At least 65 people were killed over the weekend in Nigeria by the suspected terrorist group Boko Haram, the deadliest attack in the region this year and a continuance of soaring violence that a new analysis says correlates to the rise of an expanded U.S. footprint in Africa.
According to Muhammad Bulama, council chairman of the Nganzai local government area, 11 other people were wounded during the attack. Bulama, according to The Associated Press, presumed the attack to be a "reprisal after villagers and civilian self-defense forces fought off a Boko Haram ambush in the area two weeks ago, killing 11 extremists."
A recent report from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Pentagon research institution, suggest these extremist groups are only growing and far from defeated.
According to the Africa Center’s analysis, "violent events" across the continent have soared by 960 percent, from 288 in 2009 to 3,050 in 2018—a record level of activity. The analysis also discovered a significant rise in militant groups in Africa, finding there are now roughly 24 "active militant Islamist groups" operating on the continent, up from just five in 2010.
In The Intercept, Nick Turse was quick to highlight the correlation between the increased rise in terrorism outlined by the African Center Pentagon study and the implementation of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), which began operations in Africa in 2008. According to its mission statement, AFRICOM "disrupts and neutralizes transnational threats" in order to "promote regional security, stability and prosperity." Yet, the report found that that mission is not being fulfilled—in fact, the rate of incidents is rising.
"Overall, militant Islamist group activity in Africa has doubled since 2012," reads the report.
Last week marked the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the Boko Haram militant insurgency, which is responsible for killing around 27,000 people and displacing more than two million others, creating one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. According to AP, "The extremists are known for mass abductions of schoolgirls and putting young women and men into suicide vests for attacks on markets, mosques and other high-traffic areas."
As reported in The New York Times, "Nigeria’s government says Boko Haram and I.S.W.A. have been largely defeated and driven out of territory they once held, but they continue to attack both civilian and military targets."
According to Turse:
The U.S. military has recently conducted 36 named operations and activities in Africa, more than any other region of the world, including the Greater Middle East. Troops scattered across Africa regularly advise, train, and partner with local forces; gather intelligence; conduct surveillance; and carry out airstrikes and ground raids focused on "countering violent extremists on the African continent"....Despite these and several other long-running U.S. military efforts in the region, militant groups in the Sahel have grown more active and their attacks more frequent, according to the Africa Center.
"The sharp increase in terrorist incidents in Africa underscores the fact that the Pentagon’s overly militarized approach to the problem has been a dismal failure," said William Hartung, the director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy.
"If anything," added Hartung, "attempting to eradicate terrorism by force may be exacerbating the problem, provoking a terrorist backlash and serving as a recruiting tool for extremist groups."