After years of disconnected and uncoordinated counterterrorism efforts in West Africa and the Sahel, recent attacks by Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansaru, and other al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups in Africa have pushed many countries to accept the need for a coordinated intelligence effort.
Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and many other al-Qaeda affiliates act as mobile groups with regional agendas. This past month, violent activity by Boko Haram finally moved Nigeria to initiate talks on intelligence coordination.
Following the May 2014 summit on terrorism, five West African countries and three Western countries have come together to create an External Intelligence Response Unit (EIRU) on Terrorism. Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger with the help of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France will now be moving toward increased intelligence coordination in matters of security and conflict.
As part of this deal, all eight nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), pledging to share all information on security, particularly information regarding terrorist activity. These more coordinated efforts will hopefully aid in stopping future terrorist attacks in these countries. According to Heritage research, the “best way to combat terrorism is to stop it before it strikes.”
Boko Haram has become an especially problematic group for security throughout West Africa in recent years. This group is responsible for the kidnapping of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, as well as the slaughter of numerous people as the group ravages the Nigerian countryside and destroys villages.
Boko Haram’s acts often extend beyond Nigeria’s national boundaries, destabilizing the entire region. Niger, a neighbor of Nigeria, has become a key to Boko Haram’s quest for regional domination. According to U.N. sources, Niger is now used as a transit and logistical point for Boko Haram’s continued attacks in the region. Cameroon has also seen an increase in Islamist activities, such as the kidnapping of several French tourists in recent years. Of the 13 attacks reported in the country between 2011 and November 2013, at least eight were attributed to Boko Haram and Ansaru.
The creation of an EIRU is a good first step toward increased security and intelligence in the region. This response team will hopefully soon be able to combat regional terrorist groups by preventing attacks through intelligence sharing and coordinated counterterrorism plans.
Lauren Aragon is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.