The scourge of terrorism in the Sahel and the Maghreb

The Euro-Arab Foundation organizes a dialogue with Professor Carlos Echeverria to address the insecurity on the other side of the Mediterranean
 A French army soldier patrols a rural area during Operation Barkhane in northern Burkina Faso

AFP/ MICHELE CATTANI  -   A French army soldier patrols a rural area during Operation Barkhane in northern Burkina Faso

Although the Daesh succumbed in the Middle East, jihadism is still alive and thrives in the Sahel and the Maghreb. The authorities in the area have been trying to contain this threat for years. France has been sending troops to fight the armed groups since 2013, but the years pass and insecurity persists. This is a powder keg at the gates of Europe that has not yet been brought under control. A scourge that seems to have no clear end. In order to tackle the problems in this part of the world, the Euro-Arab Foundation has organised a virtual dialogue with Carlos Echevarría, professor of International Relations at the UNED, this Thursday.

"The Daesh, together with Al Qaeda, is a real headache for the authorities in the area and for us. They have a great capacity to recruit militants in the area," the professor said. Poverty and lack of expectations are the perfect breeding ground for young people without any life prospects to join the cause of Jihadism. "The pandemic has not stopped the terror," Echevarria explained. 

Although the problem of terrorism is entrenched, there have been some improvements in recent months. "France has mobilised a great deal of military resources and Operation Barkhane is beginning to bear fruit, but one cannot let down one's guard. The challenges ahead are very great," said Echevarria. In addition to the poor economic situation in the area, the effects of climate change are having lethal consequences for the area. Rising temperatures are leading to more difficult conditions for crops to thrive

Many groups are active in the area, although many are grouped under the umbrella provided by al-Qaeda in the Sahel. Others also take refuge under the umbrella of the Islamic State of the Greater Sahel. The war scenario in Syria does not help to alleviate the problems in the Sahel and the conflict is a source of new terrorists

Terrorism is not the only crime committed in the area. Trafficking in drugs, people and even ivory is also very common. The terrorists themselves carry out these practices. "Even if they commit this type of crime we cannot forget that they are still terrorists, they are neither bandits nor thieves," said Echeverria. "When the Taliban produce heroin, we have to take into account that they do it to finance their terrorist activities. Their project is energized by the illicit traffic," the teacher emphasized. 

The damage of jihadist action for the population is tremendous. Many people have been displaced from their homes by the violence. Intra-community conflicts have also increased as a result of the insecurity and instability in the area, and there is great concern in Europe about what is happening on the other side of the Mediterranean. "This is one of our borders and all countries have to commit themselves to tackle this problem," Echevarria called for. An added problem of the Sahel crisis is that it indirectly strains relations between Morocco and Algeria. 

The tragedy in Libya

The situation of permanent war in which Libya has been living for almost 10 years does nothing to alleviate what is happening in the Sahel. "Gaddafi had managed to hold the country together by force. After his fall, fragmentation was inevitable," explained Carlos Echevarría. Although the situation in Libya is very complex, the war has had fewer fatalities than in Syria and has had less media coverage. In recent years, Western participation in the conflict has been reduced and countries such as Russia and Turkey have taken over the leading role.