The editors of the Wall Street Journal, who have apparently never met a war they didn’t like, want the U. S. to expand operations on the African continent:
African “jihadist operations have generally become more sophisticated,” according to a February report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Between January 2007 and December 2011, jihadists conducted 132 successful, thwarted, or failed attacks against Western interests in Africa.”
That number almost tripled between 2012 and 2017. U.S. strategy has shifted accordingly. There are now about 7,200 Americans working for the U.S. on the continent, according to Gen. Waldhauser. The U.S. conducts drone strikes, surveillance flights, training missions and occasional raids against many jihadist groups.
The Islamist group al-Shabaab controls swaths of Somalia and plots attacks across East Africa. It has actively recruited foreigners, including dozens of Americans. President Trump loosened use-of-force restrictions in Somalia, where American troops assist Somali and African Union troops. U.S. forces launched 31 strikes in Somalia last year, according to the Long War Journal, up from 15 in 2016 and three in 2015. Americans are also deployed in nearby Kenya.
The U.S. operates a drone base in Cameroon, conducting missions against Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group that has killed thousands. Then there’s Niger, which shares a border with lawless Libya, where the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against Islamists. Boko Haram is on Niger’s southeastern border, while an Islamic State offshoot operates to the west. American personnel also assist from nearby Chad and Nigeria.
About 800 American military personnel are based throughout Niger, with many working at a drone base outside the central Nigerien city of Agadez. Most troops are involved with drone operations, though some Special Forces soldiers—like those who died in October—remain.
A Presidential speech laying out the threat and a strategy would provide some clarity and prepare Americans for potential casualties. Mr. Trump can rightly say that Americans are fighting today to prevent new jihadist sanctuaries that could be used to launch attacks against the U.S. homeland, and so that our African allies can eventually manage their own security.
It would be nice if the editors felt a commensurate commitment to pay for all of this military activity but, alas, that is not to be.
It would also be nice if we had victories to which we could point from all of this sacrifice but too is apparently not to be. A few tenuous hudnas is just about as good as it gets. Otherwise our interventions over the last 17 years have left a trail of chaos in their wake. Islamist terrorism is endemic in these places. Success in these wars requires that we be prepared to bolster the native populations with new more dependable ones. The American people have shown little interest in that.
If the editors have an appetite for colonization, they have a moral obligation to leave their cozy digs in New York and go to Niamey to live. The Would-be Rhodes or Clives needs to get out of his armchair.