ABUJA, NIGERIA – With the Taliban’s swift takeover in Afghanistan, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari this week warned that the “war on terror” is not over but is shifting to Africa. Writing in the Financial Times newspaper, Buhari said Africa needs more than U.S. military assistance to defeat terrorism – it needs investment.
The Nigerian president warned in his opinion piece that the U.S. departure from Afghanistan did not mean the so-called war on terror was winding down. He said said the threat is merely shifting to a new frontline – in Africa.
He cited the rising threat of terrorist groups in Africa, from Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Sahel region to al-Shabab in Somalia and a rising insurgency in Mozambique.
But Buhari lamented that Western allies, “bruised by their Middle East and Afghan experiences,” were not prioritizing Africa.
The president’s spokespeople could not be immediately reached for comment.
But expert Kabiru Adamu of Beacon Security agrees with the president’s opinion.
“It is very likely that the developments in Afghanistan could definitely spur terrorist groups within Africa. It will embolden them, it will make them look at the bigger picture, which is the fact that resilience and a continuation of their efforts could lead to victory,” Adamu said.
But while Buhari praised U.S. airstrikes in July against al-Shabab in Somalia, he emphasized that U.S. military forces on the ground in Africa is not what is needed.
FILE – Suspected members of Islamist militant group Boko Haram are pictured after being arrested in Maiduguri, Nigeria, July 18, 2018.
He said what Africa needs most is U.S. investment in infrastructure to help provide jobs and economic opportunities for the rapidly growing population.
The Nigerian president said that Africa’s population has nearly doubled since 2001, the start of the U.S.-led war on terror.
And he conceded that Nigeria’s own home-grown terror group, Boko Haram, was first agitated by lack of opportunities.
Buhari also noted the recent attacks in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region are centered around a profitable natural gas project that provided few jobs for locals.
But founder of the Global Sentinel security magazine, Senator Iroegbu, says that Africa’s terrorist groups are not driven by economics alone.
“You know, there’s a subtle competition among these jihadist groups to outdo each other. Since Taliban has recorded this success, other like the al-Qaida, ISIS, may try to also show their own hands,” Iroegbu said.
In his opinion piece, Buhari wrote if Afghanistan taught us a lesson, it was that although sheer force can blunt terror, removal of that force can cause the threat to return.
Nigeria has been fighting Boko Haram since 2009, with the conflict spilling into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.
More than 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict.
African nations have been working together more to fight insurgents, from the G-5 Sahel to the Southern African Development Community’s troops sent, for the first time in July, to Mozambique.
But ultimately, wrote Buhari, Africans need not swords but plowshares to defeat terror.
The boots they need on the ground, he said, are those of constructors, not the military.