Assessing the Militarization of Africa’s Security Governance

Defense is one of the vital services provided by the state for its people — it is an integral part of the social contract; but it requires balance against social and economic responsibilities. Government policies must address this balance and remain dynamic and relevant because imbalances will likely lead to social, economic, and political grievances that undermine stability. A common way for countries to achieve an imbalance is by increasing defense expenditures at the expense of social expenditures, a process often referred to as militarization. This concern over U.S. militarization of Northwest African countries provides the foundation for a majority of the criticism leveled against the counterterrorism initiatives that the U.S. has undertaken in the years since 9/11. Despite this persistent criticism, data depicts that defense spending has increased marginally and has not caused a decrease in social spending or militarized the countries, as critics purported.

The notion that U.S. foreign policy — in this case the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) — causes countries to militarize underestimates the complexity of the political and socio-economic landscape that frame military spending. Critics tend to create an amalgamation of regional and local grievances — grievances that often predate US presence — into a monolith, proclaiming that countries, as US partners, are militarizing any time they spend money on security to deal with these grievances. A secondary criticism is that U.S. counterterrorism efforts create a cycle of terrorism or, in the worst-case scenario, a form of political outbidding, where countries compete to prove their aspiration and competence by finding terrorism.

Critics often draw a distinction between domestic and transnational terrorism because local grievances pose little threat to U.S. national security — the raison d’être for counterterrorism operations. Certainly, most would agree that there is little value in the U.S. involving itself in internal security problems that could potentially turn into internecine conflicts. However, the critics often fail to address the interconnectedness of domestic security concerns and transnational terrorism, as transnational terrorist organizations often co-opt local grievances and exploit local extremist organizations to further their own agenda. These arguments, along with the vague nature of counter terrorism operations and the political dimension of the post-9/11 war on terrorism have provided fertile ground for continuing debate over militarization.

Defining Militarization

In the debate about the militarization, the term militarization is nebulous; it has become political hyperbole. It is political — that is purposeful — because there are a number of scholars who have aptly defined what it means to militarize. In 1996, the German historian Michael Geyer defined militarization as “the contradictory and tense social process in which civil society organizes itself for the production of violence.”[3] In modern times, where intrastate war is much more prevalent than interstate war, it seems unlikely that any country is militarizing in the same way that Nazi Germany — the subject of Michael Geyer’s definition — did in the 1930’s and 1940’s. In broader terms, Michael Sherry defined militarization as “the process by which war and national security became consuming anxieties and provided the memories, models and metaphors that shaped broad areas of national life.”[4] More recently, Richard Kohn combined and refined the two definitions and explained militarization as “the degree to which a society’s institutions, policies, behaviors, thought, and values are devoted to military power and shaped by war.”[5]

A Case Study: The Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership

In the wake of the events of September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, it became apparent to U.S. foreign policy makers that Africa was more than just a humanitarian concern. The emerging situation in Afghanistan reinforced the conception that failed states correlated to safe havens for terrorist networks and recruitment efforts.[6] The logic was that Africa — home to more failed states than anywhere in the world — must present a significant security concern for the United States. As a result, the U.S. government re-aligned foreign policy efforts in Africa to support the Global War on Terror with counterterrorism as the centerpiece. This realignment led to a renewed interest in the Sahel and Maghreb regions of Northwest Africa because of the belief that terrorism would benefit from the large ungoverned spaces, disenfranchised populations, and insular governments. While there is no consensus among scholars on the question of what causes terrorism, most theories claim that economic inequality, structural injustice, and weak governments are contributing factors. Denying certain segments of society access to resources — economic, social, or political — means they are more likely to support, directly or indirectly, violent ideologies because they frequently promise access to those resources — even though, oftentimes, these promises are little more than recruitment tactics. This logic laid the foundation for current U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa and superseded the piecemeal efforts that defined the United States’ Africa policy from the end of the Cold War until the September 11th terrorist attacks.[7]

To fortify Northwest Africa against terrorism and violent extremism, the U.S. government incorporated diplomacy, development, and defense under the umbrella of one program known initially as the Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI) and later as the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP). As a collaborative effort between the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of State (DOS), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), TSCTP is a whole of government approach to countering terrorism and violent extremism. The notion that countries, which have strong governments, secure borders, and regional bonds are less susceptible to infiltration by violent extremist organizations (VEO) and terrorists is the basis of the partnership. Despite the multi-year, multi-agency effort, the 2012 coup d’état in Mali and the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria illustrate that the dynamic nature of countering terrorism and violent extremism will require significantly more time and resources from the U.S. and further integration of TSCTP programs into the international counterterrorism structure. Testimony by the DOS’s Bureau of African Affairs in 2013 acknowledged the complex and intertwined relationship between humanitarian and security problems. Explicitly drawing a link between the security and stability of a country and the political and economic frailties — poor governance, weak institutions, limited economic opportunity — that threaten destabilization. As David Yamamoto stated, “Building strong democratic institutions and promoting inclusive government and economic growth are at the center of our approach as we attempt to solidify security gains and restore stability to the Sahel and its people.”[8] At the outset, it appeared that TSCTP was the reified policies that acknowledge military action needs integration with political, economic, and humanitarian engagements to achieve long-term peace and security.

Under the State Department-led TSCTP, the DOD component responsible for military assistance and security sector training is designated Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara (OEF-TS). The USAID component responsible for developmental operates a number of programs, most notably the Peace through Development (PDEV) initiative. Together, these two agencies support DOS diplomatic efforts by addressing — through USAID — “the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit” [9] and — through DOD — “preventing terrorism and enhancing the stability” of partner nations through a variety of means.[10] For example, PDEV I//II has undertaken numerous initiatives that address socioeconomic, political and cultural issues in Chad, Mali and Niger as a way to mitigate the underlying causes of terrorism. Likewise, OEF-TS initiatives fund and train partner militaries in a range of counterterrorism related activities and annually conduct FLINTLOCK — a multinational exercise that emphasizes counterterrorism and interoperability amongst TSCTP partners. In turn, DOS executes TSCTP programs designed to promote “public diplomacy efforts, provide embassy security and support for TSCTP activities, and support some counterterrorism training for law enforcement officers.”[11] While USAID’s initial TSCTP approach concentrated on youth empowerment, education, media, and good governance — the four areas that USAID estimated the greatest opportunity for progress towards countering the spread of violent extremist ideology, over the years USAID’s emphasis has shifted towards developing military capabilities of partner countries through Operation Enduring Freedom.[12] Such a shift is exactly what critics warned of when the partnership established.

From a counterterrorism perspective, the TSCTP, with its unique “whole of government” approach has had some notable successes and some notable failures. However, when viewed within the larger context of African foreign policy, the design of TSCTP prevents systemic change from occurring in the region because it fails to address the drivers of instability that allow for terrorism. Notably absent from the TSCTP’s mandate are initiatives that address democratic institutions, public corruption, and social inequality.[13] Unfortunately, many of these issues get lost in the militarization debate, because are too focused on defense expenditures and not necessarily where that money goes. A study commissioned by the World Bank presents evidence, which suggests that earmarked aid can be highly fungible within a budget; certainly the same is true for defense spending.[14] Therefore, it is critical to not only understand the complex root causes of terrorism, but also to understand the equally complex nature of counterterrorism funding.

United States Government Counterterrorism Expenditures

There are myriad reasons why countries justify and increase in defense spending, but they can be divided into two broad motives — internal and external threats. Oftentimes, in a political effort to appear strong, a country’s politicians will increase defense spending to keep in line with the defense spending of neighbors. Other times, country’s increase security spending to bolster their borders from internal threats, like rebellions or coups, in attempt to attract foreign direct investment, boost tourism, or to meet particular criteria laid out by an intergovernmental organization.

From a U.S. perspective, the TSCTP, a reaction to the attacks of September 11th and the U.S.-led Global War on Terror that resulted, falls in the external threat category. However, when looked at from an African perspective, the TSCTP’s existence is a response to internal threats. The distinction is important because, while many argue against increased defense spending to counter external threats, few would argue that a country should not increase defense spending to counter internal threats. The difference defines how and why the United States and its African partners spend money of defense in the Trans-Sahara.

The budget for counterterrorism initiatives has grown considerably from the creation of the PSI to today. At its inception, the U.S. Congress approved $6.25 million for the PSI in 2004, with specific country allocations for Mali — $3.5 million; Niger — $1.7 million; Mauritania — $500,000; and Chad — $500,000. As the program expanded into the TSCTP, the budget expanded significantly and from 2005 through 2008, when the U.S. obligated $353 million, with approximately 74% of the funds still going to Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.[15] The emphasis on spending in the Sahelian countries is the result of U.S. counterterrorism policies, as well as the partner countries willingness and capability to absorb TSCTP activities. Despite being the premier counterterrorism policy tool in the region, from FY09 through FY13, the budget shrank — primarily a result of the financial crisis — with the U.S. obligating $288 million; and while Mali, Mauritania, and Niger received a bulk of the funds — approximately 38% — it was significantly less than the 74% received from 2004–08.[16] The increased balance of fund distributions amongst countries in the Sahel, Sahara, and Maghreb illustrates an increased willingness and capability of partner countries to process TSCTP activities and a shift in U.S. counterterrorism strategies in the region. For example, U.S. counterterrorism experts shifted policies resulting from the knowledge that terrorists and VEO’s often planned and resourced attacks in one country, while carrying out attacks in another.

When the budget is dissected along agency lines it becomes apparent that DOD funds are disproportionate in relation to USAID and DOS funds, with DOD spending $256 million of the $353 million obligated and USAID and DOS spending $96 million. In other words, DOD spent three times the amount than that of the other agencies combined.[17] Considering that economic growth, health, education, and good governance are the responsibility of USAID and DOS, this imbalance towards military spending threatens to undermine the counterterrorism efforts. No matter how much money is spent training and equipping partner militaries in counterterrorism tactics, if these same societies are developmentally unstable terrorist recruitment and violent extremism will find an audience.

While TSCTP is the primary vehicle for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region, there are a number of additional programs and funding authorities that also compliment TSCTP’s counterterrorism initiatives. Arms sales are conducted under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programs run by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which is also responsible for Section 1206 “Train and Equip” missions and International Military Education and Training (IMET). Additionally, the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) and Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) work towards developing regional capabilities to counterterrorism and create strong and lasting U.S.-African partnerships.

Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2006 authorized DOD to deliver equipment, supplies, or training to foreign countries in order to build their capacity to conduct counterterrorism operations. Initially allocated $200 million in 2006, later NDAA’s increased it to $350 million, of which TSCTP accounted for approximately 14% from 2006 until 2011.[18] Another significant program is IMET, which affords foreign officers the ability to attend U.S. based training at various service schools. The program drew significant criticism in 2012, resulting from the IMET funded training that Captain Sanogo, one of the ringleaders behind the coup in Mali received. Despite the criticism funding for TSCTP countries, approximately $7.5 million from 2009 through 2013, is estimated to be the same in 2014 and 2015.[19]

The unique multi-agency approach of the TSCTP has struggled to effectively implement programs across agencies and track funds.[20] As Todd Moss writes, the inability of the interagency to clarify objectives, deploy tools, and monitor how things are progressing is hard enough for a single sector in a single country; it’s nearly impossible for a regional multi-sectorial effort like TSCTP/OEF-TS.”[21] Criticisms of this kind, that address the lack of an overarching strategy, explain the uneven application of TSCTP resources that favor DOD and the imbalance of fund distribution throughout the partner countries. To address these problems, in December 2011 the GSCF was established by U.S. Congress to address the multiple deficiencies that have undermined interagency efforts abroad. The GSCF allotted $300 million towards security and counterterrorism operations — with approximately 80% for DOD and 20% for DOS.[22] A few years later (and after the coup in Mali), the U.S. administration proposed an additional $5 billion — $1 billion for DOS and $4 billion for DOD — to be added to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund to establish a new, more flexible CTPF that would augment the existing authorities to establish a “more sustainable and effective” counterterrorism approach, by developing the counterterrorism capacity of partners, mainly through “train-and-equip” activities. DOD funds would support Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) activities, Special Operations, and transportation and logistics, while DOS funding would augment existing foreign aid accounts.[23]

Despite claims that the implementation of the TSCTP and the creation of AFRICOM have caused a militarization of Africa, counterterrorism efforts in the Sahara and the Sahel will likely increase with the newly announced Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF).[24] According to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, the CTPF could be used in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania to counter Ansar Al Sharia and AQIM and in Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon to counter Boko Haram. “In fragile states with emerging democracies, funding could also be used to create internal security forces capable of conducting counterterrorism operations and establishing a stable, secure environment that is inhospitable to terrorism.”[25] In other words, the U.S. government feels confident enough that it is not militarizing Africa that it is going to spend even more money on countering terrorism and developing regional military capabilities.

Given the results of the data and political rhetoric, “it is hard”, as Ambassador Campbell says, “to avoid the conclusion that American policy toward Africa is militarizing and is increasingly driven by counter-terrorism.”[26] However, while U.S. foreign policy in Africa may be increasingly DOD-led and counterterrorism focused, it does not necessarily equate to African countries militarizing. To see the effects of increased U.S. militarization on African partners it is necessary to look at the military expenditures of those African countries. Additionally, social spending needs to be analyzed to as a number of negative effects result from the militarization, most notably the correlation between increased defense spending and decreased social spending — the “guns vs. butter” argument. Lastly, it is necessary to look at the outcomes of the TSCTP, military spending, and social spending over the time period covered by the TSCTP. Together, these data points will illustrate the level of militarization occurring throughout the region and if it is a result of U.S. foreign policy.

African Governments Defense Expenditures

The geopolitical term Trans-Sahara spans across two sub-regions and comprises the countries of the Maghreb in Northwest Africa — Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia — and the countries of the Sahel in West Africa — Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria. Fluid as these terms may appear, each sub-region has distinct economic and political objectives that effect their defense spending, as such, this paper will explore the militarization in terms of these sub-regions. Under the umbrella of defense spending there are a number of overt expenditures like manpower, arms purchases, and training, but also less obvious expenditures like pensions for military service members, housing and logistics. Therefore, merely looking at a country’s defense expenditures does not give a complete picture and is potentially misleading. For example, a trend of increased defense spending in a country could be explained by an increase in pension payments to military members, likely a result of increased life expectancy, not militarization. This paper will follow Kohn’s definition of militarization and concentrate on the preparation of war through tracking changes in overall defense spending and compare that to changes in manpower and arms imports. The notion being that a society that is militarizing will likely be increasing the actual size — manpower — and strength — arms — of their armed forces to support their military policies.


The North African countries of the Maghreb, traditionally aligned with the Middle East region due to their Arab influence, have larger, more sophisticated militaries than their neighbors in the Sahel. A number of factors including, but not limited to, colonial legacy, geography, and proximity to Europe explain this difference. Their inclusion in the TSCTP is as much about leveraging this advantage as it is about the physical location of terrorism. Therefore, in many ways Algeria represents the cornerstone of the TSCTP. The Groupe Salifiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSCP) kidnappings in 2004 were the main impetus for transforming and expanding the PSI into the TSCTP and Algeria possesses the largest and most capable military in the region.[27] Algeria also represents the complex and often-contradictory nature of U.S. counterterrorism policies vis-à-vis humanitarian and democratic development. For instance, the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Algeria 146th worldwide, the second worst of TSCTP countries.[28] Likewise, Freedom House listed Algeria as not free in their 2014 rankings, citing poor civil liberties and political rights.[29] Despite Algeria’s poor global and regional performance and the persistent influence of the Algerian military in civilian affairs, the U.S. maintains significant military ties with Algeria and still looks to Algeria as the lead for regional TSCTP activities.

Algeria’s military has consistently exercised significant influence over political affairs since their fight against French colonialism and independence. As such, the size and strength of their military has always outpaced their regional neighbors. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Algeria became the first African country whose defense spending exceeded $10 billion, an 8.8% increase from 2012, and 176% increase since 2004.[30] This increase in defense spending over the past decade means that Algeria now has the 20th-largest defense budget in the world, ranking ahead of countries like Iran and Pakistan.[31] While Algeria’s current spending of $10.4 billion accounts for 4.8% of GDP, a 1.4% increase from 2000, the real increases of manpower and armaments illustrates the growing militarization of the country. Data from SIPRI shows that between 2004–08 and 2009–13 imports of major conventional weapons by Africa countries increased by 53%, with Algeria and Morocco accounting for the largest increase — 36% during the period between 2009–13.[32] However, that same data shows that the U.S. accounted for a small percentage of these arms imports and the imports, with the notable exception of Morocco’s, were primarily transport and reconnaissance aircraft.[33] As of 2013, Algeria’s military manpower numbered 317,200 personnel, up from 305,200 personnel in 2000, a 3.8% increase over little more than a decade.[34]

Morocco, a long-standing ally of the U.S., is a critical component of the TSCTP and a regional hegemon along with Algeria. However, the relationship between Morocco and the U.S. is not always smooth, despite the partnership. This was evident in 2013 when Morocco abruptly, and publicly, canceled Exercise African Lion (an annual exercise with U.S. military) after the United States suggested that U.N. monitors in Western Sahara should monitor human rights violations. This situation says as much about Morocco’s reticence to blindly follow U.S. policy in the region, as it does about the tricky balancing act that the U.S. must maintain between humanitarian issues and counterterrorism initiatives. In this case, the U.S. opted for a continued focus on counterterrorism, quickly (and permanently) dropping the calls for an increased U.N. mandate that included human rights monitoring.[35]

Morocco’s current defense expenditure of $4.6 billion places it well behind neighboring Algeria, but still accounts for approximately 3.8% of the GDP, representing a 1.5% increase from 2000 in defense spending as a percentage of GDP overall.[36] More recently, arms imports increased 22% from 2009–2013 representing, along with Algeria, the highest increase in arms imports within Africa. Morocco, as the outlier did import F-16’s, Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems, and JDAM’s from the U.S., although it should be noted that this reflects little change, as Morocco has long been the largest importer of U.S. arms in Africa. Lastly, Morocco’s manpower changes have seen a 2.2% increase from 2000–2012, as they added 5,300 personnel to total 245,800.[37]

The June 2014 elections in Mauritania that saw the re-election of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz were plagued by low voter turnout and an opposition boycott; despite these problems the U.S. and other Western governments welcomed the results, presumably because of President Aziz’s support of U.S. counterterrorism efforts. If so, this illustrates that a focus on counterterrorism efforts trumps democratization and efforts to establish rule of law, something that critics have longed worried about leading to increased danger of political unrest. Years of steady improvements in economic freedom and integration into the global economy have done little to counter the widespread corruption and an inefficient judicial system that is highly vulnerable to political influence. Mauritania’s defense expenditures have fluctuated over the past decade and their current military budget of $149 million currently accounts for 4% of the GDP, slightly more than a 1% increase over 2000 spending. Mauritania purchases most of their arms from Europe, with recent purchases mainly comprised of transport aircraft.[38] As a result of the coups in 2005 and 2008 and U.S. restriction on arms sales, the U.S. has sold no major armaments to Mauritania over the past decade. Manpower changes have seen Mauritania’s military manpower increase slightly from 20,700 personnel to 20,870 personnel, a 0.82% increase over the past decade.[39]

Tunisia, the spark that ignited the “Arab Spring”, has long been an important U.S. ally in the Mediterranean and North Africa. The regime change in Tunisia provided a powerful illustration of the potent interplay between the economy, politics, and society. Currently, Tunisia spends 2% of their GDP on defense expenditures, approximately $948 million, a slight 0.3% increase since 2000. Over the past decade, Tunisia has purchased a majority of its armaments from the U.S. and while recent acquisitions mainly consist of transport aircraft and helicopters, there were a number of SAMs and APCs purchased between 2002–2006. Current manpower is 47,800 personnel, which is a 1.7% increase from 2000 levels.[40]

Figure 2: Data taken from World Bank 2014.

In conclusion, the countries of the Maghreb, excluding Tunisia, have all registered increases in defense expenditures since 2000. During that same time period, all four countries have increased their military manpower. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this is anything more than a correlation. Politically, these countries are not blindly following U.S. foreign policies, as evidenced by Morocco’s reaction to the U.S. stance on the Western Sahara and the relationship between the U.S. and Algeria. Algeria’s recalcitrance towards assisting multinational efforts to end the crisis in Mali, reluctance to counter AQIM outside of its own borders, and the numerous refusals to grant U.S. over flight permission to support regional operations all illustrate that the country with the largest military is not focused solely on militarizing, nor are they necessarily following U.S. counterterrorism goals.[41] Their main goals, like that of many other countries in the region, are security related.


Despite the complexity of the security situation in the Sahel, recent discussions regarding the region have been dominated by the situation in Mali. The 2012 coup d’état in Mali quickly became a lighting rod for criticism of TSCTP, largely because Captain Amadou Sanogo, one of the lead organizers, was U.S. trained via IMET funds; but also because Mali — as an original member of the PSI — had received more counterterrorism funds than any other TSCTP country up until that point.[42] Critics who quip that the U.S. military is training the next coup leaders — an oft-used trope in the militarization debate — were seemingly vindicated. Similarly, the slow and ineffectual response by regional leaders and organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) showed that regional cooperation — a critical component of any counterterrorism strategy in the geographically challenging Sahel — is still a long way off.

Prior to the coup, defense spending in Mali fluctuated little from pre-TSCTP levels, changing from 1.6% of the GDP in 2000 to 1.4% of the GDP in 2013, and now stands at $154 million.[43] However, during that same time period, manpower decreased sharply from 15,200 to 7,800, an astounding 48% decrease — the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa.[44] Even using pre-coup d’état numbers, Mali still registered a larger than normal 20% decrease in manpower from 2000 to 2012. Arms imports into Mali did contain a number of combat vehicle and aircraft from European countries, with none coming from the United States.[45] As one of the United States’ original counterterrorism partners, Mali has exhibited little overt militarization.

Burkina Faso, a later addition to the TSCTP, is now acting as one of the “hubs” on the hub-and-spoke model as the U.S. develops a rapid reaction capability across the continent.[46] Additionally, the annual counterterrorism exercise FLINTLOCK was held in Burkina Faso in 2010.[47] Defense expenditures in Burkina Faso increased steadily from 2000 to 2009, only to fall in 2010, and now account for 1.4% of the GDP compared to the 1.2% in 2000. Likewise, military manpower — 11,450 in 2000 — increased 1.3% to rise to 11,450 in 2012.[48] Arms purchases have steadily increased during the years since 2000, and are mixed between light transport aircraft and combat armament, although the U.S sold none of these arms.[49] Therefore, while it appears, that while Burkina Faso may not be rapidly arming or increasing its offensive capabilities, it appears that the government in Ouagadougou is embracing a policy of increased militarization, if only as a partner of the United States in countering terrorism.

In neighboring Niger, defense expenditures decreased slightly from 2000, when they accounted for 1.2% of the GDP, and now account for approximately 1% of the GDP, or $69.8 million dollars.[50] There was no change in manpower with numbers remaining at 10,700 personnel.[51] Since 200, arms imports into Niger have been minimal, but include a number of APC’s and combat helicopters from Europe and China, with the U.S. only importing transport aircraft.[52] However, like Burkina Faso, Niger has become an increasingly important political partner in the U.S. counterterrorism strategy. For example, in January 2013, the U.S. and Niger signed a Status-of-Forces-Agreement (SOFA) allowing for the operation and stationing of a U.S. Drone base in Niamey, designed to track and disrupt terrorist activity in the surrounding region.[53] Similar to Burkina Faso, economic data suggests that the government in Niamey is not overtly militarizing; however, the political situation paints a different picture with Niger increasingly embracing a larger U.S. military footprint.

Unlike its close neighbors, Chad has steadily increased defense expenditures over the years, spending approximately $242 million, or 2.6% of the GDP, in 2012.[54] Of note, in 2008 and 2009 defense expenditures in Chad accounted for an astounding 7% of the GDP — almost twice that spent by the United States. Manpower changed from 34,600 in 2000 to 34,850 in 2012, an increase of 0.72%.[55] Meanwhile, arms imports were the lowest of all TSCTP countries and comprised only transport aircraft purchased from the United States and Italy.[56] Along with this data that suggests that Chad is increasing the size and strength of its military, there is the impact of Chad’s collaboration with the U.S. and western powers on regional missions, which is increasing the capability of their armed forces. This was clear when, despite a decade of regional training to improve collaboration, Chad was the only African force that contributed troops — the U.S.-trained Special Anti-Terrorism Group (SATG) — to take part in offensive operations against terrorists in northern Mali in early 2013.[57] More recently, in May 2014, the U.S. sent 80 military personnel to Chad to support efforts, mainly through Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations, to find the 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in neighboring Nigeria.[58]

Nigeria, now the largest economy in Africa, has slightly increased defense expenditures over the past 14 years from 0.8% to 1.0% of the GDP, now currently standing at $2.4 billion.[59] Despite the modest increase in defense spending, Nigeria’s military manpower increased more than any other country in the region, going from 106,500 in 2000 to 162,000 personnel in 2013, an increase of 52%.[60] However, the largest portion of that increase — 50.7% — occurred between 2000 and 2001, before current U.S. counterterrorism initiatives were in place. Arms imports during this time comprised very few combat weapons and none were supplied by the United States.[61] Despite the increased size and strength of the economy and the armed forces, Nigeria is struggling to contain Boko Haram in the north of the country. While Boko Haram’s existence pre-dates the current U.S. counterterrorism initiatives, their tactics significantly increased during the decade of TSCTP activities in the region, with some asserting that they have established ties with international terror groups like AQIM and al Shabaab.

Senegal, one of the most politically stable and influential countries in the region, is also dealing with a long-standing low-level insurgency in the Casamance region. This conflict consumes a large share of the Senegalese Armed Forces time and manpower. Defense expenditures in Senegal, $237 million in 2013, account for 1.5% of the GDP, having increased slightly from 2000 when they accounted for 1.3% of the GDP.[62] During this time, Senegal conducted the second highest increase of military personnel among TSCTP countries, increasing from 15,400 personnel in 2000 to 18,620 personnel in 2012, a 21% increase.[63] Meanwhile, arms imports were minimal, including only a transport aircraft from France.[64]

To summarize, results from the World Bank, SIPRI, IISS, and other organizations show that the countries of the Sahel have seen small fluctuations in their defense expenditures, with the exception of Chad which significantly increased defense spending in 2004 only to decrease a few years later. Meanwhile, manpower changes were scattered, with Senegal and Nigeria registering the largest increases — 21% and 51.2% respectively — and Chad, Mali, and Niger registering a decrease or no change at all. Similar to the data results in the Maghreb, there is no clear correlation between U.S. counterterrorism spending in the Sahel and an increase in defense expenditures in these West African countries. Distinct from the Maghreb, politically, many of these countries have publicly and privately suported U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region, which has had domestic policy implications in West Africa as well as the U.S.

When compared to the average defense expenditures throughout sub-Saharan Africa — 1.5% of GDP — and the Middle East/North Africa — 5.3% of the GDP — during the same time period all TSCTP countries, excluding Mauritania, are well within the average for their respective regions. Similarly, data shows that the TSCTP countries averaged a 1.3% increase in manpower from the period of 2000–2012. The outliers were Senegal and Nigeria, which registered large increases in overall manpower during the time period and Mali, which saw a sharp decrease. These outliers could have political explanations, as both Senegal and Nigeria have been dealing with insurgencies and Mali experienced a coup d’état; however, that analysis exceeds the intent and scope of this paper. Lastly, any assessment of military spending must acknowledge the possibility that not all defense expenditures are easily traced.

Social Expenditures in the TSCTP region

Defense expenditures provide explicit information towards a country’s efforts to militarize; however, the impact that an increase or decrease in defense spending has on social spending provides a more holistic understanding. Without a sustained investment in social and economic development, the narrowly focused counterterrorism efforts will be relegated to merely disrupting violent extremism because of a failure to address the fundamental causes that allow these extremist ideologies to flourish in the first place. Addressing effects, without redressing the causes is like playing whack-a-mole — the one holding the hammer eventually tires. As Gilles Yabi from the International Crisis Group says, “the more young people are able to be employed the less chances there are that they can be recruited by militant groups.”[65] Furthermore, a recent paper published by the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), contends that poverty, unemployment, and socioeconomic deprivation are among the leading explanations for the rise of VEO’s.[66] The idea that there is a social and economic side to countering terrorism, along with the military operations, is reflected in the TSCTPs “whole of government” approach. For the purposes of this paper, social spending is measured in terms of unemployment and annual government expenditures (total % of GDP) on education and health because these factors are largely considered the main drivers of social instability.

World Bank data on education shows that primary and secondary school enrollment increased in all TSCTP countries, except Nigeria, between 2004 and 2013. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) total expenditures on health (as % of GDP) in 2012 compared to 2002, shows that only Chad and Mali registered decreases, while Algeria, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Nigeria, and Tunisia all registered more than a 1% increase.[67] Meanwhile, unemployment remained relatively static — less than a 0.2% change — from 2000 to 2012, with the exception of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria all realizing a decline in unemployment, with Algeria realizing a nearly 20% decrease.[68] The disparate data illustrates the complex nature of society, economics, and politics, but it also highlights the fact that spending and policies have increased health and education and, at a minimum, kept unemployment form getting worse.

Despite the increases in social expenditures, the countries of the Sahel ranked in the bottom 20% on the U.N.’s most recent Human Development Index — a measure of quality of life issues like life expectancy and standard of living — with Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger making up four of the bottom ten.[69] However, the rankings do not tell the whole story as the countries have all been making steady, albeit slow, improvement since the HDI rankings in 2000.

Similar data from The Human Capital Report 2013 published by the World Economic Forum, which measures four pillars — education, health, employment, enabling environment — shows that all the TSCTP countries rank in the bottom of the index, with all but Morocco and Tunisia being in the bottom 20% (Chad and Niger were not measured).[70] Again, measured against data from 2000, it is shows that the countries are making progress.

The Economic Freedom rankings — a measure of freedom from corruption, financial freedom, and business freedom — show that TSCTP members routinely rank in the bottom half of countries evaluated. For example, in the 2014 rankings Burkina Faso — ranked 98th — was the only TSCTP country to rank in the top half. Morocco — 103; Tunisia — 109; Mali — 122; Senegal — 125; Niger — 127; Nigeria — 129; and Mauritania — 134 all scored poorly, while Algeria — 146th — and Chad — 167th — possessed some of the poorest rankings in Africa.[71] More telling is the fact that eight countries (only Morocco and Niger were exceptions) declined from the 2009 rankings and all countries saw a decline in their scores from 2006.[72] While these results highlight the fact that economic freedom is declining within the TSCTP regions, it is not necessarily mean that this decline is caused by increased counterterrorism efforts. There is, however, a correlation between the limited economic freedom and the rise of illicit economic activities, which is linked to terrorism. As Vanda Felbab-Brown and James J.F. Forest write, “The presence of illicit economies may attract terrorists into a particular location, where they offer themselves as protectors of the population against the deficiencies of the state and the predatory behavior of criminal groups, and in return they expect to receive local support for their group.”[73] The correlation is something that needs cross-agency attention within the TSCTP.

To summarize, TSCTP countries as a whole have not seen a decrease in their social spending over the past decade. The results of this are complex, as education seems to be on the rise throughout the region, economic freedom on the decline, and unemployment stagnant. It is clear from the data that the region is not militarizing. Given the limited resources and poor governance that defines most of the region, if militarization were occurring social spending would be impacted heavily. Data shows that this is not the case.

Status of terrorism and violent extremism in the TSCTP region

Northwest Africa remains one of the least peaceful regions of the globe. AQIM, with its roots in Algeria, remains the preeminent terrorist organization active within the region. The January 2013, attack on the natural gas facility in northern Algeria, that killed dozens of people, including three U.S. citizens, illustrates the continued capability of AQIM to conduct terrorist activities in Algeria. Additionally, Boko Haram continues to stymie the Nigerian government and is becoming increasingly violent, often operating outside Nigerian borders.[74] In December 2009, The Washington Post reviewed U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel and the Sahara and concluded that after a decade and more than $500 million spent; terrorists have grown emboldened, while regional military’s remain unable to counter their activities.[75] The story is no different for Todd Moss at the Center for Global Development (CGD), who sees the poor performance of the Malian army and the collapse of the Malian state as a significant indictment of US counterterrorism efforts. Moss, who served in the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department from 2007 to 2008, wrote on CGD’s Rethinking US Foreign Assistance Blog, that the crisis in Mali “suggests that something is very wrong about the U.S. approach to counterterrorism cooperation in the Sahel.”[76] Measuring the impact of TSCTP on terrorism is challenging because DOD (and to a lesser extent DOS and USAID), traditionally reliant on quantitative data to measure success, publishes little on the exact amount of soldiers trained and whether or not those soldiers actually go on to support counterterrorism operations. Therefore, this paper will gauge the impact of TSCTP by looking at indices that measure peace and violence to establish the current status of terrorism in the region.

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) publishes the annual Global Peace Index (GPI) index, which gauges peace within countries by assessing safety and security in society; domestic or international conflict; and the degree of militarization. Their 2013 report showed that six out of ten TSCTP countries declined from previous years.[77] Morocco, with a global ranking of 63, is the only TSCTP country that ranks in the top half. Senegal and Burkina Faso are in the top half, when compared with TSCTP countries, and outpaced only by Ghana and Sierra Leone in the region. However, the remaining Sahelian countries, when compared to non-TSCTP countries, perform poorly, ranking below Togo, Liberia, the Gambia, Benin, Cameroon, and Guinea. Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia perform well when compared regionally against Middle East countries; however, when included within the African continent Algeria performs poorly, while Tunisia and Morocco only perform moderately.[78] In addition, the GPI indexes countries from most to least peaceful. Algeria — 26th — and Morocco — 22nd — were at the top of the scale, while Senegal, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, and Nigeria all held positions in the lower middle. Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger all trended towards the bottom.[79] Meanwhile, data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (NCSTRT) shows that TSCTP countries vary widely in their susceptibility to terrorism. While Burkina Faso, Chad, and Senegal all logged zero terrorist events from 2009–2012, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, and Tunisia fell in the range of 1 through 25; Algeria, 26–50; and Nigeria at a staggering 450–500.[80]

In addition to social and political disruption, this violence presents a significant cost to these countries. There are a number of studies that demonstrate terrorism affects on a country’s economic growth.[81] This paper will use the IEP’s annual report, The Economic Cost of Violence Containment, to illustrate the cost of containing violence in TSCTP countries. The report utilizes 13 distinct dimensions to measure the impact of violence on countries economic resources. According to the 2013 report, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Nigeria all spend more than 5.0% of their GDP on quelling violence, with Morocco, Niger, and Senegal spending slightly less than 5.0% of their GDP. Tunisia at 2.8% is the only TSCTP country that falls within the parameters seen in Europe and elsewhere in the West (excluding the United States and Russia).[82] This data shows that violence containment presents a significant burden on these countries already limited resources. These expenditures, coupled with the limited Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and loss of human capital that are associated with terrorism, illustrate the dynamic nature of countering terrorism and the root causes that support terrorism.

Looking at the data, it appears that a decade of teaching tactics, while bringing about a number of operational victories, has not translated into strategic success for either the U.S. or its African partners in the TSCTP. Despite this, recent reports on the future of the TSCTP suggest that no substantive changes to the operational framework are coming anytime soon.[83] Furthermore, a recent New York Times article highlights that future counterterrorism operations seemed virtually assured, as the Pentagon’s new Africa plan is slowly unveiled. The intent of which is to train African militaries in counterterrorism tactics so they may counter their indigenous threats without foreign involvement. According to the DOD spokesperson, “Under the new Africa plan, the Pentagon is spending nearly $70 million on training, intelligence-gathering equipment and other support to build a counterterrorism battalion in Niger and a similar unit in nearby Mauritania that are in their ‘formative stages.’”[84] Therefore, it seems that the U.S. will continue along the path of working with African partners to develop their capabilities to counter terrorism and violent extremism. Likewise, it seems that the critics will continue to see these initiatives as an attempt by the U.S. to militarize the region.

Analysis and Conclusion

When looking at the all of the data through the lens of Richard Kohn’s militarization, it seems apparent that these society’s institutions and policies are not devoted to military power or shaped by war. Certainly, the U.S. under the TSCTP and other initiatives has dramatically increased the amount it spends on countering terrorism in the Sahel and the Maghreb regions. However, that has not caused the African partners to do the same. As the data points out, defense expenditures in TSCTP countries has not increased notably over the past 14 years, nor has social spending decreased in any meaningful way. While defense spending has increased in countries like Algeria, it has barely fluctuated in most other countries. Likewise, social spending increased in most countries in the region, and in those that saw a decrease it was minimal. Limited economic freedom, widespread corruption, and poor governance still plague most countries — factors that contribute to an unstable society — and need to be addressed to avoid inequality and social grievances being exploited by violent extremism organizations and terrorists.

There is an absence of clear trends among the TSCTP countries and it would be naïve to think that any one factor can explain the differences. In fact, there are a variety of variances that exist within these ten countries, precluding the formation of any causal relationship, but there are two common threads through the region: high levels of violence and low human development. The fact that the countries of the TSCTP consistently rank poorly on these indices that measure human development and violence points more towards structural problems, than temporary changes in defense spending or incremental changes in military manpower to counter terrorism. The IEP noted the difficulty in establishing a causal relationship when they wrote, “increasing militarization is often caused by patterns of past conflict or the anticipation of immediate future conflict. However, increasing militarization can also be a cause of conflict, as the existence of a large military can lead to increasing political clout for the armed forces.”[85]

The question of militarization needs to be re-framed to address why U.S. counterterrorism initiatives, despite evidence to suggest otherwise, continues to draw criticism for militarizing Northwest Africa. From the outset, the PSI, and later the TSCTP, intended to emphasize “the holistic nature of counter terrorism, by addressing such things as security sector reform, democratic accountability, development of public consensus, professionalism of military forces, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.”[86] The decrease in social spending by the U.S., coupled with political grievances that are exacerbated by the questionable support of regional leaders, explains a great deal of the criticism. In the rush to gather allies that are sympathetic to U.S. national security interests and countering terrorism, the U.S. has papered over, and at times widened, significant fissures that exist within these societies. Good governance — long a cornerstone of U.S. policy — is lacking within the TSCTP. The breakdown of TSCTP spending along agency lines seems to corroborate the criticism that the U.S. is overly reliant on DOD when it comes to executing TSCTP initiatives, even those typically associated with DOS or USAID.[87] However, none of this suggests militarization, it points more towards U.S. mismanagement along agency lines. In summary, the criticism that TSCTP’s limited counterterrorism focus extracts a price on civil society and has militarized the Trans-Sahara region of Northwest Africa is baseless.

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