Assessing the U.S. Militarization of Africa
Recent events in Niger have prompted renewed questions about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy in Africa — specifically the Trans Sahara region of Northwest Africa. While it is an important conversation to have, it is one that is often improperly framed. To simply assert that U.S. foreign policy causes countries to militarize underestimates the complexity of the political and socio-economic landscape that frame defense spending. By simplifying the problem, critics tend to create an amalgamation of regional and local grievances — grievances that often predate U.S. presence — into a monolith, proclaiming that countries, as U.S. partners, are militarizing any time they spend money on security to deal with these grievances. This misreading of the problem 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. However, despite persistent criticism, data depicts that defense spending has only increased marginally and has not caused a decrease in social spending or militarized the countries, as critics purport. So, while U.S. foreign policy in Northwest Africa may have its flaws, militarization is not one of them.
Defense or Militarization: An important distinction
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. Unfortunately, in the debate about the militarization, the term militarization is nebulous; it has become political hyperbole.
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.Fortunately, there are a number of scholars who have aptly defined what it means to militarize.
In 1996 Michael Geyer, using Nazi Germany as a case study, defined militarization as “the contradictory and tense social process in which civil society organizes itself for the production of violence.” 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 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.” 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.” These definitions provide a framework for assessing whether the claims that U.S. policy has militarized Trans-Sahara Africa have merit.
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. 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.
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 as the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP). As a collaborative effort between the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the United States Agency for International Development, 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, the persistence of Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the recent expansion of ISIS into the Lake Chad Basin region illustrate the dynamic nature of countering terrorism and violent extremism. The overlapping relationships between humanitarian and security problems, the security and stability of a country, and the political and economic frailties all coalesce to threaten destabilization.
Under the State Department-led TSCTP, the Department of Defense 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 initiative. Together, these two agencies support the State Department’s diplomatic efforts by addressing — through USAID — the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit and — through Department of Defense — preventing terrorism and enhancing the stability of partner nations. In turn, the State Department 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.” 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. 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. 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. 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.
A Snapshot of U.S. Counterterrorism Expenditures in the Trans-Sahara
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 TSCTP. At its inception, the U.S. Congress approved $6.25 mil., but as the program expanded so too did the budget, with the U.S. obligating $353 mil. by 2005 on through 2008. Despite being the premier counterterrorism policy tool in the region, from 2009 through 2013, the budget shrank — primarily a result of the financial crisis. The increased balance of fund distributions amongst countries in the Sahel, Sahara, and Maghreb illustrated 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.
Dissecting the budget along agency lines, it becomes apparent that Department of Defense funds are disproportionate in relation to USAID and State Department funds. With the Department of Defense spending three times the amount than that of the other agencies combined. Considering that economic growth, health, education, and good governance are the responsibility of USAID and State Department, 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.
Though the TSCTP is the primary vehicle for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region, there are a number of additional programs and funding authorities that complement TSCTP’s initiatives. Arms sales are conducted under the Foreign Military Financing and Foreign Military Sales, while training is conducted under 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.The breadth and depth of these initiatives have brought funding, but they have also brought programmatic issues. Most notably, the TSCTP has struggled to effectively implement programs across agencies and track funds.
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-sectoral effort like TSCTP/OEF-TS.” Criticisms of this kind, that address the lack of an overarching strategy, explain the uneven application of TSCTP resources that favor Defense 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 Department of Defense and 20% for State Department. A few years later the U.S. administration proposed an additional $5 billion — $1 billion for State Department and $4 billion for Department of Defense — to be added to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund to establish a new, more sustainable and effective counterterrorism approach, by developing the counterterrorism capacity of partners, mainly through “train-and-equip” activities.
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.” However, while U.S. foreign policy in Africa may be Department of Defense-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.
Defense vs. Social: Assessing expenditures within the Trans-Sahara
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 affect their defense spending. 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. So, it is important to track 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 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. Algeria also represents the complex and often-contradictory nature of U.S. counterterrorism policies vis-à-vis humanitarian and democratic development. For instance, the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom ranked Algeria 172nd worldwide. Likewise, Freedom House listed Algeria as not free in their 2017 rankings, citing poor civil liberties and political rights. 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.
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. overflight 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. 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, discussions regarding the region are often dominated by the situation in Mali. The 2012 coup d’état in Mali quickly became a lightning rod for criticism of TSCTP, largely because Captain 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. 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 showed that regional cooperation — a critical component of any counterterrorism strategy in the geographically challenging Sahel — is still a long way off.
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 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 supported 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 and the Middle East/North Africa 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 2000–2015. 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. Lastly, any assessment of military spending must acknowledge the possibility that not all defense expenditures are easily traced.
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. 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. Data os social spending (unemployment and annual government expenditures on education and health) paint a mixed picture.
World Bank data on education shows that primary and secondary school enrollment increased in all TSCTP countries, except Nigeria. The World Health Organization total expenditures on health (as % of GDP), shows that only Chad and Mali registered decreases, while Algeria, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Nigeria, and Tunisia all registered an increase. Meanwhile, unemployment remained relatively static in the Sahel (the Maghreb countries have seen a decline). This 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 from getting worse.
Despite the increases in social expenditures, the countries of the Sahel rank 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. However, the rankings do not tell the whole story as the countries have all been making steady, albeit slow, improvement since the rankings in 2000. Similar data from The Human Capital Report 2017 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. 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. More telling is the that all of these countries have declined from the 2006 rankings. 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. The correlation is something that needs cross-agency attention within the TSCTP.
So, TSCTP countries as a whole have not seen a decrease in their social spending over the past fifteen years. 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.
Terrorism and violent extremism in the Trans-Sahara
With high-profile attacks in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso in the past year alone, the Trans-Sahara 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. Additionally, Boko Haram continues to stymie the Nigerian government, often operating outside Nigerian borders. In 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. The story is no different for Todd Moss at the Center for Global Development, who sees the poor performance of the Malian army and the collapse of the Malian state as a significant indictment of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
To be clear, measuring the impact of TSCTP on terrorism is challenging because the U.S. government, 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, to gauge the impact of TSCTP by one must look at indices that measure peace and violence to establish the current status of terrorism in the region.
The Institute for Economics and Peace publishes the annual Global Peace Index 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. 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. 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. In addition, the GPI indexes countries from most to least peaceful. Algeria and Morocco 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. Meanwhile, data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism shows that TSCTP countries vary widely in their susceptibility to terrorism.
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. The IEP’s annual report, The Economic Cost of Violence Containment, illustrates 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 2016 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. 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 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 more than 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, reports on the future of the TSCTP suggest that no substantive changes to the operational framework are coming anytime soon. Future counterterrorism operations seemed virtually assured, as the Pentagon’s works towards training African militaries in counterterrorism tactics so they may counter their indigenous threats without foreign involvement. 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 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.”
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 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.” 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 maintain allies that are sympathetic to U.S. national security interests and countering terrorism, the U.S. papers over, and at times widens, significant fissures that exist within these societies. Good governance — long a cornerstone of U.S. policy — is lacking within the Trans Sahara region. The breakdown of TSCTP spending along agency lines seems to corroborate the criticism that the U.S. is overly reliant on Department of Defense when it comes to executing TSCTP initiatives. 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 is baseless.