Until recently, the spread of al-Qaida-linked extremists in Africa drew only limited U.S. attention, but the seizure of northern Mali by Islamist militias changed that. Why, other than an instinct to oppose anything even vaguely associated with al-Qaida, should the United States care? The only logical rationale for U.S. concern is contagion: A modest effort now could prevent bigger problems in the future.

Strategic Horizons: Containment Should Guide U.S. Approach to al-Qaida in Africa

By , , Column

Today all conflicts have cascading effects, quickly engulfing neighboring states and, if unchecked, entire regions. They cause humanitarian disasters, refugee problems and sometimes ecological decay while abetting the spread of extremism, crime and disorder. The expanding violence in the Saharan region is a perfect example. Tragically, North Africa has joined the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Yemen and Somalia as one of the world's most dangerous places.

All of these conflicts share a pathology: Extremists associated with or inspired by al-Qaida blend with and exacerbate existing tensions based on ethnicity, sect, clan, race or personal patronage, making old conflicts even more deadly. The extremists mobilize armed groups and criminal networks for ideological purposes, turning them against weak governments and security forces. And the malignancy spreads, preying on other grievances, resentments and tensions in countries with exploding populations and limited opportunities. ...

To read the rest, sign up to try World Politics Review

Free Trial

Sign up for two weeks of free access with your credit card. Cancel any time during the free trial and you will be charged nothing.



Request a free trial for your office or school. Everyone at a given site can get access through our institutional subscriptions.

request trial


Already a member? Click the button below to login.