LISTEN TO TLR’S LATEST PODCAST:
By Saagar Enjeti
Al-Qaida’s affiliate in western Africa, AQIM, is consolidating with local tribal groups to put down roots to grow its terror operations, The Soufan Group warns.
Al-Qaida’s Africa strategy mimics the tactics it’s used in Syria, which co-opts local groups into its larger terror network. The strategy is at odds with Islamic State tactics, which instead controls and administers territory under its control by conquest. Experts say al-Qaida’s methods will make it more difficult to eradicate, and could make it a much longer lasting threat than ISIS.
“While the world remains focused on defeating the Islamic State, al-Qaeda is quietly exploiting the opportunity to expand its global terrorist enterprise,” the U.S.-based security advisory firm states.
The group outlines al-Qaida’s patient strategy with African tribes saying, “over a decade of collaboration with AQIM helped convince local militants of the group’s long-term commitment to the region, and the utility of sacrificing a degree of autonomy in exchange for the benefits of membership in al-Qaeda’s global network.”
Experts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) note that the new al-Qaida merger will “fuel an emboldened insurgency in Mali” and “allow for greater coordination” of terrorist operations throughout Africa.
AQIM’s terror activities were already on the upswing with 250 attacks in 2016, according to statistics tracked by FDD. The group is already on track to surpass the number, with another 50 attacks recorded in 2017. The group continues to operate under the authority of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
AQIM has long been considered a threat by the West. The U.S. periodically drone strikes senior leaders in Mali, and France deployed hundreds of special operators to Mali in 2013. The French operations lasted for nearly a year and successfully reclaimed major cities for the Malian government.