Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Schmidle on the Sahara Conundrum

Schmidle's recent article in the New York Times Magazine highlights the new conventional wisdom on AQ franchising - not all brands are alike.

The war against Al Qaeda will undoubtedly continue, but a more nuanced analysis of Al Qaeda has led to a more nuanced approach to combating terrorism and a reconsideration of how the strategy that guided the war on terror in its early years should be put into effect. This is partly a result of new thinking in Washington and, according to security officials, partially a result of bin Laden’s questionable business model: the franchise. “Where G.S.P.C. was, to where A.Q.I.M. is today, I just don’t see the merger as a force multiplier for them,” a senior defense official familiar with Special Operations told me. The war on terror is being reconceived, and the result may not look very much like a war at all.
Regional terrorist organizations affiliated with AQ are problems for regional security and development, not an immediate threat to US security. But program funding still isn't following policy and analysis.

The US has interests in Africa beside counterterrorism; markets, energy, pandemics and humanitarian commitments are a few. This is precisely why the US should address the underlying factors producing terrorist and insurgent groups. Short term threats do not have the same urgency they do in the FATA, so we can afford to address ourselves to the root causes. Currently 80% of US counterterrorism resources going into the Sahel as part of the "whole of government" Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Program address themselves to security issues, rather than governance and economic development. We need to stop treating Africa like a second rate Afghanistan.

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