When news broke that President Trump had spoken to the widow of a U.S. service member killed in Niger, many were surprised to find out that the U.S. has an active military presence in sub-Saharan Africa. Among those denying they had much knowledge of U.S. operations in the region are ranking Senators Chuck Schumer, Lindsey Graham, and Bob Casey.
But the U.S. has been involved in anti-terrorism operations in the Sahel (a region that spans across Africa where the Sahara desert meets the tropical savanna) since at least 2002. In 2007, the U.S. launched AFRICOM to help fight off the three major terrorist organizations in the region: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram, and a local variation of ISIS.
Several world powers are jockeying for position in the region too, including France, Japan, and China. Each country has different interests and motivations in the region outside of fighting terrorism.
To discuss the U.S. military presence in countries like Niger and Chad, we’re joined by Richard Reeve, director of the Sustainable Security Program at Oxford Research Group. He been an analyst on Africa conflict and security issues since 2000. Reeve is also co-author of a 2014 report called “From New Frontier to New Normal: Counter-terrorism Operations in the Sahel-Sahara.”