Below are excerpts from an interview with RT TV on the recent agreement between the U.S. and Niger to allow armed drone missions in the Sahel.
Africa affairs analyst Lawrence K Freeman says that drone strikes alone will be unlikely to change the region’s jihadist landscape, which is being driven by more than just a handful of key operatives.
“So, this is a big problem for the Niger government, for West Africa, and for all of Africa – [that Niger] is now allowing the US to carry out these kind of military attacks,” Freeman told RT. “What is missing from this, is a strategy.
“There has not been a strategy now for many, many years through several presidential administrations, including the current one.”
“The thinking in Washington is that by taking out key figures in the terrorist chain of command, this will help bring down the whole network. This approach has worked against some militant groups in the past but is unlikely to work here, Freeman said.
“The Sahara Desert itself, which goes all the way up to the Mediterranean, this is larger than the US. The Sahel desert stretches from the east end to the end of Africa. It is impossible to patrol all these areas. Therefore, you might pick off a few people here and there, which is useful, but you’re not going to stop the problem of terrorism.”
“If you take northern Mali, Niger, Chad – I have been in Chad, I have been in northern Nigeria – these places are totally undeveloped. Therefore, they are perfect further bases for Boko Haram, for al-Qaeda, for ISIS (Islamic State) and others to operate, recruit and establish bases.