As questions swirl around what happened during the ambush in southwestern Niger earlier this month that left four American service men dead and two wounded, some members of Congress claim the Trump administration is not providing enough transparency on U.S. operations in the region. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Senator ...

Despite international efforts to combat the terrorist group, al Shabaab remains a dangerous adversary capable of inflicting mass casualties, as demonstrated by Saturday’s truck bomb in Mogadishu that killed more than 320 people. U.S. strategy in Somalia has centered on targeted strikes against al Shabaab militants as well as providing ...

The truck bomb that devastated the Somali capital of Mogadishu and killed more than 320 people on Saturday was the deadliest terrorist attack in Somalia’s history. But beyond the catastrophic loss of life, the horrific tragedy is a clear indication that al Shabaab, the group believed to be behind the ...

On Saturday, a truck bomb struck the Somali capital of Mogadishu killing more than 320 people and injuring more than 500 others. While no group officially claimed responsibility for the brutal attack, Somali officials and counterterrorism experts have pinned the responsibility on al Shabaab, an al Qaeda linked organization that ...

One of Somalia’s worst-ever terrorist attacks may have been spurred in part by a stepped up U.S. counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, which was blamed by the Somali government for a truck bomb that killed more than 300 people in Mogadishu on Saturday. Al Shabaab “recently vowed to ...

Earlier this year,  The Cipher Brief examined the deteriorating security situation across North Africa, contending that al Qaeda’s regional offshoot, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was poised to wreak havoc and generate further instability throughout the Sahel. Over the past nine months, this appears to have been the ...

Although the United States counterterrorism campaign is focused on key battlegrounds in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, the threat posed by al Qaeda in North Africa remains a concern for U.S. intelligence officials. The U.S. has partnered with France to combat extremist groups in the North African region, with ...

Developments in the Sahel are cause for real alarm. Insecurity in northern and central Mali, the epicenter of much of the region’s al Qaeda-related violence, continues to grow, while Islamist violence has spread from there and from northern Nigeria to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Just last month, gunmen ...

Kenya will hold another presidential election after the country’s high court on Friday nullified the results of a contentious early August poll. That election brought longtime Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta back to power, but the high court said the election board “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election ...

Imagine a multi-pronged, low intensity conflict. It’s been dragging on for five or so years. Sometimes this faction gains ground. Sometimes that. Or maybe it’s a third or fourth group. And then imagine a truce between two of the conflict’s numerous groups. Progress, you think. A first step toward ultimately ...

Political instability continues to plague Libya as the country is mired in its sixth year of conflict following the 2011 Arab Spring. In July, two of Libya’s most prominent leaders, representing competing factions, Fayez Sarraj, the head of Libya’s UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) and Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, ...

More than six years after the Arab Spring reverberated across the Middle East and North Africa, the Libyan people still face a seemingly insurmountable challenge of piecing their fractured country back together. Warring militias and an expanding terrorist threat have wreaked havoc on the country. Libya’s two most prominent leaders ...

Although deaths from the terrorist group Boko Haram are down since they peaked in 2012, the group continues to wreak havoc across the northern part of Nigeria. In 2015, the U.S. pledged more military assistance to help fight the insurgency. But as former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell tells ...

Boko Haram terror attacks have swelled in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State over the past few months. Hilary Matfess, who is author of the forthcoming book, Women and the War on Boko Haram, which will be available in November 2017, tells The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder what it was like on ...

Suicide attacks and deaths attributed to the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram have been increasing over the first half of 2017. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who recently returned to the country after spending most of the year in London receiving medical treatment, vowed to escalate the campaign to defeat Boko ...

U.S. – Angola relations have never been easy. Even after the end of the Cold War mindset, the Angolan regime’s memory of U.S. support to the armed opposition, and some lack of interest from Washington, ended up frustrating more recent attempts to establish a “strategic partnership dialogue” under then Secretary ...

Early Monday morning, at least two terrorists attacked a prominent Turkish café in the Burkina Faso capital city of Ouagadougou, leaving nearly 20 people dead including at least 8 foreigners from a number of countries, including Kuwait, Canada, France, Lebanon, Nigeria, Senegal, and Turkey. The attackers shot customers on a ...

A large portion of what U.S. special operations forces do in Africa is security force assistance – training, advising and equipping partner militaries – rather than putting large numbers of U.S. boots on the ground. What are America’s aims with this strategy, and is it effective? The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin ...

U.S. President Donald Trump’s “war on terror” – much like his predecessor’s – uses partners’ capabilities against terrorists in an effort to protect the country from potential attacks, while minimizing U.S casualties. In Africa, Trump’s continuation of this strategy has resulted in increased reliance on U.S. special operations forces. The ...

On the night of May 5, Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a senior chief special warfare operator, was killed during an attack on al-Shabaab militants outside Mogadishu, Somalia. Two other U.S. soldiers were wounded. Milliken was the first U.S. military death in the country since the infamous 1993 Black Hawk Down ...

Pakistan’s intelligence organization, known as Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has ensnared the U.S. in a double game for years. Operating in the shadows of the Pakistani “deep state” – a term used to reference the country’s political system, which is dictated by unelected military and security officials – the ISI has ...

Long the example of stability on the African continent, South Africa emerged in the 1990s, after decades of apartheid, as an up-and-coming democracy ruled by the African National Congress (ANC), then headed by Nelson Mandela. It was listed as one of the BRICS rising economies – along with Brazil, Russia, ...

The new Fund for Peace 2017 Fragile States Index (FSI) shows South Africa as increasingly unstable, ranking third in stability for Africa, behind Botswana and Ghana, and one of the most-worsened countries in the past decade. Retired Ambassador Herman Cohen, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs ...

With alleged corruption permeating the South African government and protests spreading across the country for President Jacob Zuma to go, some outside observers view the once up-and-coming African nation as on the road to downfall. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with the University of Johannesburg political scientist Steven Friedman, ...

BANGUI, Central African Republic – Since May 8, fighting in the southeastern city of Bangassou, the southern town of Alindao and the central mining town of Bria has left more than 300 people dead, 200 injured and 70,000 displaced, according to the U.N. The spreading violence “is highly worrying and ...

The small East African country of Djibouti – which sits on the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to the Suez Canal and a shipping chokepoint in the sea lanes connecting Africa with the Middle East and India – hosts seven foreign militaries. The U.S. and China are now neighbors, and Saudi ...

China is constructing its first overseas military base just a few miles from one of the United States’ largest and most important foreign bases -- Camp Lemonnier in the small East African nation of Djibouti.  Five other nations have put up bases there, and Saudi Arabia will soon join them.  ...

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis made a trip to Djibouti in April in a show of friendship with the small East African country, at a time when other nations are also bolstering relations with Djibouti. China, for example, is building its first overseas military base there, just a few ...

Sudan, along with Iran and Syria, remains one of three countries listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department. However, after years of increased counterterrorism cooperation between the Sudanese and U.S. governments, it may be time to reconsider Sudan’s designation and the multitude of sanctions that ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with retired Ambassador Phil Carter, former Senior Advisor, Acting Assistant Secretary, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Africa Bureau, to discuss Sudan’s progress on counterterrorism and whether State should continue to list the country as a state sponsor of terror. The ...

As with comedy, timing is everything for the politics of being a state sponsor of terrorism. Political considerations, as much as supposed improvements in counterterrorism efforts, saw Cuba, North Korea, and Libya removed in recent years from the U.S. State Department list of state sponsors, while Sudan has remained. Sudan ...

To put it mildly, circumstances on the ground in Libya are complicated. Mired in a state of conflict since former head of state Muammar Gaddafi was forced from power in 2011, Libya has become a battleground where several factions and militias have been jockeying for political and military control throughout ...

That Libya is a mess is beyond doubt, but who is actually trying to resolve the conflict is a harder question to answer. U.S. President Donald Trump recently said that he sees no role for the U.S. in Libya and there seems to be no urgency to appoint a new ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Mohamed Eljarh, former political consultant to the Libyan Mission to the European Union, to discuss the ongoing conflict in Libya, the current terrorist threat in the country, and prospects for peace. The Cipher Brief: What is the current state of political affairs ...

Investment priorities and trends have changed as China’s economy and those of its African partners continue to develop. Chinese firms see an opportunity for lucrative, large-scale construction projects, while African governments see Chinese banks – with less stringent borrowing requirements than those of Western banks or multilateral development banks – ...

China Merchants Port Holdings has invested $400 million to build China’s first port in Africa. The massive project, now under construction in Djibouti, will serve China’s commercial and naval ships and deepen China’s economic and security interests in the African continent. As well, the project will create jobs for Chinese ...

Decades ago, China saw economic partnerships with African nations as a means of securing political support. As China’s economy has evolved towards export manufacture, its interests shifted to gaining access to Africa’s bountiful natural resources. Today, in China’s diversifying economy, state-owned and private companies are seeking new opportunities across the ...

As China’s economic interests in Africa have expanded, its security interests have kept pace, to protect Chinese nationals and assets across the continent.  To that end, China has invested heavily in multinational organizations such as the African Union and the United Nations and has shown commitment to regional stability. The ...

Africa faces a number of security challenges, from terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and al Shabaab, to civil wars and violent conflicts in South Sudan and Libya, to severe droughts causing hunger crises in Somalia and Yemen. This instability contributes to migration from Africa to Europe. In addition, a ...

Recent heavy migration from Africa to Europe has renewed the European Union’s focus on maintaining stability and contributing to the economic development of its southern neighbor in an effort to stem the migrant flows. Asmita Parshotam, a researcher under the Economic Diplomacy Programme at the South African Institute of International ...

The security of the Sahel is crucial for the European Union. The Sahel region of Africa is plagued by poor governance, extreme poverty, frequent famine and drought, and a burgeoning youthful demography. All these factors, among others, have contributed to a spiraling irregular migration, Islamist extremism, and transnational organized crime. ...

On March 13, desperate Somali fishermen hijacked the tanker Aris-13 off the coast of Puntland, in the northeast part of the country. This was the first such incident in almost five years – raising concerns over a return to piracy in the Horn of Africa. Since then, two similar incidents ...

The southeast African country Mozambique presents an investment opportunity for American energy companies. But with this opportunity comes security challenges, including domestic political disputes that often turn violent, an increase in organized crime and kidnappings across the country, and potential signs of imported extremism. In recent years, large natural gas ...

Focusing on threats and short-term planning often leads to missed opportunities by governments. Insight is expected to be provided for immediate decision needs, while foresight becomes sidelined by more pressing current affairs. American positioning sometimes drifts away from building the conditions to project stable and enduring power, in favor of ...

Mozambique is a big investment opportunity for energy companies, but concerns over organized crime, corruption, and targeted kidnapping remain, along with a somewhat shaky political situation. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Alex Vines, Head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, about prospects for Mozambique. The Cipher Brief: ...

The U.S. and Eritrea do not have strong bilateral relations. Ever since UN sanctions were imposed in 2009 and again in 2013, doing business in Eritrea, let alone having strong diplomatic ties, has become more difficult. Yet this country in the heart of the Horn of Africa could be key ...

Instability and terrorism in the Horn of Africa, along with a massive conflict on the other side of the Red Sea in Yemen, threaten U.S. interests in the region. Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, Bronwyn Bruton, writes in a recent report, “the United States could find itself ...

International sanctions and poor relations with neighbors have left Eritrea largely isolated in East Africa. Relations between the U.S. and Eritrea are tense, partially due to alleged human rights abuses by the Eritrean government. Indeed, a number of Eritreans flee the country – many cite the country’s mandatory and essentially ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, to discuss the growing threat of al Qaeda and other jihadist groups in northwest Africa (Sahel region). According to Ghanem-Yazbeck, as evidenced by a spate of recent attacks, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb ...

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) emergence ten years ago this month was a Hail Mary. In 2004, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had orchestrated the second of two national amnesties in an attempt to finally bring an end to Algeria’s decade-old Islamist insurgency. The leader of one remaining terrorist ...