Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States government has significantly enhanced its level of engagement with African governments. There is a growing recognition in Washington policy circles that the social and economic instability plaguing Africa is a strategic concern for the United States. In response, the Department of Defense has collaborated with the Department of State to develop the Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), which supports African states efforts to improve border security and counterterrorism capacity while also facilitating regional cooperation, promoting democratic governance, and improving relations with the United States.1 BACKGROUND Levels of modernization and development vary enormously among the countries of North Africa and the Sahel.2 Many of the states in this region have stable authoritarian governments while others have been plagued by violence and instability. There are a few fledgling democracies, including Niger. Tribal structures are still the primary political unit in many areas that have never been under the control of a central government. Local authorities have had little success controlling terrorists operating in desert terrain that is extremely difficult to monitor, making this region an excellent example of what the Pentagon calls ungoverned space. The region s economies are fragile, relying on inefficient state owned industries and subsistence agriculture, and they are undermined further by the large volume of black market activity. For some individuals, criminal activity particularly smuggling has been a gateway to direct participation in terrorism Violent extremist groups target unemployed and underemployed young men for recruitment into terrorist organizations. These disenfranchised youth are vulnerable to ideologies that offer simple solutions to their problems and promise great rewards for their participation.
Combating Terrorism Center (U.S.)
Boudali, Lianne Kennedy
GSPC: Newest Franchise in al-Qa'ida's Global Jihad
"The GSPC, one of the most notorious terrorist groups in North Africa, has aligned with Al‐Qa'ida and changed its name to 'The Organization of al‐Qa'ida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb.' On April 10, 2007, the new organization claimed credit for two suicide car bomb attacks in Algiers that killed 23 people. Some observers have speculated that North Africa may be the next safe‐haven for al‐Qa'ida, and that European countries may face a greater risk of attack if Algerian terrorist groups expand their base of support in Europe. The alignment of the GSPC with al‐Qa'ida represents a significant change in the group's strategy, however, its decision to join al‐Qa'ida's global jihad should be understood as an act of desperation. The Groupe Salafist pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC) was founded in 1998 as an offshoot of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). The GIA was one of the strongest and most violent groups fighting the Algerian government in a civil war that killed over a hundred thousand civilians. Operating as a guerilla army, the GIA was able to establish control over large areas of the Algerian countryside by using terrorism against civilian populations. GIA fighters executed- and sometimes beheaded- anyone suspected of collaborating with the police or gendarmerie. By the late 1990's, the group had lost momentum as government crackdowns reduced its numbers while the group's own hyper‐violent tactics alienated the Algerian population."