America's Options in Niger: Join Forces to Reduce Tensions, or Fan the Flames

America's Options in Niger: Join Forces to Reduce Tensions, or Fan the Flames by Yvan Guichaoua and Andrew Lebovich – United Press International

Numerous reports have appeared recently about beefing up U.S. military presence in Niger and potentially allowing American forces to more actively target suspected jihadist leaders in the region. This follows the deaths of U.S. and Nigerien soldiers in Niger on Oct. 4.

Most U.S. and Nigerien officials have made it clear they believe that the attack was committed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara under Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, or fighters under his sway.

But the links between militant groups in the region - whether identified as "jihadist" or not - are often fluid and belie easy categorization. This label obscures a situation that deserves much more consideration before pulling the trigger. And it takes attention away from the experiences of local populations who are often stuck between militant groups and sometimes hostile governments and foreign armies.

The area in which the American soldiers died is replete with all possible forms of foreign or domestic interventions. These range from muscular to diplomatic, security-oriented to development- oriented. The G5 Sahel, a regional initiative backed by the French to enhance security cooperation, presents one opportunity to consolidate and harmonize these efforts. For now, though, it has struggled to develop its capabilities and to raise the money necessary to function.

Rather than considering whether they should revise their military rules of engagement, U.S. authorities should ask themselves how they could contribute to what already exists…

Read on.

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