By Richard Joseph
This post originally appeared on Brookings: Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2012
Several years ago, I heard a senior U.S. government official discuss the war in Afghanistan. He described the challenges of the complex nation, and the even greater ones in neighboring Pakistan where large swaths of territory are outside the control of the national government. Americans, he said, should be prepared for military engagement in this multinational arena for 10 to 15 years. It was an eye-opener, not just of the quagmire the United States had rushed into, but the fact that most Americans were unaware of what he stated so convincingly.
If the current trend continues, one day the same may be said about the band of insecurity from northeast to north- west Africa. This region is likely to experience increasing instability and warfare, while narratives of jihadist revolt and terrorist technologies circulate among its citizens. The countries that may be affected, to differing degrees, include: Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. Individuals cross these national borders easily, as do ideas, trading goods and armaments. We tend to think of these countries as occupying different geographical and cultural zones, but the reality on the ground is less hermetic.