April 18, 2012’s USA Today featured a story “Al-Qaeda expands its reach to ‘like-minded’ groups in Africa” (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-04-18/al-qaeda-helps-africa-radical-groups/54399376/1 which is also the photo source).
The article talks about Boko Haram, a Nigerian religious sect whose goal is to foster an independent Islamic nation in part of Nigeria. Somalia and Mali are also cited as countries with similar problems. Somalia was singled out due to the merger of al_shabaab with al-Qaeda.
Terrorist activity, like organized crime, knows no borders. Conventional wisdom has long indicated that it is easier to prevent something from building to critical mass than it is to deal with a burgeoning organization with seemingly growing momentum and resources.
It makes sense for MISO to provide support in environments where we can influence the action. For example many defense contractors are active in Western Africa. Peace Support operations are taking place in a number of countries, some requiring French, Portuguese or Castilian Spanish Speakers. However, the skills being sought are more traditional skills such as combat arms training and staff operations. Isn’t it advisable to help these governments, particularly their military, develop and maintain influence operations expertise?
Given the current level of MISO engagement globally and the growing budget pressures, it would seem that the train the trainer approach makes logical sense and is also cost effective.
We cannot under estimate our enemy’s ability to weave together alliances wherever disaffected souls or religious zealots reside. The US has long reached the point where we cannot be the world’s savior, consequently it is incumbent on President Obama’s administration to meld Department of State and Department of Defense cooperation and channel resources into the prevention game as a way to minimize conflicts later in this century.