One of the surprises so far in 2019 in a diplomatic sense has to be the reestablishment of ties between the State of Israel and Chad. From State Visits to formal ties to even the meeting that took place between the Ambassadors at the United Nations within the last 24 hours it is clear that some of these States in the Sahel are seeking new partners. Why is that?
When most analysts and media outlets think of the Islamic State Group they think of the group that ravaged Northern Iraq and Syria since 2014. Their attacks against Religious Minorities in this region is well documented. Slavery and Sex Trafficking are just some of the horrific actions that these groups took in order to build their version of the Caliphate.
While the Western Democracies were focused along the Euphrates the Islamic State attempted to expand its area of governance to other areas of the globe such as Eastern Afghanistan and the Southern Philippines but were actually able to set up a foothold in Africa itself. At one point it occupied the Libyan Port City of Sirte. Various Libyan Factions roam across the Country trying to reestablish their faction as the rightful Government in Libya but revealed a tactic that the Islamic State has been adapting for use in the Sahel. That is taking advantage of a vast ungoverned space with poorly marked borders and exploiting tribal violence to further their own goals.
Since the ouster of Khaddfi by the West in 2012 long simmering feuds in the region exploded. The best example of this was the collapse of Mali. It went from having a Military Coup removing a Government, A tribal rebellion which virtually caused the Malian Military to collapse and led to a French led regional intervention force. Since then there has been some semblance of order in Mali. there is a Peace Agreement with one of the rebellious tribes but not the other one and the Country has had two Presidential Elections under the protection of a UN Peacekeeping Force but little support from other nations.
That being said the French are not pleased with the pace of the reforms. Whenever the French see that one of their former colonies are not acting properly in their worldview then their favorite tactic is to float a resolution at the UN seeking to impose sanctions against their former colony this time being Mali. The Israeli Government has made an official invitation to the Malian Government to visit the country as well. It is in the best interests of the country that the Malian Government take up the offer.
Despite the actions of previous US Administrations by setting up the TSCTI (Trans Saharan Counter Terrorism Initiative) The Sahel States that were the core of the initiation of this project (Chad, Mali, Niger and Mauritania) feel that the proposed retasking of US Forces to address rising threats from Russia China and Iran will leave them exposed to threats and appears that Washington is willing to disengage. The deaths of 4 members of the US Special Forces in Niger in 2017 caused great concern and a proposed series of changes in strategy by the US. Any appearance of disengagement in any form will be counterproductive and threaten the National Security of the United States.
We are also seeing an effort by Russia to return to Africa by use of Private Security Companies and a deal with the Central African Republic to construct a new Military Base. This has caused some angst in Washington as these moves seem to contradict the US Strategy of facing new threats from Russia but reducing its footprint in Africa.
While the efforts of Chad and Mali are crucial people will ask what is the endgame? There are several key areas to be monitored… First of all is the status of Burkina Faso. Earlier this week the Government resigned after the kidnappings of a Canadian Gold Miner and some Czech expatriates. This country right now is a time bomb waiting to explode. The event or element that will light this fuse has not been openly revealed yet.
Secondly since November Algerian Security forces have been able to uncover several weapons caches in the South of the Country near the border with Mali. Some of the weapons recovered included Missiles, Mortars Ammunition and on one occasion 125 kg of Ammonium Nitrate. This was not covered by the western media. What concerns me about this is the only media outlets that covered it were the Arab Press based in London and the Turks.
Some of these groups that are causing instability in the Sahel currently fund their efforts by smuggling, (Humans, Weapons, Cigarettes for example) but if one were to take a map of the trade routes from the 16th Century and imposed it on a map of current migrant activity towards Europe the results would be shocking. The same routes are being used.
Israel is presenting itself as a viable option for these states to address the flaws currently found in their security. It has some of the CT training of any country in the World. other areas where Israel could also provide assistance are in Agriculture and Healthcare. There are other major needs to be addressed as well such as providing low cost energy as well. Israel is in a position to provide these needs. The west has failed to due so after promises that have been unfulfilled or have had hidden strings attached.