Europe

Terrorist threat moves to North and Central Africa

The current situation in North and Central Africa is highly explosive and poses certain risks not only to regional security but to Western Europe as well.  

There is a concentration of armed groups of terrorists, and militants, mainly of non-Arab origin in Fezzan (the south of Libya), with mercenaries being transferred from Niger, Nigeria and Sudan. The Chadian opposition groups FACT and CCMSR are also concentrated there.

Worryingly, the presence of members of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations is also evident in the ranks of the militants. A new zone of instability is being created in Libya, shifting the focus of terrorist activity from the centre of Africa (Lake Chad) and bringing it closer to Europe.

Another region that currently faces the threat of destabilization is the Republic of Chad. The death of the recently re-elected President Idriss Déby has pushed Chad into a period of high vulnerability to foreign interference as the current transitional government does not have either well-established ties and partnerships in place or the unanimous support of its population. 

Growing terrorist activity in this region may lead to Libya and Chad, with their rich reserves of natural resources, falling into the hands of terrorists. These territories risk becoming a potentially secure source of finance for terrorist activities. Oil production in El Sharara and the Elephant oil fields in Libya is 350 thousand barrels per day, which is the equivalent at today’s prices of US$ 8 billion per year. The potential losses to foreign investors in the event of any seizure of these fields and the termination of their supply of oil is $2.5 billion per year.

Currently, 1.5 million barrels are produced daily in Libya, which is worth $ 36 billion per year and risks generating potential losses to foreign investors of $7.5 billion in the event of a seizure by hostile forces. In the case of their gaining control over the Republic of Chad, additional revenues to the budget of terrorists could amount to $13.2-14.4 billion per year. Such a scenario might foresee the potential budget of a terrorist coalition reaching $8-20 billion per annum in the worst-case scenario. 

The recent conflict in the Central African Republic may also contribute to the growing instability in the region and the steady advance of terrorist organisations. Towards the end of 2020 and in early January 2021, the CAR national army (FACA), with the support of Russian and Rwandan allies, successfully repelled attacks on the capital Bangui and went onto the offensive, driving out the militants to the borders with Chad and Cameroon. 

The ousting of these groups with up to 10,000 militants from the territory of the CAR increased their availability to recruitment by terrorist groups operating in neighbouring countries, primarily the Sudan and Chad. 

The most radical Muslims of the CAR and members of the Central African illegal armed groups are already being recruited to participate in the fighting in North Africa and terrorist activities in the French-speaking countries of Europe (France, Belgium). The export of Islamic radical movements from the Lake Chad region has the terrible potential to cause a rapid deterioration of security in Western Europe. 

Is it possible that such a large-scale destabilization campaign might be financed by the CIA? Theoretically, the region could give the US control over different spheres, which might be used as leverage against various global actors. 

The instability in the North of Africa and the threat of expanding terrorist organisations could be pretext for the expansion of an American military presence in North Africa, Libya and Sudan. The establishment of total US control over North Africa through military bases on the perimeter of the zone of instability could be used to coerce African regimes to cooperate more closely with Washington. Such a move would help the Americans gain additional leverage over their NATO allies, Turkey and France. 

Whoever is responsible for these moves, it is a fact that the emergence of a terrorist hub in North Africa would put pressure on the European Union. The strategic position of such a hub would make it easy to import terrorists to Europe and create “controlled” hotbeds of terrorist instability in Europe, using countries with a high level of Arab and African presence as transit bases.

France, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, as well as Muslim nations like Turkey, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, are examples of potential transit countries for such activity. Under this scenario, the CIA might argue that the EU would not be able to cope with the terrorist threat without the participation of the United States.

Another motive for American interest in the region is the possibility of influencing the dynamics of world energy prices. The UAE, for its part, wishes to provoke instability in the oil market, such as the ongoing dynamics caused by the political instability of Libya. 

North Africa is of vital strategic significance and has all the elements necessary to accommodate a terrorist hub. Wealth in resources but with political instability in the greater region offering a potential source of human capital to wage a broader campaign makes North Africa the region to watch in terms of future geopolitical rivalry between the great powers.

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