Cape Town, South Africa — Earlier this week the governments of South Africa and Niger finalized a military memorandum of understanding that will put South African Defence Force troops on the ground in Niger to fill the African Union peacekeeping role of quelling the spread of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) after Chad withdrew its troops from southeastern Niger.
Niger began desperately looking for another African Union member to replace Chadian troops after the government of Chad responded to the Trump administrations decision to add the African counter-terrorism ally to the indefinite travel ban list in September by pulling all of its forces from the southeastern region of Niger that borders with Nigeria.
This move by Chad left the border regions of Niger open allowing terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISGS to run amok in the austere tri-border areas of Niger. The deal between Niger and South Africa also comes on the heels of the death of four U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army 3rd Special Forces Group. Who, along with their Nigerien counterparts, were ambushed in the village of Tongo Tongo by the newly formed ISGS.
The Green Beret team fell under the Special Operations Africa Command (SOCAFRICA) mission in West Africa known as Operation Juniper Shield under the larger U.S. Africa mission of the U.S. Global War on Terror banner Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara (OEF-TS). Just prior to being ambushed the Green Berets were on a joint U.S.-Nigerien mission to capture the ISGS chief leader and recruiter Abu Walid Sahraoui who was known to Special Operations as codename: Naylor Road.
The South African Defense and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula when asked in an interview if the South African force would fall under the U.S. Operation Juniper Shield or the French counter-terrorism mission Operation Barkhane said that a “joint defense committee between Niger and South Africa,” has been formed and as of now South African Defense Forces will deploy to Niger to assist in the training the Nigerien military as well as providing military aid and equipment.
However, Mapisa-Nqakula made it very clear that the “legal framework” of such a joint commitment of South African troops to the U.S. and French counter-terrorism missions in Africa has been built and the joint South African-Nigerien defense committee will be discussing this option with both countries in the very near future.
This development can only be viewed as a major positive step by members of the African Union. As there is nothing stopping ISGS as well as the Islamic State-liked Boko Haram insurgency groups from linking up and creating a large unified terrorist front. The removal of Chadian troops along the eastern borders have opened up the flood gates of dangerous possibilities that both the African Union and the United States must eventually address.
Feature image courtesy of Associated Press