The Niger-Mali Border: Subordinating Military Action to a Political Strategy

A new insurgency is developing along the Niger-Mali border. Jihadist groups, including a local Islamic State branch, have established a foothold in the region, exploiting recent instability in neighbouring Mali and insecurity that has plagued border areas for decades.

Efforts to curtail jihadists’ expansion have involved mostly military operations, but their results thus far have been unconvincing. Western powers’ overwhelming focus on counter-terrorism has neglected other factors of instability, and their backing of non-state armed proxies has stoked intercommunal conflict and arguably played into militants’ hands.

The Nigerien government should adopt a more political approach including reconciliation among communities, dialogue, even with militants, and pardons for insurgents who have committed no serious crimes. Western partners should subordinate their military operations to such an approach, which would be more in tune to local needs.

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