A history of counter terrorism in sub-Sahara Africa 

Terrorism is never static. It evolves all the time as one side tries to gain the upper hand over the other and in open conflict, where the terrorist makes a stand, he is usually annihilated by the Security Forces, it is never a good tactic unless the terrorism phase becomes a conventional phase.


Terrorism also moves around the world. Without the religious or political changes or compromises that started the terrorism or the insurrection, the war may carry on for decades. This means that the counterterrorism operative should be able to operate in any environment where the terrorist is to be found, from the African bush to the Middle East, to your own cities – that is the nature of the beast.


In October 2017, Donald J Trump, 45th US President, said: ““We are decimating ISIS in the Middle East. What’s happening is, they’ll go to parts of Africa, they’ll go to other places. When they get there, we meet them. It’s a dangerous business. It’s a tough war. We’re beating ISIS very badly.”


The President’s statement came as no surprise to the author, a sub-Saharan Africa counterterrorism expert, that had already predicted that in 2013. The problem is that Africa has never been important to the West. It is the big unknown and yet, within Africa and the Middle East, you will find 80% of the radicals. The rest are hiding in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Wherever the War on Terror is being won, as Mr Trump noted, the threat moves away and mostly into Africa which is the new battleground.


The West will follow but don’t think for one moment that the fighting will be easy. Africa is like no other theatre in the world and the West is in no way capable. Yet, the answers on how to conduct successful counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in Africa are available. You only have to read the fictionalised George M James Series of Books (www.georgemjames.com) and you will know more than any War College professor


This book though, is not fictionalised. Since the 1950’s, numerous counterinsurgency wars took place in sub-Saharan Africa.


The author, as part of the South African Police Force COIN Units in the 1980s touched this subject briefly in his autobiography, Mean Streets – Life in the Apartheid Police.


What should be fascinating to the reader is how terrorists and Security Forces have evolved through the years, countering each other. This book is a comparative study of the history of terrorism operations starting with the Kenya Uhuru. Then the Rhodesian Bush War and lastly the South African Border War as well as counterterrorism operations inside the country. The lessons learned are still extremely valuable and appealing to the student of war.


The chapter on why Western Intelligence Agencies are failing in sub-Saharan Africa is particularly important, as nothing has changed. Unless you know who to attack, you will, as is happening right now, kill 2 innocents for every terrorist that dies. This is bad for counterterrorism, extremely bad and creates more terrorists by the hour.


Then, it is known that drones fail to hit their intended target 96.5% of the time, because of a lack of clear intelligence. Nor is it believed here that the US Army is good enough to train anyone in Africa. Their knowledge is just not there and since Mogadishu. It is believed that the US Army will run for home as soon as the body bags arrive. This was Bill Clinton’s legacy on counterterrorism, he owns that perception, wrong as it is.


Nevertheless, you need to know what you are doing, or you will die. To learn you must look at history because it is here, where you can study what worked and what didn’t.


In addition to the GMJ Books mentioned, this is a book that must be read as background before deployment takes place.

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