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

Steven Metz Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013

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. ...

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