The number of violent incidents involving Islamist militants has reportedly jumped ten-fold between 2009 and 2018, and Somali jihadists from al-Shabaab appear to be the most active group.
Terror-related violence in Africa has spiked massively over the past decade, despite increasing US military presence on the continent, a recent Pentagon analysis has shown.
According to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, an affiliate of the US Department of Defence, there were over 3000 violent incidents reported in Africa last year, as against roughly 1,400 in 2012.
This represents a 4.2 percent spike in violence since 2017 and a generally upsetting upward trend.
“Overall, militant Islamist group activity in Africa has doubled since 2012 when there were 1,402 events linked to these groups,” the study has found.
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Over a ten-year span, violence skyrocketed from 288 reported events in 2009 to 3,050 in 2018.
The most worrisome regions are Somalia, the Lake Chad Basin, the Sahel (an arc-like area to the immediate south of the Sahara Desert) and Egypt.
“Reflecting the growing fragmentation of the militant Islamist group threat, 13 African countries now face regular attacks from these groups (up from 5 in 2010). Furthermore, there are now roughly two dozen active militant Islamist groups versus five in 2010,” the think tank has found.
Somali group al-Shabaab has accounted for nearly half of all Islamist group activity on the continent, according to the analysis, while militants in the Sahel have become more active in comparison with the likes of al Shabaab, Boko Haram, and ISIS.
Incidentally, the unrest has been growing despite the ever-increasing anti-terrorism efforts of the US Africa Command, commonly referred to as AFRICOM.
Operational since October 2008, AFRICOM has consistently expanded its activities on the continent, as well as stepped up the number of its personnel and missions.
In 2017, AFRICOM chief Gen. Waldhauser said US troops in Africa were conducting 3,500 exercises and engagements every year, with nearly 10 missions a day on average.
The Pentagon attaches significant importance to Somalia and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against local militants.
“Somalia remains key to the security environment of East Africa, and its long-term stability is important to advancing US interests in the region,” Gen. Waldhauser told US senators in February.
The number of air attacks has jumped under Donald Trump, from 14 in 2016 to 47 last year.
And while the observed spike in violence is associated with many factors, the recent study could be seen as calling the effectiveness of the US military into question.
“The sharp increase in terrorist incidents in Africa underscores the fact that the Pentagon’s overly militarized approach to the problem has been a dismal failure,” defense analyst William Hartung, who heads the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, told The Intercept.
“If anything, attempting to eradicate terrorism by force may be exacerbating the problem, provoking a terrorist backlash and serving as a recruiting tool for extremist groups.”
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