French collateral damage

I believe (based on extensive previous evidence) that Burkina Faso would not be getting attacked by Al Qaeda were it not for France’s selfish decision in 2014 to deploy counterterrorism troops to the country indefinitely (and to put them up regularly at the hotel that was attacked on Friday). Burkina Faso is extremely poor and fragile, but it’s working hard to secure its fledgling democracy. Burkina Faso doesn’t bother anyone or get involved in these matters, but France used its influence to meddle and endanger everyone there. This is spreading terror, not containing it.


Backgrounder: Who are the Boko Haram?

Basic Facts

Location: northern Nigeria (and somewhat into southern Niger, the country to the north, where the U.S. has a military drones base)

  • Northern Nigeria is mostly Muslim, southern Nigeria is mostly Christian
  • Always a tenuous balance of resources distribution and national leadership affiliation (north vs. south)
  • Boko Haram established circa 2003 but only became seriously active in last few years
  • Hausa language name = “Western Education is Sinful.” [Edit, 5/7/14: Apparently, more properly translated from Hausa as “Fraudulent Colonial Education is Sinful,” a local phrase developed in response to British colonialism and the Roman alphabet being imposed into the country’s North.] Full translated name = Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad.
  • They advocate for the imposition of total Sharia law, instead of the partial Sharia found in most northern states in Nigeria.
  • Violent, coordinated attacks against civilian, Christian, educational, political, military, or police targets across Northern Nigeria
U.S. Perspective / Longterm Outlook
  • U.S. government/military asserts close ties to “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (and thus to Arabian funding and Al Qaeda global network) – however, it may be more of a looser affiliation of convenience (see note at bottom).
  • Boko Haram uprising led in 2013 to an invocation of a state of emergency in the entire northern half of the country by Christian president Goodluck Jonathan. He is originally from the Niger Delta region, in the south, which was the site of a much older terrorism campaign by a different group. Pres. Jonathan has sent a lot of troops north, with mixed success.
  • Local leaders in the north say military approach is doomed to fail and only answer is development and job creation.

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African Al Qaeda now more funded by Europe than Persian Gulf

In the past ten years, the GSPC/Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has made an estimated $116 million in ransom money. They now get more money from Europe than from the traditional source of Persian Gulf terror financiers.

I’m not a hardliner who says “we should never negotiate with terrorists” — never say never — but we’ve got to stop buying back prisoners for huge amounts of money. I can’t imagine how terrible it must be for them and their families, but that is an awful lot of money going to terrorists for financing and arming insurgencies all over Africa. A lot more innocent people will die because of all these ransom payments — and probably more people will be kidnapped.