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ISIS ‘caliphate’ heading west

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Asia Times

ISIS ‘caliphate’ heading west

By Faisal Al Yafai

When Islamic State’s self-styled “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reappeared last week in his first video message in five years, most observers focused on his attempt to rally what remains of his largely defeated group. Less attention was paid to an almost throwaway reference to two pledges of allegiance to the group from jihadist militias in the West African countries of Mali and Burkina Faso. But the intention of that second message was to reinforce the first. After being wiped out in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State (aka ISIS) is searching for other territories in which to operate, and the Sahel region is a prime candidate.

Their presence has not gone unnoticed. In the same week that Baghdadi’s message appeared, German Chancellor Angela Merkel landed in those two countries, pledging nearly US$40 million in financial aid in addition to the nearly 1,000 German troops already stationed in the region, along with thousands more from France and other European nations. But the Europeans have their own domestic agenda in mind and their own reasons for fighting a quiet war in a distant land. As German Economic and Development Minister Gerd Müller explained, “If we don’t solve the problems in Africa, they will come to us.”

The Sahel, a semi-arid zone that extends through 10 countries, is almost at breaking point. Repeated food crises and water shortages have exacerbated ethnic divisions. Poverty and corruption are endemic. Four of the countries worst affected by violence – Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso – are in the bottom 10 on the United Nations Human Development Index.

Read more: https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/05/opinion/isis-caliphate-heading-west/