For countries like the U.S. and France, there’s a concern that these groups will form a corridor between North Africa and the Sahel that would allow revenue, fighters and operations to merge and flow easily. They hope to use counterterrorism operations to contain the extremist groups. France’s focus is Mali and other parts of the western Sahel, while U.S. operations have concentrated on the Lake Chad basin to the east.
Islamist militant groups in the Sahel have the potential to contribute to or strengthen other jihadist groups. For this reason, organizations active in the area can’t be ignored and left to their own devices. The current containment strategy at times obscures the role of Western security operations in addressing the threat, but in fact, countries like the U.S. and France don’t need to fix the underlying problems facing West African nations in order to achieve their security objectives there. Instead, they can maintain a lighter footprint and engage in limited military interventions to keep the groups at bay.