U.S. Strategy in the Sahel: Toward a Human Security-Centered Approach (Marcellus Policy Analysis)

By Nani Detti, Spring 2021 Marcellus Policy Fellow

The United States’s current counterterrorism strategy in the Sahel is ineffective and is contributing to the destabilization of the region. Despite pouring billions of dollars into security assistance and counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel, the U.S. has failed to help Sahel governments address the growing security threats posed by militant groups.

Behind this militarized and wasteful response to “terrorism” in the Sahel lies a misdiagnosis of the root causes of militancy, which has less to do with ideology and more with the economic and social grievances of citizens that have not been unaddressed and the related problems of poor governance. As the numbers of militant groups in the Sahel expand by capitalizing on the dissatisfaction and grievances that citizens feel, it is becoming evident that the current U.S. counterterrorism strategy in the Sahel is counterproductive.

The U.S. must urgently reassess its role in the Sahel security landscape and come up with a better, more comprehensive, and coherent strategy to help its partners address the Sahel’s growing terrorist threat. It can do this by deemphasizing military interventions and instead prioritize diplomacy and dialogue to promote peace, and increased development assistance to promote human security.