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Terrorism challenges in Africa take back seat in U.S. to other threats
By Tara Copp
Despite increasing activity by the Islamic State and other terror organizations on the African continent, and an expanding mission for U.S. service members deployed there, AFRICOM is likely to remain under-resourced for the foreseeable future.
In a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the most worrisome worldwide threats, representatives of U.S. intelligence agencies agreed their top concerns are the ongoing cyber attacks from U.S. adversaries; a potential great powers conflict with Russia or China; and the need to counter North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Those concerns align with the National Defense Strategy that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis unveiled earlier this month, and the 2019 budget request released Monday at the Pentagon. And while that approach does not abandon Africa, it does push resources toward what the Pentagon and intelligence community view as the more existential threats.
“We have entered a period that can best be described as a race for technological superiority against our adversaries, who seek to sow division in the United States and weaken U.S. leadership,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told committee members.
Justified as that focus may be, the U.S. risks losing ground in Africa, where approximately 6,000 troops are deployed in training, advisory and counter-terrorism roles with partnered forces across the continent. Those forces have worked to counter new cells of Islamic State and other terrorist group-affiliated fighters taking hold in across Northern Africa. U.S. airstrikes have targeted al-Shabab militants in Somalia and targeted Islamic State militants in Libya.