Partnering to Counter Terrorism in Africa

Washington, DC - As the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania underscored, Africa-based terrorists threaten the interests of the United States in addition to those of our African partners. 

The United States government has no higher priority than protecting U.S. citizens from attack by terrorists and violent extremists.  But our efforts at countering terrorism in Africa are motivated as well by a recognition that extremist groups are tearing apart communities in many parts of the continent, robbing young people of their futures, constraining economic growth, and denying people the opportunity to reach their full potential.  African terrorist groups, such as al-Shabaab, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, and Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (ABM), threaten the security and prosperity of Africans across the continent.

We are committed to working with our African partners to address immediate threats and build durable and professional security sector institutions required to achieve our long-term counterterrorism objectives.

A Comprehensive Approach

The United States and our African partners are committed to countering terrorism in Africa through counterterrorism partnerships that draw on all of our tools:  military, diplomacy, financial action, intelligence, law enforcement, and development alike.  Our partnerships are building African partner capacities in the security and justice sectors to counter terrorism in a way that is consistent with the rule of law, and building the capacity of African governments and civil society in countering violent extremism (CVE) to neutralize violent ideologies before they spread.

  • Enhancing military capacity.  U.S. military personnel work hand-in-hand with their African counterparts to increase military capacity in countries threatened by terrorism.  The Department of Defense (DoD) provides much needed equipment to empower African partners’ ability to halt terrorism.  U.S. military personnel provide specialized training that includes instruction on planning, battlefield tactics, civil-military relations, best practices in counter-insurgency, and respect for the rule of law.  The United States also sponsors multinational exercises to increase collaboration and strengthen bonds among African partners.  The 2014 Flintlock Exercise, hosted by Niger, brought together more than 1,000 troops from 18 countries, including eight African nations.
  • Enhancing law enforcement capacity:  Strengthening our African partners’ civilian security and law enforcement capacity is another key priority of our counterterrorism strategy in Africa.  In FY2013, we trained 2,584 participants in 19 African countries on how to prevent, detect, and investigate terrorism threats; secure their borders; bolster legal frameworks to effectively prosecute terrorists within the rule of law; and manage responses to terrorist incidents in a rule-of-law framework that respects human rights, as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program.  The ATA program provides training on a wide range of disciplines, from bomb detection to crime scene investigation.  We have a longstanding ATA partnership with Tanzania, for example, which has helped institutionalize its counterterrorism training and stand-up a special marine police unit.  On the sidelines of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the United States and Kenya signed a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA).  This agreement provides the legal framework to allow for the exchange of information and evidence to assist countries in the prevention, detection, and investigation of customs offenses – including those associated with terrorism-related activities.  
  • Restricting travel and stemming access to resources:   With our African partners, we work to restrict terrorists’ and terrorist organizations’ travel and their ability to raise, move, and store money.  The Terrorist Interdiction Program/Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System provides partner countries in Africa border security assistance to identify, disrupt, and deter terrorist travel.    The Counterterrorism Finance (CTF) program, run by the Department of State, provides training to partner governments that will better enable them to restrict terrorists’ and terrorist organizations’ ability to raise, move, and store money.   CTF provides African nations with internal and cross-border financial investigations training to work effectively with counterparts in neighboring countries and assists these countries in strengthening their laws and regulations.  We have three CTF-funded Resident Legal Advisors (RLA) and two Department of Homeland Security advisors in Africa who provide mentoring and training to judges and prosecutors so they are better able to adjudicate and prosecute these cases. 
  • Drying up potential sources of recruits:  We also seek to stop terrorism before it begins by strengthening community resilience and creating environments that are inhospitable for terrorist recruitment.  In Chad, Niger, and Burkina Faso, for example, USAID is leading efforts to support youth empowerment through education, skills training, strengthening local governance capacity, and improving access to information via community radio, targeting groups most vulnerable to extremist ideologies.
  • Building global partnerships:  We have also worked in the multilateral arena to build international architecture to combat today’s terrorist threats.  In 2011 the United States co-founded the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), which includes participation from African countries.  The GCTF focuses on identifying critical civilian counterterrorism needs, mobilizing the necessary expertise and resources to address such needs, and enhancing global cooperation. 
  • Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund:  President Obama has asked Congress to create a new, $5 billion counterterrorism partnerships fund that will help build the capacity of our international partners to respond effectively to the terrorist threat.  If approved, this fund would allow the United States to provide additional training, equipment, and operational support for partner states in our shared fight against al-Shabaab, AQIM, Boko Haram and others.  It would also support targeted efforts to address the underlying conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, including by supporting partner efforts to combat terrorist safe havens.

Providing support to partners on the front lines

The United States is building strong partnerships with countries to address critical terrorist threats on the front lines in order to confront the threat at its roots.

  • Confronting Boko Haram:  We are deeply concerned by Boko Haram’s ongoing attacks against Nigeria’s citizens, civil institutions, and infrastructure, including the group’s April 2014 kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls.  To support the Nigerian-led efforts to combat Boko Haram, we are providing an array of military, law enforcement, and intelligence support, such as counter-Improvised Explosive Device training and forensics training.  We are also supporting the efforts of Nigeria and its neighbors to increase regional cooperation to combat Boko Haram.  Because the specter of terrorism requires more than just a security response, we have also worked to encourage and support the Nigerian government’s efforts to promote development in northern Nigeria, including by boosting health, education, and social service delivery.  Our security cooperation also supports the professionalization of key military units and underscores that effective counterterrorism policies and practices are those that respect human rights and are underpinned by the rule of law.
  • Working to Degrade Al-Shabaab:  In Somalia, we continue to support the Somali National Army and the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in their efforts to push al-Shabaab out of its strongholds.  The Department of State has invested more than $170 million to recruit and train forces to help protect Somalia’s institutions and citizens.  Since 2007 we have contributed more than half a billion dollars in training, equipment, and logistical support to AMISOM.  While these efforts have weakened al-Shabaab and pushed it out of a number of cities, the group remains the most significant threat to peace and security in Somalia and the region.  Our counterterrorism support for Somalia is embedded in an overarching policy of support for policies and reforms to eliminate the underlying sources of violence and increase national and regional stability.  A stable, peaceful Somalia and Horn of Africa are the best long-term deterrents to a resurgence of al-Shabaab.  Our Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism, has helped build the capacity and resilience of East African governments to contain the spread of, and counter the threat posed by, al-Qa’ida, al-Shabaab, and other terrorist organizations. 
  • Enabling Partners to combat al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM):  We provided support to our French and regional partners to reverse AQIM’s expansion in northern Mali in 2013 and help the people of Mali reclaim their future.  The United States has provided airlift and refueling support, and training and supplies to more than 6,000 African soldiers and police who have deployed to support the international response.  This international partnership paved the way for safe elections and improved stability in Mali, taking on both the immediate threat and the dire conditions that helped the extremists take hold in the first place.  Our Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) has supported these efforts and other partner country efforts in the Sahel and the Maghreb to constrict and ultimately eliminate the ability of terrorist organizations to exploit the region by increasing security sector capacity, addressing underlying causes of radicalization, and amplifying local voices that speak out against violence. 
  • Confronting Terrorism in North Africa:  We continue to provide security and counterterrorism assistance and advice to our partners in North Africa to arrest the growth of extremist groups like Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, and Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah.  Through the TSCTP, we are working with the government of Tunisia to build its capacity to confront terrorist threats.  We have also provided crisis response and tactical and command training to Tunisian security forces as well as training in leadership development, police reform, prison reform, hostage rescue, and crowd control management for the Justice and Interior ministries.  Additionally, we have provided vehicles to enhance internal and border security in Tunisia.  In Libya, we are working with the international community to train a Libyan General Purpose Force, build Libyan security institutional capacity, and improve the Libyan government’s ability to counter terrorism.

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