America Should Not Overcommit Forces in North Africa

An army officer stands in a parade during a ceremony marking Nigeria's Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Lagos January 15, 2013. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

The past sixteen years have illustrated that combating a force as nebulous as “terrorism” is exceptionally difficult; there is little reason to believe that expanding the war will end it.

America’s short-term success in uprooting ISIS in the Middle East may give policymakers and generals in Washington the confidence to pursue the organization as it migrates to Africa—but following these impulses would be a significant mistake. The very conditions that make the Sahel ripe for expansion by ISIS will make it extremely difficult for the United States to achieve a decisive victory. America’s desire to stymie the Islamic State’s spread in Africa is admirable, but a concerted effort to address the conditions that allow terrorism to thrive through economic assistance, humanitarian aid, and civil society development programs is far more likely to produce a positive outcome than the expansion of the war on terror to the Sahel.

Matt Reisener is a program associate at the Center for the National Interest.

Image: An army officer stands in a parade during a ceremony marking Nigeria's Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Lagos January 15, 2013. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

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