Terrorism and engagement in the Sahel: the United States has so far opted for "soft" strategies (Timbuktu Institute) Spécial

"By investing in the prevention of violent extremism in the Sahel, the Americans have so far opted for upstream action against terrorism by focusing on community awareness rather than military action," said Dr. Bakary Sambe, director of the Timbuktu Institute-African Center for Peace Studies, based in Dakar and Niamey.

For him, "the choice of Dr. J. Peter Pham, who previously served in the Great Lakes region, illustrates a consideration of the preventive dimension and a strategy based on knowledge of the field, especially since this new Special Envoy will be responsible for coordinating U.S. engagement with international and regional partners, including the G5 Sahel and ECOWAS member states.

With a capacity-building program for Sahelian and West African states entitled Partnership for Peace Projects (P4P), "the United States had already supported the G5 Sahelian states in the development of a regional guide that was used to develop national strategies to prevent violent extremism," Dr. Bakary Sambe said. "Moreover, Niger has launched the development of its national strategy entrusted to the National Center for Strategic and Security Studies since November 2018, within the framework of this project funded by USAID", recalling that the "HACP will be an essential link in the implementation".

On the missions of this senior State Department official, the director of the Timbuktu Institute understands that he will be "heavily invested in addressing the threat of violent extremist organizations and preventing the threat from affecting other regions, as well as supporting the implementation of the Algiers Agreement and regional efforts to stabilize the tri-border region of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger".

"Having been Vice-President of ASMEA, an Association of American Scholars for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, with which I have been working since 2008 while participating in the IVLP Program of the State Department, Dr. J. Peter Pham is first and foremost an expert recognized for his good knowledge of Sahelian issues, especially in terms of interactions between Africa and the Arab world," recalls Dr. Sambe.