Failed States Index analysis: Vulnerability rising across Africa’s Sahara/Sahel as alarm grows about Al-Qaeda in N. Mali

Washington, DC (July 24)—Almost three-quarters of the nations bordering the Arc of Instability across Africa’s Sahara/Sahel show increased vulnerability that could make them targets for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists and militants, according to an analysis of findings in the new 2012 Failed States Index. The annual ranking of nations by the Fund for Peace/Foreign Policy for failing/fragile-state trouble-signs comes as international alarm grows about al-Qaeda-linked extremists setting up a state-based sanctuary in northern Mali for jihadi expansion.

“If you look at the top 13, five are safe havens for al-Qaeda,” said Gen. Michael Hayden, former Director, National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, referring to #1-Somalia, #6-Afghanistan, #8-Yemen, #9-Iraq, and #13-Pakistan. Following his address launching the 2012 Failed States Index in Washington, DC, he told CNN “it is in American national security interest to pay some attention to these circumstances in these kinds of states.”

Of those nations in or bordering the Arc of Instability that stretches across Africa’s Sahara/Sahel (from Mauritania on the Atlantic to Somalia and Yemen on the Indian Ocean), the 2012 Failed States Index shows:

Twelve are in the Top 25 Most-Fragile/Failing States: #1-Somalia, #3-Sudan, #4-Chad, #8-Yemen, #12- Guinea, #14-Nigeria, #15-Guinea-Bissau, #16-Kenya, #17-Ethiopia, #18-Niger, #20-Uganda, and #23-Eritrea. Four more are in the Index’s Top 50: #31-Egypt, #38-Mauritania, #41-Burkina Faso, and #50-Libya.

More than 72% had a worsening in their Fragile/Failed State rank or score: Sixteen of 22 nations in the region saw their rank or score deteriorate. #1-Somalia set a new record for risk indicators, and “Arab Spring turmoil” drove four of the top 10 declines, including #50-Libya, #31-Egypt, #8-Yemen, and #94-Tunisia.

Only six of 22 are not in Top 50 Fragile/Failing States: #94-Tunisia, #87-Morocco, #77-Algeria, #71- Senegal, and #63-Gambia. Mali was #79, based on 2011 data likely to worsen next year given latest events.

The Soufan Group/Atlantic Council issued a recent report saying Africa’s overall economic prospects are improving, a “result of wise choices made by African leaders and peoples regarding economic reform and the rule of law.” But this trend is “threatened by the spread of violent extremism by Islamist groups along the continent-wide Sahel belt and the increasing links between the various extremist groups… militants and other illicit networks.”

Al-Qaeda’s base in N. Mali is already “attracting new followers to the Sahel jihadists from as far afield as Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the report says. “More ominously, AQIM also increased its linkages with other rebel forces in the Sahel, including the Polisario Front,” al-Shabaab in Somalia, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Coordinated terrorist action across Africa’s Sahel is “what really concerns me,” says General Carter Ham, commander, US AFRICOM.

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The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. For more, please visit www.moroccanamericanpolicy.org

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.


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