Dina Smeltz, Ivo Daalder, Karl Friedhoff & Craig Kafura, What Americans Think About America First, (...)
  • 19 Trump, “The Inaugural Address,” op cit.

10The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, in a survey of the American public about America First, included an aversion of Trump to alliances.18 This may be mistaken, however, as Trump did not indicate in his inaugural address that he wanted to end all alliances, but that they needed to be “reinforced” against terrorism.19

  • 20 US Census Bureau, Trade in Goods With Africa. <https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c0013.h (...)
  • 21 Peter Buxbaum, “Africa Trade Not a Priority for Trump,” Global Trade, February 21, 2018. <http://ww (...)
  • 22 Kara Fox, Edward Kiernan & Charles Riley, “U.S. suspends trade benefit for Rwanda over used clothin (...)
  • 23 Lesley Wroughton, “Trump administration’s Africa policy in focus at AGOA trade talks,” Reuters, Aug (...)
  • 24 Donald J. Trump, “Remarks by President Trump at Working Lunch with African Leaders,” White House, S (...)
  • 25 Alex Vines, “Trade Not Aid: Obama’s African Legacy,” Chatham House Expert Comment, September 20, 20 (...)

11America First policy is highly oriented toward business and economics. Trade with Africa is relatively low compared to with other regions of the world, with exports from the US at $21.979 billion and imports into the US at $33.439 billion in 2017.20 The Trump administration seems to be content to pursue trade relationships as they are for the moment with the continent. There were rumors that the new president would rescind the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which was intended to facilitate the import of African textiles into the US, but this has not happened on a large scale.21 The Trump administration, however, did introduce tariffs on imports of used clothing from Rwanda in July 2018, which rescinded in part Rwanda’s AGOA privileges.22 This is perhaps a surprise, as the Trump administration was ready to eliminate other large trade agreements that were seen as conflicting with US interests, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The AGOA agreement is perhaps not big enough to really be considered as a threat to American interests by Trump. He is not completely indifferent to AGOA, however, and sent a team to meet with African leaders about the agreement in August 2017.23 In another meeting with nine African leaders in September 2017, the President praised the countries for their economic progress. He indicated in particular that it was a place for Americans and American companies to “get rich.”24 This strategy is at least in part consistent with Obama’s approach to promoting trade on the continent as a means of development.25

12A search of Trump’s Twitter account for mentions of the continent or conflicts there after his inauguration turns up very little. Since he became President, Trump mentioned Africa as a continent only once on Twitter, on September 20, 2017, saying that he was “Honored to host a luncheon for African leaders this afternoon.”26 Conflicts in the Sahel merit no mention (other than the response to the Niger attack widow, mentioned above, which did not mention Niger), and search terms such as “Boko Haram,” “Mali,” “Burkina Faso,” return no results in Trump’s twitter feed. The sole conflict that does have a result is the fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia. President Trump retweeted a Fox News report about American airstrikes against Al-Shabaab targets in Somalia on August 11, 2017.27 It is curious that Trump chose to tweet about this airstrike in particular, when, as we will see below, the US launches regular strike in Somalia. The two other mentions of Somalia are in reference to the country’s inclusion in the ban on entry from the US for nationals of seven countries and his condolences for an American soldier killed there in June 2018.28 As Trump has a tendency to express himself about his major interests via Twitter, this absence could mean disinterest. One must be cautious, however, because involvement of the US in the counter-terrorism conflicts in Africa involves a great deal of secrecy, and Trump may not be free to tweet about what is happening.

  • 29 Nicole Gaouette, “Trump admin wants to slash funding for diplomacy,” CNN, February 12, 2018. <https (...)
  • 30 Ibid.
  • 31 Jack Corrigan, “State Department Lost 12% of its Foreign Affairs Specialists in Trump’s First 8 Mon (...)

13The State Department, as well as a number of high-ranking military officers, criticized the administration’s controversial decision to reduce the foreign aid budget by 29% in 2018.29 This came at the price of a significant increase in the military budget, which was up 13% from 2017.30 This was seen by many foreign service officers as an attack on the State Department and diplomacy in general. Foreign service employment in the State Department reportedly dropped 12% in 2017.31

  • 32 Gbadamassi, Falila, “Etats-Unis: Tibor Nagy prend en charge les « Affaires africaines »,” Franceinf (...)
  • 33 Ryan R. Migeed, “Experts Urge Increased US Engagement in Africa as China Fills the Void,” The Washi (...)
  • 34 White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017, 52. <https: (...)
  • 35 Steve George & Brad Lendon, “‘Weaponizing Capital’: US worries over China’s expanding role in Afric (...)

14A major criticism is that top State Department positions on Africa have not been filled in 2018. The main State Department job for Africa was not attributed until July 2018.32 Some analysts have argued that this US inaction in the diplomatic area has allowed China to become more powerful on the continent.33 The 2017 National Security Strategy states that China is a major problem in Africa, and that “some Chinese practices undermine Africa’s long-term development.”34 The relationship to Somalia is that China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti last year, near Camp Lemonnier, and is currently trying to acquire the nearby port, which is essential for the French and US bases as well as the other countries with military presences.35

US Counter-Terrorism in Africa in 2017 and 2018

  • 36 Trump, “Remarks by President Trump at Working Lunch with African Leaders,” op cit.
  • 37 Alexandra Wilts, “Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley boasts about cutting ‘more than $500m from the (...)

15The above section seems to convey that Africa is not a foreign policy priority for the Trump administration. The US strategy against terrorism on the continent, however, indicates otherwise, as there is a significant and increasing commitment of US forces, which is specifically limited to fighting Al Qaeda and ISIS and allied groups. Even though Trump expressed concern about conflicts in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in September 2017,36 the US is at the same time cutting its peacekeeping budget at the UN.37

  • 38 Trump, “Remarks by President Trump at Working Lunch with African Leaders,” op cit.
  • 39 Ibid. The President was not specific about what he meant by “Al Qaeda,” but it is probably a refer (...)

16Where are the US priorities in Africa today and what is the US Army doing there? In September 2017, Trump told the nine African leaders visiting Washington that the objectives in the fight against terrorism were “to eradicate terrorist safe havens, to cut off their finances, and to discredit their depraved ideology.”38 He mentioned the terrorist groups ISIS, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and Al Qaeda.39 The top priority has been the fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia since the George W. Bush administration.

  • 40 George W. Bush, “President Bush Creates a Department of Defense Unified Combatant Command for Afric (...)

17Before the creation of AFRICOM, African military affairs were part of the European Command (with some responsibility for North Africa in Central Command and Madagascar and the Indian Ocean in Pacific Command).40 It says something about the priority given to this specific command that it has no headquarters in Africa, but remains located in European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

  • 41 Anne Stenersen, Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017, 8-9.
  • 42 Clayton Thomas, “Al Qaeda and US Policy: Middle East and Africa,” Congressional Research Service CR (...)

18AFRICOM’s creation coincided with the expansion of Al Qaeda to Africa after the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Al Qaeda’s original charter in 1988 made it clear that the group was to be a rallying point for “jihad movements” around the world.41 The current commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was originally a member of the Egyptian wing of Islamic Jihad. As a Congressional Research Service paper of February 2018 points out, however, there are a number of differences in how a “local” insurgent group functions as an Al Qaeda “affiliate.” Some groups are directly linked through the chain of command to Zawahiri in South Asia, while others have only loose connections to Al Qaeda central.42

  • 43 Daniel L. Byman, “Al Qaeda’s M & A Strategy,” Brookings Institution, December 7, 2010. <https://www (...)
  • 44 Ibid.
  • 45 Clayton Thomas, op. cit., 8-9.
  • 46 Marc Memier, “AQMI et Al-Mourabitoun: le djihad sahélien, réunifié ?” Etudes de l’Ifri, janvier 201 (...)

19Researchers of the phenomenon have often used business terms to explain the emergence of new Al Qaeda groups, talking about “branding,” “mergers and acquisitions,” and so on.43 Beyond just the name, Al Qaeda often provided funding for the affiliated groups.44 The first group to join Al Qaeda in Africa was Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2006, which originally was formed from insurgent groups that took part in Algeria’s Civil War in the 1990s.45 AQIM benefited from the fall of Moammar Qaddafi’s Libya in 2011 with the influx of weapons and fighters into Mali and Niger. AQIM, however, is not a monolithic structure, and is a combination of a number of different groups, not all of which are interested in being Al Qaeda allies.46

  • 47 Too many of the group’s members had turned to ISIS in Libya. “Libyan Islamist Group Ansar al-Sharia (...)
  • 48 Al Shabaab worked with Al Qaeda as early as 2008 to fight the Ethiopian intervention in Somalia (la (...)
  • 49 Thomas Joscelyn, “Osama bin Laden’s files: AQIM commander recommended training Boko Haram members,” (...)
  • 50 Martin Ewi, “What does the Boko Haram-ISIS alliance mean for terrorism in Africa?,” Institute for S (...)
  • 51 Joseph Siegle, “ISIS in Africa: Implications from Syria and Iraq,” Africa Center for Strategic Stud (...)

20Three other African groups subsequently joined Al Qaeda. Ansar al-Sharia formed in Libya after Qaddafi’s fall and was affiliated with Al Qaeda until its “dissolution” in 2017.47 Al Shabaab, a local insurgent group in Somalia, which will be discussed below in more detail, joined Al Qaeda in 2012.48 Boko Haram in Nigeria is an extremely opaque organization, about which we know little. It was never formally allied with Al Qaeda, but documents found after the death of Osama bin Laden indicate close relations after 2009 with AQIM.49 Something in the partnership with Al Qaeda went wrong, however, as Boko Haram decided to ally with ISIS in March 2015.50 ISIS, while adopting a similar strategy to Al Qaeda in trying to co-opt local insurgent groups, has been much less successful in Africa than their predecessors.51

21AFRICOM was created mainly to deal with the threat from AQIM, but its mandate was expanded to deal with the other Al Qaeda and ISIS-affiliated groups. The most useful available document about US military policy in Africa is AFRICOM’s yearly posture statement, which is an annual testimony from AFRICOM’s commander to the Senate Armed Services Committee.52 The current commander is Marine Corps General Thomas D. Waldhauser, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Waldhauser identified “Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs),” terrorist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and ISIS,53 as the “greatest threat” to America in Africa.

  • 54 Ibid., 8.

22There are 5 priorities or “Lines of Effort (LOEs)” for the US military in Africa. The first priority is to “develop security and stability in East Africa,” which in practice means destroying the Al-Shabaab in Somalia. The main priority since the beginning of the War on Terrorism has always been the Horn of Africa, and this is where the US sees its security directly threatened. The second priority is to “degrade” the capacities of terrorist groups in the Sahel and in Libya. This has become more important in recent years, but is also in part oriented toward helping the French intervention in the area, as the Sahel is traditionally a French interest rather than American. The third priority (linked to the second via Niger) is to “contain and degrade Boko Haram [ISIS-affiliated after 2015] and ISIS-West Africa”. The fourth and fifth priorities, and very far down the list of American interests are to stop illegal trafficking in the Gulf of Guinea and peacekeeping.54

Somalia

  • 55 AFRICOM, “Statement of General Carter Ham Before House Armed Services Committee,” March 1, 2012. <h (...)
  • 56 AFRICOM, “Posture Statement [2018],” op cit., 9-11.

23Since AFRICOM began publicly issuing posture statements in 2012, Somalia has always been a top military priority. The reason given at the time was that on February 9, 2012, Al-Shabaab formally announced its alliance with Al Qaeda.55 Al-Shabaab is the latest of a series of insurgent groups fighting for control of Somalia, which collapsed as a state in 1991. African Union soldiers have been fighting Al-Shabaab since 2007, with independent interventions by both Ethiopia and Kenya in the conflict. Although AFRICOM asserted its support for the democratically-elected Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed,56 it does not explain why the US concentrates on Somalia and why the Trump administration continues to do so.

24According to the military newspaper Stars & Stripes, the US had 500 soldiers stationed in Somalia in November 2017, a significant deployment.57 Donald Trump quietly gave the American soldiers there more authority to use force and launch additional airstrikes to support the African Union mission following General Waldhauser’s statements before Congress.58 The President then went even further by designating some of Somalia an “area of active hostilities,” which means that American soldiers have fewer restrictions on their use of force in the country.59 According to AFRICOM’s Press Releases, there were 33 US airstrikes in Somalia since Trump was elected and one US soldier killed in combat in April 2017. One of the airstrikes, on November 3, 2017, was against ISIS in Somalia.60

  • 61 Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999.
  • 62 Stenersen, Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, 166.
  • 63 Bill Roggio, “Shabaab leader recounts al Qaeda’s role in Somalia in the 1990s,” Long War Journal, D (...)

25The US operational tempo increase in Somalia is the extension of a longer-term American strategy in the country. The events of the Battle of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993, commonly called Black Hawk Down after the book by Mark Bowden61 and the Ridley Scott film (2001), cast a shadow over American policy in Somalia and in Africa as a whole. US Special Forces entered the capital of Somalia to capture two of warlord Mohammed Aideed’s lieutenants. The US soldiers were ambushed at the outset of the operation in downtown Mogadishu by Aideed’s forces, and were compelled to fight their way out with the eventual help of UN peacekeepers stationed in the city’s stadium. By the time the fighting ended the next morning, eighteen American soldiers were dead and two helicopters had been shot down. Al Qaeda was already involved in the country training militants at the time.62 Three important Al Qaeda leaders were reportedly present at the battle with US forces.63

  • 64 Bill Clinton, “The Somalia Mission; Clinton’s Words on Somalia: ‘The Responsibilities of American L (...)
  • 65 James Phillips, “Somalia and al-Qaeda: Implications for the War on Terrorism,” Heritage Foundation, (...)
  • 66 Lloyd Vries, “U.S. Strikes in Somalia Reportedly Kill 31,” CBS News, January 8, 2007. <https://www. (...)
  • 67 “Somalia: Reported US Covert Operations 2001-2017,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2017. <http (...)
  • 68 Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Signals Backing for Ethiopian Incursion Into Somalia,” New York Times, Decembe (...)
  • 69 Camp Lemonnier is a former French Foreign Legion base. Philippe Leymarie, “Djibouti: A New Army Beh (...)

26President Bill Clinton announced the withdrawal of US forces from Somalia soon after the Battle of Mogadishu.64 For the rest of the 1990s, the US did not get involved in Somalia. Following the 9/11 attacks, however, Al Qaeda fighters in Somalia became a target in the Global War on Terror of George W. Bush. In 2002, a Heritage Foundation report indicated that the US was worried about terrorists fleeing the war in Afghanistan and taking refuge with militant groups in Somalia. Somalia has always been seen by the US military as a significant haven for Al Qaeda even though Al Shabaab did not formally join the terrorist organization before 2012.65 The extent of US military involvement in the country under the George W. Bush administration remains largely unknown, but the US did carry out major airstrikes against Al Qaeda targets in Somalia in January 2007.66 The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has reported a number of CIA covert operations preceding this date, but none were of large scope.67 After the 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, the US began helping the Ethiopians with special forces, naval, and air support.68 During the period between 2002 and 2007, the US had been also acquiring, refurbishing and expanding what remains today its only permanent military base in Africa at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.69

  • 70 Dan Gettinger, “Diaries from the Shadows: Drones and Special Forces in the War on Terror,” Center f (...)
  • 71 Abidunur Mohamud, “The Obama Administration’s Somali Pivot,” Foreign Policy in Focus, June 16, 2014 (...)
  • 72 Mark Moyar, “How American Special Operators Gradually Returned to Somalia,” The Atlantic, May 14, 2 (...)
  • 73 Mark Mazzetti, Jeffrey Gettleman & Eric Schmitt, “In Somalia, US Escalates a Shadow War,” New York (...)

27Despite initial misgivings about operations in the country, Barack Obama’s administration increased US military involvement in Somalia and further expanded Camp Lemmonier after 2012.70 Obama also showed considerable concern about the increase in piracy off Somalia’s coast, and was willing to use military force to stop it, even early in his presidency.71 Obama supported the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which deployed in 2007 to destroy Al-Shabaab and restore the legitimate Somali Government. AMISOM retook Mogadishu in 2010. The US did not send more soldiers in overtly until after the Al-Shabaab attacks at the Westgate Mall in Kenya in September 2013.72 By 2016, there were reports of several hundred US soldiers in Somalia assisting AMISOM, Kenya and the Somali military in operations against Al-Shabaab.73

  • 74 Omar S. Mahmood & Ndubuisi Christian Ani, “What Trump’s stance on Africa today means for continenta (...)
  • 75 Jason Burke, “Somali citizens count cost of surge of US airstrikes under Trump,” Guardian, January (...)
  • 76 AFRICOM denies that civilians were killed in the attack. Christina Goldbaum, “Strong Evidence that (...)

28Donald Trump inherited this gradual escalation of US forces in Somalia since 2013 from the Obama administration. The Trump administration’s approach has shifted, however, to making AMISOM more dependent on direct US military aid rather than on funding from the EU or the UN.74 This represents a refocusing on the use of military means to fight terrorism directly through airstrikes and special forces under the Trump administration. The Trump administration has also relaxed the rules of engagement to protect civilians from US strikes in Somalia, leading to more civilian deaths in 2017.75 It remains unclear what the Somali population thinks about the US intervention, but there are indications of hostile local reactions against US soldiers after an alleged massacre of civilians by US Special Forces in August 2017.76 The nature of local reactions to US operations in Africa under the Trump administration remains unclear and merits further research.

  • 77 Stephen Tankel, “Donald Trump’s Shadow War,” Politico, May 9, 2018, https://www.politico.com/magazi (...)
  • 78 Helene Cooper, “U.S. strikes killed nearly 500 civilians in 2017, Pentagon says,” New York Times, J (...)

29Two points stand out in Trump’s war in Somalia. First, as in a number of other military theaters, which include, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Niger, the Trump administration has been in favor of targeted attacks using drones. This policy was developed by the Bush administration and increased under the Obama administration.77 What is substantially different is the disregard for civilian casualties by the Trump administration. Obama-era reporting requirements as well as the rules of engagement mentioned above have been rescinded. Under considerable pressure, the Pentagon released statistics for civilian casualties in US operations in 2017, citing 499 deaths. US authorities will not confirm any casualty reports from Libya or Somalia.78

  • 79 “UN delays drawdown of Somalia peacekeeping force,” The East African, July 30, 2018. <http://www.th (...)
  • 80 Anastasia Voronkova, “AMISOM withdrawal raises concern about long-standing security problems in Som (...)
  • 81 Robyn Kriel & Briana Duggan, “CNN Exclusive: Somali pirate kings are under investigation for helpin (...)
  • 82 One of Trump’s first military operations after his inauguration was against Al Qaeda leaders in Yem (...)
  • 83 Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “U.S. Bombs ISIS in Somalia for the First Time,” New York Times, November 3, 2 (...)
  • 84 Matthew Pennington & Cara Anna, “1 U.S. soldier killed and 4 wounded in attack in Somalia,” The Spo (...)

30Aside from a clear continuity with the Bush and Obama administrations regarding the importance of the fight against Al-Shabaab as part of the larger global war against Al Qaeda, there are several other reasons for Trump’s continued military efforts in Somalia. One may be the impending withdrawal of AMISOM forces from Somalia, originally slated to begin in October 2018 but now postponed by the UN until 2019,79 which could lead to a greater role for the U.S., as Al-Shabaab is far from being defeated.80 Second, Somalia’s geographical location makes it a strategically important country, regardless of which US administration is in power. Somalia is located on one of the major shipping lanes of the world, as emphasized by Obama’s interest in the piracy problem in the country. US military leaders said in 2017 that the new increase in piracy will cause military measures to be taken; they contend that the pirates are aiding terrorist groups.81 Somalia is also close to Yemen, where the current civil war involves the local Al Qaeda affiliate.82 Third, the US is concerned about the possible infiltration of ISIS in certain areas of Somalia.83 The Trump administration is willing to accept casualties in the fight against Al-Shabaab, and one American soldier was killed fighting in Somalia in early June 2018. Unlike the Niger incident, however, this event was underreported in the US media.84

Libya

  • 85 AFRICOM, “Posture Statement [2018],” op cit., 13.
  • 86 Ibid., 13.
  • 87 Daniel R. Coats, Director of National Intelligence, The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intel (...)
  • 88 Courtney Kube & Robert Windrem, “Did Obama Defeat ISIS in Libya?” NBC News, January 28, 2017. <http (...)
  • 89 Despite the New York Times claim that only 4 were disclosed. Eric Schmitt, “Under Trump, US Launche (...)

31While Somalia is clearly the main priority for US forces in Africa, the US is also active to a lesser degree in Libya and in the Sahel region. The US priorities in Libya are to defeat the terrorist groups, “avert a civil war,” establish a legitimate government, and halt the migrations into Europe.85 Avoiding a civil war seems to be a goal that has come too late, as the civil war in Libya has been raging since 2014. The AFRICOM Posture Statement of 2018, however, indicates that ISIS in Libya ceased to be a major fighting force after being forced out of Syrte in late 2016. As mentioned above, the local Al Qaeda group, Ansar al-Sharia, also disbanded in 2017. The document indicates more concern with AQIM.86 The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, released in February 2018, makes no mention of Libya as a security threat.87 This is despite the Obama administration’s extensive involvement in Libya since the campaign to overthrow Moammar Qaddafi in 2011.88 According to AFRICOM, however, the US military has carried out eight airstrikes on Libyan targets since Trump’s inauguration, including two in summer 2018.89

The Sahel and Niger

  • 90 AFRICOM, “Posture Statement [2018],” op cit., 15.
  • 91 Ibid., 16.

32Donald Trump did not appear to react to the double terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on March 2, 2018, carried out by affiliates of Al Qaeda in the region. The AFRICOM posture statement, however, states that “in Mali and adjacent countries, AQIM and its affiliates remain a threat to US interests and the security of our African partners.”90 American forces are present in Niger to counter that threat as well as to fight against the ISIS presence and Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. AFRICOM documents explain that the US cooperates with Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, as well as France to deal with threats in the region.91 It should be clear, however, that in the West African region, unlike in Somalia, France takes the lead with American support.

  • 92 Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.
  • 93 Which was also known for a period as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) before join (...)
  • 94 Andrew Lebovich, “The Real Reason U.S. Troops are in Niger,” Foreign Policy, October 27, 2017. <htt (...)
  • 95 Lesley Anne Warner, “The Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership: Building Partner Capacity to C (...)

33As with Somalia and Libya, the Trump administration has inherited a longer-term strategy from the Bush and Obama administrations. The George W. Bush administration created the Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership in 2005 to help ten countries of the region build their capacities to combat Al Qaeda linked groups.92 The key ally was Algeria, which had just come out of years of civil war. Its military had extensive experience dealing with the Algerian-based terrorist group, the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA),93 which became AQIM in 2007. The US sent advisors into African countries in the Sahel to help build their partner’s capacity to fight AQIM and its offshoots,94 and to avoid their becoming new safe havens for Al Qaeda after the war in Afghanistan.95

  • 96 Gabe Starosta, “The Role of the US Air Force in the French Mission in Mali,” Atlantic Council, Nove (...)
  • 97 “The U.S. military is building a $110 million drone base in the city of Agadez, Niger,” Global Defe (...)

34The Obama administration accelerated the involvement of US forces in the region due to events on the ground after the 2012 fall of Qaddafi, which caused a large influx of weapons from Libya into the Sahel to arm AQIM and affiliated Tuareg groups who proceeded to attack Northern Mali. In January 2013, those groups attacked into southern Mali, and were stopped in extremis by a large French military intervention. The French intervention was supported by US intelligence and airlift.96 From that point on, the Obama administration consolidated and expanded its presence in Niger through building a major drone base in the country for aerial reconnaissance and strikes throughout the region. The base, located in Agadez, has cost $110 million, and is slated to be completed at the end of 2018.97

  • 98 Lolita Baldor & Robert Burns, “U.S. Official: Niger OKs armed drones for takeoff from its capital,” (...)
  • 99 Ibid.
  • 100 Adam Weinstein, “Report: SOCOM has more troops in Africa than anywhere except the Middle East,” Tas (...)
  • 101 “A month on, U.S., Niger still disagree on what happened on fatal mission,” Reuters, November 3, 20 (...)

35The Trump administration has continued the construction of the base. As with Somalia, Trump has loosened the rules of engagement and permitted the drones flying out of Agadez to be armed.98 As of the end of 2017, there were 800 American soldiers stationed in Niger to maintain the drone base and undertake operations.99 As in Somalia, Donald Trump initially escalated the US involvement in local conflicts. This was unexpected, as one would have thought that Trump’s disinterest in Africa would have led to a drawdown for budget reasons. Instead, one-fifth of American Special Forces were deployed in Africa in May 2017, and the administration claims that it could be the area with new security problems “that could surpass the threat that the United States currently faces from conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.”100 As will be seen below in the conclusion, however, the Trump administration changed its policy in August 2018, and announced a drawdown of US forces. Niger appears to be central to the American counterterrorism campaign in Africa. Some sources, however, point to increasing local dissatisfaction with the presence of foreign troops in the country.101

Boko Haram

  • 102 Christopher Griffin, “Obama’s Nigerian Strategy,” in Maud Quessard & Maya Kandel (Dirs.), Les États (...)
  • 103 Chad withdrew its forces from the battle in October 2017 for reasons that remain unknown.

36The third Line of Effort includes the fight against the terrorist group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram, previously allied with Al Qaeda, pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015. Like with Somalia, Libya and Niger, Trump inherited an active military policy from Barack Obama in the region. In addition to the American soldiers and drones already present in Niger, Obama sent 300 soldiers to Cameroon in late 2015 and early 2016. Those soldiers were expected to help Cameroon’s armed forces defend itself against the spate of suicide bombings and Boko Haram incursions.102 This intervention was in the larger context of an ongoing offensive against Boko Haram launched in 2015 by five of the countries in the region, including Benin, Cameroon, Chad,103 Niger and Nigeria.

  • 104 Tara Copp, “DoD approves danger pay for Niger, Mali, Cameroon,” Military Times, March 9, 2018. <htt (...)
  • 105 Amnesty International, Cameroon’s Secret Torture Chambers: Human Rights Violations and War Crimes i (...)
  • 106 Ibid., 71-72.

37As of March 2018, US soldiers were still present in northern Cameroon.104 Amnesty International published a report about torture at one of Cameroon’s main military bases in summer 2017. While it does not say that Americans were involved in the torture, it suggests that American and French soldiers were present at the base during the torture operations by the Cameroonian Army.105 The government of Cameroon has denied the allegations, but the US Embassy in Cameroon indicated that it was aware of some abuses and was investigating others in a letter of July 11, 2017.106

  • 107 “U.S. may lift ban on ‘important partner’ Chad, Tillerson says,” Reuters, March 12, 2018. <https:// (...)
  • 108 “Trump to sell planes to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram despite human rights abuses,” Los Angeles Time (...)

38Trump also met with President Muhammedu Buhari at the United Nations in September 2017. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Nigeria in March 2018, just a few days before he was replaced by Trump, highlighting the importance of the security issues in Nigeria for the US government.107 The Trump administration supports the sale of military aircraft to Nigeria as well to fight Boko Haram, despite alleged Nigerian Army human rights abuses,108 pursuing Obama’s policy of an active US presence in the region.

Conclusion

39Given what seemed to be President Trump’s open lack of interest in Africa, one might have expected a reduction in the US involvement in military affairs on the continent. Instead, initially the Trump administration increased both American resources and the operational tempo in Somalia and Niger in particular. Trump’s strategy appeared to be to reduce the focus on foreign aid and peacekeeping and to escalate the war on Al Qaeda and ISIS in Africa. This is a policy that takes some of its impetus from Trump’s predecessors, but the increased focus on the battle against terrorism across the continent in 2017 was new.

  • 109 AFRICOM, “United States Africa Command 2017 Posture Statement,” March 9, 2017, 5. <http://www.afric (...)
  • 110 Saskia Brechenmeier & Steven Feldstein, “Trump’s War on Terror,” National Interest, October 18, 201 (...)

40Trump also have abandoned the limited approach of his predecessors. Tellingly, the comment made in the 2017 AFRICOM Posture Statement, “our approach assumes the continuation of limited available resources, both financial and personnel, to accomplish US objectives,” was removed in the 2018 Posture Statement.109 Trump may have wanted in the short term to increase the American presence in Africa to continue his worldwide fight against Al Qaeda and ISIS. Trump’s global strategy up to 2018 was about the use of significant military power to defeat terrorists, and his approach to Africa appeared to closely follow this principle.110

  • 111 John Vandiver, “Report: General wants to pull hundreds of US troops out of Africa,” Stars & Stripes(...)

41In the wake of the publication of the Niger ambush report in May 2018, General Waldhauser made the surprising announcement at the beginning of August 2018 that the number of US troops in Africa would be substantially reduced. For the first time, AFRICOM indicated that 6,000 soldiers were present in Africa. General Waldhauser said that the numbers would be cut by 25% in January 2020 and by 50% in summer 2021. These cuts will reportedly not concern Somalia, but will be in Central and West Africa111

  • 112 Kyle Rempfer, “Report: AFRICOM looks to cut special ops missions, pull out hundreds of troops from (...)

42The official explanation for the planned partial withdrawal of US forces from Africa is the need to refocus on “great power competition,” namely on what the Trump administration sees as peer military competitors in Russia and China.112 The drawdown may also be due to the fall of Raqqa and the sense that the terrorist groups that pose the most important threats to US interests have been dealt with in West and Central Africa. The decision to not withdraw forces fighting Al-Shabaab reinforces this assertion, as the US believes that Somalia remains a major threat to the US. The negative fallout from the Niger ambush may also have convinced the Trump administration that public opinion was against US involvement in the region. The fact that operations are slated to continue well into the next decade in East Africa, however, fundamentally contradicts the idea that the US is not interested in the continent, even if it is not a high-level priority for the Trump administration.

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“U.S. may lift ban on ‘important partner’ Chad, Tillerson says,” Reuters, March 12, 2018. <https://af.reuters.com/article/kenyaNews/idAFL8N1QU26N?feedType=RSS&feedName=kenyaNews>, accessed on August 25, 2018.

VANDIVER John, “AFRICOM: Somalia’s new leaders are best hope to end the nation’s dysfunction,” Stars & Stripes, November 29, 2017. <https://www.stripes.com/news/africom-somalia-s-new-leaders-are-best-hope-to-end-the-nation-s-dysfunction-1.499982>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

VANDIVER John, “Report: General wants to pull hundreds of US troops out of Africa,” Stars & Stripes, August 2, 2018. <https://www.stripes.com/news/report-general-wants-to-pull-hundreds-of-us-troops-out-of-africa-1.540609>, accessed on August 22, 2018.

VINES Alex, “Trade Not Aid: Obama’s African Legacy,” Chatham House Expert Comment, September 20, 2016. <https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/trade-not-aid-obama-s-africa-legacy>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

VORONKOVA Anastasia, “AMISOM withdrawal raises concern about long-standing security problems in Somalia,” International Institute for Security Studies, April 11, 2017. <https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2017/04/amisom-withdrawal-somalia>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

VRIES Lloyd, “U.S. Strikes in Somalia Reportedly Kill 31,” CBS News, January 8, 2007. <https://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-strikes-in-somalia-reportedly-kill-31/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

WARNER Lesley Anne, “The Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership: Building Partner Capacity to Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism,” Washington DC: CNA Analysis and Solutions, mars 2014.

WEINSTEIN Adam, “Report: SOCOM has more troops in Africa than anywhere except the Middle East,” Task & Purpose, May 18, 2017. <https://taskandpurpose.com/socom-africa-operations-increase/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf>, accessed on March 11, 2018.

White House, US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, June 2012. <https://2009-2017.state.gov/documents/organization/209377.pdf>, accessed on April 27, 2018.

WILTS Alexandra, “Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley boasts about cutting ‘more than $500m from the UN peacekeeping budget’,” The Independent, June 29, 2017. <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/nikki-haley-un-peacekeeping-budget-cuts-tweet-donald-trump-us-ambassador-a7815181.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

WROUGHTON Lesley, “Trump administration’s Africa policy in focus at AGOA trade talks,” Reuters, August 8, 2017. <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-africa-idUSKBN1AO108>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

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Notes

1 Dionne Searcey, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “Conflicting Accounts in Niger Ambush are Subject of Pentagon Investigation,” New York Times, October 20, 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/world/africa/niger-ambush-conflicting-accounts.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

2 This account is based on a description of the events leading up to the battle by the New York Times, which had access to information from the Pentagon and a video of part of the engagement. Rukmini Callimachi, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, Alan Binder and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “‘An Endless War’: Why 4 US Soldiers Died in a Remote African Desert,” New York Times, February 20, 2018. <https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/17/world/africa/niger-ambush-american-soldiers.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

3 Richard Sisk, “Command Failures Led to Niger Ambush, Explosive Report Shows,” Military.com, February 19, 2018. <https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/02/19/command-failures-led-niger-ambush-explosive-report-shows.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

4 U.S. Defense Department, “Oct 2017 Niger Ambush: Summary of Investigation,” Defense.gov, May 10, 2018 <https://www.defense.gov/portals/1/features/2018/0418_niger/img/Oct-2017-Niger-Ambush-Summary-of-Investigation.pdf>, accessed on August 22, 2018.

5 Donald J. Trump, “Remarks in an Exchange with Reporters, October 25, 2017,” Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. <http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=128706>, accessed on February 27, 2018.

6 “Raqqa: ISIS ‘capital’ falls to U.S.-backed Syrian forces,” BBC News, October 17, 2017. <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-41646802>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

7 Adam Roberts, “NATO’s ‘Humanitarian War’ Over Kosovo,” Survival, vol. 41, n° 3, automne 1999, 110.

8 Domenico Montanaro, “Gold Star Widow: Trump Call ‘Made Me Cry Even Worse’,” NPR, October 23, 2017. <https://www.npr.org/2017/10/23/559479959/gold-star-widow-trump-call-made-me-cry-even-worse>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

9 Ibid.

10 Hannah Parry, “Second Niger Special Forces widow comes forward to PRAISE Trump for his ‘brave’ and ‘gracious’ condolence call about her husband – days after the President’s Twitter spat with a grieving family of fallen soldier,” Daily Mail, October 25, 2017. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5017625/Niger-widow-grateful-Trump-s-gracious-call.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

11 Maya Kandel, “Pour l’armée américaine, l’Afrique est un laboratoire de la lutte antiterroriste,” Le Monde, November 18, 2016. <https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2016/11/18/maya-kandel-pour-l-armee-americaine-l-afrique-est-un-laboratoire-de-la-lutte-antiterroriste_5033345_3210.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

12 Maya Kandel, “La stratégie américaine en Afrique: les risques et contradictions du « Light Footprint »,” in Maya Kandel (dir.), La Stratégie américaine en Afrique, Etudes de l’IRSEM n°36, décembre 2014, 17.

13 J. Peter Pham, “AFRICOM’s Evolution from Bush to Obama,” in ibidem, 36.

14 White House, US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, June 2012. <https://2009-2017.state.gov/documents/organization/209377.pdf>, accessed on April 27, 2018.

15 “Donald Trump must apologize for comments – African Union,” BBC News, January 12, 2018. <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42670715>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

16 Ibid.

17 Donald J. Trump, “The Inaugural Address,” White House, January 20, 2017. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/the-inaugural-address/>, accessed on March 3, 2018.

18 Dina Smeltz, Ivo Daalder, Karl Friedhoff & Craig Kafura, What Americans Think About America First, Chicago: Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 2017.

19 Trump, “The Inaugural Address,” op cit.

20 US Census Bureau, Trade in Goods With Africa. <https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c0013.html>, accessed on March 3, 2018.

21 Peter Buxbaum, “Africa Trade Not a Priority for Trump,” Global Trade, February 21, 2018. <http://www.globaltrademag.com/global-trade-daily/africa-trade-not-priority-trump>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

22 Kara Fox, Edward Kiernan & Charles Riley, “U.S. suspends trade benefit for Rwanda over used clothing,” CNN Money, July 31, 2018. <https://money.cnn.com/2018/07/31/news/economy/rwanda-us-trade-fight/index.html>, accessed on August 22, 2018.

23 Lesley Wroughton, “Trump administration’s Africa policy in focus at AGOA trade talks,” Reuters, August 8, 2017. <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-africa-idUSKBN1AO108>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

24 Donald J. Trump, “Remarks by President Trump at Working Lunch with African Leaders,” White House, September 20, 2017. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-working-lunch-african-leaders/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

25 Alex Vines, “Trade Not Aid: Obama’s African Legacy,” Chatham House Expert Comment, September 20, 2016. <https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/trade-not-aid-obama-s-africa-legacy>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

26 Twitter Reference: <https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/910580644597649409>, accessed on March 3, 2018.

27 Twitter Reference: <https://twitter.com/foxandfriends/status/895954966258503680>, accessed on March 3, 2018.

28 Twitter References: <https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/830747067379232769>. <https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/1005304018741035008>, accessed on August 22, 2018.

29 Nicole Gaouette, “Trump admin wants to slash funding for diplomacy,” CNN, February 12, 2018. <https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/12/politics/trump-budget-state-department-aid-cut/index.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

30 Ibid.

31 Jack Corrigan, “State Department Lost 12% of its Foreign Affairs Specialists in Trump’s First 8 Months,” Government Executive, February 9, 2018. <https://www.govexec.com/management/2018/02/state-department-lost-12-its-foreign-affairs-specialists-trumps-first-8-months/145874/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

32 Gbadamassi, Falila, “Etats-Unis: Tibor Nagy prend en charge les « Affaires africaines »,” Franceinfo, July 26, 2018. <http://geopolis.francetvinfo.fr/etats-unis-tibor-nagy-prend-en-charge-les-affaires-africaines-196801>, accessed on August 22, 2018.

33 Ryan R. Migeed, “Experts Urge Increased US Engagement in Africa as China Fills the Void,” The Washington Diplomat, February 28, 2018. <http://www.washdiplomat.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16954%3Aexperts-urge-increased-us-engagement-in-africa-as-china-fills-the-void&catid=1568&Itemid=428&utm_content=buffer64653>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

34 White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017, 52. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf>, accessed on March 11, 2018.

35 Steve George & Brad Lendon, “‘Weaponizing Capital’: US worries over China’s expanding role in Africa,” CNN, March 11, 2018. <https://edition.cnn.com/2018/03/09/asia/djibouti-port-china-us-intl/index.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018. For more on bases in Djibouti, see Christopher Griffin, “Strategic Competition for Bases in Djibouti,” TRENDS Research and Advisory, August 16, 2018. < http://trendsinstitution.org/strategic-competition-for-bases-in-djibouti/>, accessed on August 22, 2018.

36 Trump, “Remarks by President Trump at Working Lunch with African Leaders,” op cit.

37 Alexandra Wilts, “Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley boasts about cutting ‘more than $500m from the UN peacekeeping budget’,” The Independent, June 29, 2017. <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/nikki-haley-un-peacekeeping-budget-cuts-tweet-donald-trump-us-ambassador-a7815181.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

38 Trump, “Remarks by President Trump at Working Lunch with African Leaders,” op cit.

39 Ibid. The President was not specific about what he meant by “Al Qaeda,” but it is probably a reference to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Al-Shabaab in Somalia and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya are also Al Qaeda-affiliated groups.

40 George W. Bush, “President Bush Creates a Department of Defense Unified Combatant Command for Africa,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, February 6, 2007. <https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070206-3.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

41 Anne Stenersen, Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017, 8-9.

42 Clayton Thomas, “Al Qaeda and US Policy: Middle East and Africa,” Congressional Research Service CRS Report R43756, February 5, 2018, 1.

43 Daniel L. Byman, “Al Qaeda’s M & A Strategy,” Brookings Institution, December 7, 2010. <https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/al-qaedas-ma-strategy/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

44 Ibid.

45 Clayton Thomas, op. cit., 8-9.

46 Marc Memier, “AQMI et Al-Mourabitoun: le djihad sahélien, réunifié ?” Etudes de l’Ifri, janvier 2017.

47 Too many of the group’s members had turned to ISIS in Libya. “Libyan Islamist Group Ansar al-Sharia says it is dissolving,” Reuters, May 27, 2017. <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security/libyan-islamist-group-ansar-al-sharia-says-it-is-dissolving-idUSKBN18N0YR>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

48 Al Shabaab worked with Al Qaeda as early as 2008 to fight the Ethiopian intervention in Somalia (launched in 2006). Daniel E. Agbiboa, “Terrorism without borders: Somalia’s Al-Shabaab and the global jihad network,” Journal of Terrorism Research, vol. 5, no. 1, février 2014, 29-31.

49 Thomas Joscelyn, “Osama bin Laden’s files: AQIM commander recommended training Boko Haram members,” Long War Journal, February 18, 2017. <https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/02/osama-bin-ladens-files-aqim-leader-recommended-training-boko-harams-members.php>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

50 Martin Ewi, “What does the Boko Haram-ISIS alliance mean for terrorism in Africa?,” Institute for Security Studies Africa, March 17, 2015. <https://issafrica.org/iss-today/what-does-the-boko-haram-isis-alliance-mean-for-terrorism-in-africa>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

51 Joseph Siegle, “ISIS in Africa: Implications from Syria and Iraq,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, March 17, 2017. <https://africacenter.org/spotlight/islamic-state-isis-africa-implications-syria-iraq-boko-haram-aqim-shabaab/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

52 AFRICOM, “United States Africa Command Posture Statement,” March 2, 2018, <http://www.africom.mil/media-room/document/30467/u-s-africa-command-2018-posture-statement>, accessed on March 11, 2018.

53 Ibidem, 6.

54 Ibid., 8.

55 AFRICOM, “Statement of General Carter Ham Before House Armed Services Committee,” March 1, 2012. <http://www.africom.mil/media-room/article/8832/2012-posture-statement-statement-of-general-carter>, accessed on March 5, 2018.

56 AFRICOM, “Posture Statement [2018],” op cit., 9-11.

57 John Vandiver, “AFRICOM: Somalia’s new leaders are best hope to end the nation’s dysfunction,” Stars & Stripes, November 29, 2017. <https://www.stripes.com/news/africom-somalia-s-new-leaders-are-best-hope-to-end-the-nation-s-dysfunction-1.499982>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

58 “Somalia: US to Expand Fire Support of African Union Mission in Somalia,” AllAfrica, March 31, 2017. <https://allafrica.com/stories/201703310002.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

59 “Somalia: Trump Declares Parts of Somalia a War Zone,” AllAfrica, March 30, 2017. <https://allafrica.com/stories/201703310181.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

60 See AFRICOM’s Press Releases website: <http://www.africom.mil/media-room/press-releases?Page=1>, accessed on August 22, 2018.

61 Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999.

62 Stenersen, Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, 166.

63 Bill Roggio, “Shabaab leader recounts al Qaeda’s role in Somalia in the 1990s,” Long War Journal, December 31, 2011. <https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/12/shabaab_leader_recou.php>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

64 Bill Clinton, “The Somalia Mission; Clinton’s Words on Somalia: ‘The Responsibilities of American Leadership’,” New York Times, October 8, 1993. <https://www.nytimes.com/1993/10/08/world/somalia-mission-clinton-s-words-somalia-responsibilities-american-leadership.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

65 James Phillips, “Somalia and al-Qaeda: Implications for the War on Terrorism,” Heritage Foundation, April 5, 2002, 3-4.

66 Lloyd Vries, “U.S. Strikes in Somalia Reportedly Kill 31,” CBS News, January 8, 2007. <https://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-strikes-in-somalia-reportedly-kill-31/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

67 “Somalia: Reported US Covert Operations 2001-2017,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2017. <https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/drone-war/data/somalia-reported-us-covert-actions-2001-2017>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

68 Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Signals Backing for Ethiopian Incursion Into Somalia,” New York Times, December 27, 2006. <https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/27/world/africa/27africa.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

69 Camp Lemonnier is a former French Foreign Legion base. Philippe Leymarie, “Djibouti: A New Army Behind the Wire,” Le Monde Diplomatique, février 2003. <https://mondediplo.com/2003/02/06djibouti>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

70 Dan Gettinger, “Diaries from the Shadows: Drones and Special Forces in the War on Terror,” Center for the Study of the Drone (Bard College), August 3, 2015. <http://dronecenter.bard.edu/diaries-from-the-shadows-drones-and-special-forces-in-the-war-on-terror/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

71 Abidunur Mohamud, “The Obama Administration’s Somali Pivot,” Foreign Policy in Focus, June 16, 2014. <https://fpif.org/obama-administrations-somali-pivot/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

72 Mark Moyar, “How American Special Operators Gradually Returned to Somalia,” The Atlantic, May 14, 2017. <https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/05/somalia-navy-seals/526023/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

73 Mark Mazzetti, Jeffrey Gettleman & Eric Schmitt, “In Somalia, US Escalates a Shadow War,” New York Times, October 16, 2016. <https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/16/world/africa/obama-somalia-secret-war.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

74 Omar S. Mahmood & Ndubuisi Christian Ani, “What Trump’s stance on Africa today means for continental security efforts,” Institute for Security Studies Africa, November 6, 2017. <https://issafrica.org/iss-today/what-trumps-stance-on-africa-means-for-continental-security-efforts>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

75 Jason Burke, “Somali citizens count cost of surge of US airstrikes under Trump,” Guardian, January 23, 2018. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/23/somali-citizens-count-cost-of-surge-in-us-airstrikes-under-trump>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

76 AFRICOM denies that civilians were killed in the attack. Christina Goldbaum, “Strong Evidence that US Special Operations Forces Massacred Civilians in Somalia,” Daily Beast, November 29, 2017. <https://www.thedailybeast.com/strong-evidence-that-us-special-operations-forces-massacred-civilians-in-somalia>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

77 Stephen Tankel, “Donald Trump’s Shadow War,” Politico, May 9, 2018, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/09/donald-trumps-shadow-war-218327, accessed on August 22, 2018.

78 Helene Cooper, “U.S. strikes killed nearly 500 civilians in 2017, Pentagon says,” New York Times, June 1, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/01/us/politics/pentagon-civilian-casualties.html, accessed on August 22, 2018.

79 “UN delays drawdown of Somalia peacekeeping force,” The East African, July 30, 2018. <http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/africa/UN-delays-drawdown-of-Somalia-peacekeeping-force/4552902-4689210-f96du2/index.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

80 Anastasia Voronkova, “AMISOM withdrawal raises concern about long-standing security problems in Somalia,” International Institute for Security Studies, April 11, 2017. <https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2017/04/amisom-withdrawal-somalia>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

81 Robyn Kriel & Briana Duggan, “CNN Exclusive: Somali pirate kings are under investigation for helping ISIS and al-Shabaab,” CNN, July 10, 2017. <https://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/10/africa/somali-piracy-attack-spike/index.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

82 One of Trump’s first military operations after his inauguration was against Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen. Cynthia McFadden, William M. Arkin & Tracy Connor, “Yemen Raid Had Secret Target: Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi,” NBC News, February 7, 2017. <https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/yemen-raid-had-secret-target-al-qaeda-leader-qassim-al-n717616>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

83 Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “U.S. Bombs ISIS in Somalia for the First Time,” New York Times, November 3, 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/world/africa/isis-bombed-somalia.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

84 Matthew Pennington & Cara Anna, “1 U.S. soldier killed and 4 wounded in attack in Somalia,” The Spokesman-Review, June 8, 2018. <http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/jun/08/1-us-soldier-killed-4-wounded-in-attack-in-somalia/>, accessed August 22, 2018.

85 AFRICOM, “Posture Statement [2018],” op cit., 13.

86 Ibid., 13.

87 Daniel R. Coats, Director of National Intelligence, The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community: Statement for the Record, Washington DC: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, February 13, 2018.

88 Courtney Kube & Robert Windrem, “Did Obama Defeat ISIS in Libya?” NBC News, January 28, 2017. <https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/did-obama-defeat-isis-libya-n709001>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

89 Despite the New York Times claim that only 4 were disclosed. Eric Schmitt, “Under Trump, US Launched 8 Airstrikes Against ISIS in Libya. It Disclosed 4,” New York Times, March 8, 2018. <https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/08/world/africa/us-airstrikes-isis-libya.html>, accessed on August 23, 2018. Two more airstrikes were carried out in summer 2018, according to AFRICOM’s Press Releases, op cit.

90 AFRICOM, “Posture Statement [2018],” op cit., 15.

91 Ibid., 16.

92 Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

93 Which was also known for a period as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) before joining Al Qaeda.

94 Andrew Lebovich, “The Real Reason U.S. Troops are in Niger,” Foreign Policy, October 27, 2017. <https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/27/the-real-reason-u-s-troops-are-in-niger/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

95 Lesley Anne Warner, “The Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership: Building Partner Capacity to Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism,” Washington DC: CNA Analysis and Solutions, mars 2014, 22.

96 Gabe Starosta, “The Role of the US Air Force in the French Mission in Mali,” Atlantic Council, November 4, 2013. <http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/natosource/the-role-of-the-us-air-force-in-the-french-mission-in-mali>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

97 “The U.S. military is building a $110 million drone base in the city of Agadez, Niger,” Global Defense News, March 2, 2018. <https://globaldefensenews.com/u-s-military-building-110-million-drone-base-inside-city-agadez-niger/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

98 Lolita Baldor & Robert Burns, “U.S. Official: Niger OKs armed drones for takeoff from its capital,” Defense News, December 1, 2017. <https://www.defensenews.com/global/mideast-africa/2017/12/01/us-official-niger-oks-armed-drones-for-takeoff-from-its-capital/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

99 Ibid.

100 Adam Weinstein, “Report: SOCOM has more troops in Africa than anywhere except the Middle East,” Task & Purpose, May 18, 2017. <https://taskandpurpose.com/socom-africa-operations-increase/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

101 “A month on, U.S., Niger still disagree on what happened on fatal mission,” Reuters, November 3, 2017. <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-niger-usa-security/a-month-on-u-s-niger-still-disagree-on-what-happened-on-fatal-mission-idUSKBN1D31VH>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

102 Christopher Griffin, “Obama’s Nigerian Strategy,” in Maud Quessard & Maya Kandel (Dirs.), Les États-Unis et la fin de la grande stratégie: un bilan de la politique étrangère d’Obama, Etudes de l’IRSEM, N°52, septembre 2017, 117-119.

103 Chad withdrew its forces from the battle in October 2017 for reasons that remain unknown.

104 Tara Copp, “DoD approves danger pay for Niger, Mali, Cameroon,” Military Times, March 9, 2018. <https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2018/03/08/dod-approves-danger-pay-for-niger-mali-cameroon/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

105 Amnesty International, Cameroon’s Secret Torture Chambers: Human Rights Violations and War Crimes in the Fight Against Boko Haram, London: Amnesty, 2017, 41-43.

106 Ibid., 71-72.

107 “U.S. may lift ban on ‘important partner’ Chad, Tillerson says,” Reuters, March 12, 2018. <https://af.reuters.com/article/kenyaNews/idAFL8N1QU26N?feedType=RSS&feedName=kenyaNews>, accessed on August 25, 2018.

108 “Trump to sell planes to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram despite human rights abuses,” Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2017. <http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-trump-to-sell-attack-planes-to-nigeria-1491818856-htmlstory.html>, accessed on August 25, 2018.

109 AFRICOM, “United States Africa Command 2017 Posture Statement,” March 9, 2017, 5. <http://www.africom.mil/media-room/document/28720/africom-2017-posture-satement>, accessed on March 12, 2018.

110 Saskia Brechenmeier & Steven Feldstein, “Trump’s War on Terror,” National Interest, October 18, 2017. <https://nationalinterest.org/feature/trumps-war-terror-22783>, accessed on August 25, 2018.

111 John Vandiver, “Report: General wants to pull hundreds of US troops out of Africa,” Stars & Stripes, August 2, 2018. <https://www.stripes.com/news/report-general-wants-to-pull-hundreds-of-us-troops-out-of-africa-1.540609>, accessed on August 22, 2018.

112 Kyle Rempfer, “Report: AFRICOM looks to cut special ops missions, pull out hundreds of troops from Africa,” Military Times, August 2, 2018. <https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2018/08/02/report-africom-looks-to-cut-special-ops-missions-pull-out-hundreds-of-troops-from-africa/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

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Christopher Griffin, « Trump and the Al Qaeda and ISIS Networks in Africa », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XVI-n°2 | 2018, mis en ligne le 24 septembre 2018, consulté le 17 novembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/10157 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.10157

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Christopher Griffin

Christopher Griffin holds a PhD in international relations from the University of Southern California. He is a non-resident fellow in Security Studies and Counterinsurgency at the think tank TRENDS Research and Advisory in Abu Dhabi and currently teaches English and international business as an adjunct professor at ISG Nantes. He has published articles on terrorism in Europe and in Africa with TRENDS, as well as articles on the French war in Algeria, the Nigerian Civil War, and the Afghanistan War in Security Studies, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Contemporary Security Policy, and Small Wars and Insurgencies. His most recent publication is on Obama’s Nigerian policy against Boko Haram in Etudes de l’IRSEM.

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Les contenus de la Revue LISA / LISA e-journal sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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