Top US general says Islamic jihadist terrorism in Africa has soared tenfold over 26 years

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Top US general says Islamic jihadist terrorism in Africa has soared tenfold over 26 years

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FIRST ON FOX – The number of Islamic jihadist terrorists in Africa has increased tenfold, the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has told Fox News Digital. U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, commander of AFRICOM, sat down on Sunday for an exclusive virtual interview with Fox News Digital ahead of this week’s African Chiefs of Defense Conference in Gaborone, Botswana.  

Langley covered, in a wide-ranging interview, the threats from China, Russia, and Iran, and gave insight into an apparent shift in U.S. military policy, particularly in West Africa, following Niger’s order that 1,000 U.S. personnel must leave.

On Islamic terror, the general said, “we’ve been monitoring and identifying indications and warnings for a number of years. Just for statistics, back in 2008 Islamic jihadists on the global scene, only 4% was on the African continent. Now that number is up to 40%. So, in executing AFRICOM’s mission of being able to provide indications and warnings, monitor and respond, is all for protection of the homeland.”

He said that AFRICOM “is charged with executing our mission, which expands from deterring threats on the African continent, gaining access and influence and being able to respond to crises.”

WORLD FORGETS ‘CATASTROPHIC’ WAR IN SUDAN AS RUSSIA, IRAN, OTHERS REPORTEDLY FEED FIGHTING WITH ARMS

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, right, prepares for the African Chiefs of Defense Conference 2024 in Gaborone, Botswana, June 23, 2024. (Photo by Cpl. Addysyn Tobar)

Langley told Fox News Digital of the specific concern over Chinese operations in Africa. “We look at the threat of the People’s Republic of China, we know that they are exploitative for possible and coercive when necessary, when they engage across the continent through the Belt and Road Initiative first.” 

“But sometimes they have aspirations of military capacity and capability. They already have a base at Doraleh in Djibouti. Time will tell what their overall aspirations are. Will it be power projection, or will it be air denial in defense? We don’t know. Right now, they say it’s for counter piracy. So we are monitoring all the time what the PRC’s overall global intentions are in the strategic realm.”

AFRICOM’s commander shifted his attention next to Russia. “Yes, in the last few years, we saw the activities of Wagner encroaching upon a number of African countries and then sowing the seeds of disinformation, trying to get to be the security partner of choice in a number of these countries across the Sahel, all the way down to the Central African Republic, and as far north as Libya.”

Niger-US-Presence

U.S. and Niger flags are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, April 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Carley Petesch)

“So through their disinformation campaigns,” the general continued, “it has evolved into the sponsorship of the Russian MOD (Ministry of Defense) after the demise of Yevgeny Prigozhin. So we’re seeing that, and we monitor that on a full basis, to identify what the overall strategic imperatives or aspirations of the Russian Federation.”

He believes Russia is strongly using disinformation in the African theater of operations to strengthen their position on the continent, and this needs, he says, to be countered. “What the U.S. needs to do, we need to increase our information operations. We need to be able to match what our assurance actions are, especially ‘a whole government’ approach, in being able to partner with our African partners, addressing some of their challenges, challenges that extend from climate change to violent extremist organizations, that we have the overall value proposition, by being able to harvest our shared values, and shared objectives of stability and security.”

US TROOPS IN STANDOFF IN AFRICAN NATIONS AS COLD WAR-LIKE TENSIONS TAKE HOLD ON CONTINENT

AFRICOM General Langley

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, right, in Gaborone, Botswana, June 23, 2024. (Photo by Cpl. Addysyn Tobar)

“I think that our assurance actions and what we offer holistically, across State Department and diplomacy, across the USAID and development, across the Department of Defense and building partnership and capacity with other security forces, is the whole enduring solution, especially when we’re talking about extremist organizations.”

When pressed on Iran, which is reported to be active, particularly in mining, in countries as diverse as Niger and Sudan, Langley would only say “we’re closely monitoring activities by Iran.” Recently, sources claimed Iran is exporting, or arranging to export, uranium from Niger. Uranium can be used for the production of peaceful nuclear power, but it is better known as a vital ingredient in the production of nuclear weapons.

U.S. forces were told by Niger’s Russian-leaning military junta earlier this year to remove some 1,000 personnel from the country. The U.S. has two air bases in the country, where manned and unmanned aircraft have been launching missions against terror groups such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram

Niger Niamey army

People stand next to Russian and Niger flags while hundreds of supporters of the coup gather in front of the National Assembly in the capital Niamey, Niger, on July 27, 2023. (Reuters/Balima Boureima)

After months of reportedly sometimes heated negotiations, the Pentagon has agreed that all U.S. personnel in the country will leave. “About Niger, and about our repositioning and moving of our equipment and assets out of there this year, we’re on pace,” Langley stated, “I’m sure that we’re going to keep reaching those benchmarks.”

A Department of Defense (DOD) official has confirmed to Fox News Digital that all U.S. personnel will be off Base 101, on the outskirts of Niger’s capital, Niamey, by mid-July. The official added that all Americans will have left the larger base 201 at Agadez by Sept. 15.

US TO PULL TROOPS FROM CHAD AND NIGER AS THE AFRICAN NATIONS QUESTION ITS COUNTERTERRORISM ROLE

Al-Shabab fighters

Al-Shabab fighters conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu’s Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/ Farah Abdi Warsameh, file)

In Niger, he stressed that “the safety of our troops is first and foremost.” Langley is also expecting “a responsible, orderly withdrawal that’s agreed by both the U.S. government and the transitional government of the CNSP (Niger’s military junta).” 

On May 19, the DOD confirmed in a statement that both the U.S. and Niger “established procedures to facilitate the entry and exit of U.S. personnel, including overflight and landing clearances for military flights.”  

Chad-US-Military

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, testifies during a Senate committee hearing on Senate Armed Services hearing to examine the posture of United States Central Command and United States Africa Command, Thursday, March 16, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The U.S. military plans to return to Chad within a month for talks about revising an agreement that allows it to keep troops based there, an American general said Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

When asked where U.S. personnel and their manned aircraft and drones will move to from Niger, he appeared to stress a change in policy. “As far as what we had in air base 201, or 101, you know, that was based on the needs in the last decade.” 

“Where we’re going now, as far as what our strategy calls for, is to double down in security cooperation activities such as security force assistance brigades, such as state partnership programs, or all the exercises that we do to be able to build partnership and capacity.”

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China-Africa summit

China’s President Xi Jinping, center, speaks as South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, left and Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo look on, during the Forum On China-Africa Cooperation. 4, 2018. (Photo by LINTAO ZHANG/AFP via Getty Images)

Giving apparent new details on U.S. military strategy in Africa moving forward, Langley added “as far as our overall adjustment of our strategy, our strategy is going to be holistically across Sahel, extending into West Africa, namely because it’s informed by the threat. We all know this is going to be African-led, so they’re specified.”

This week Langley is in Botswana at the Africa Chiefs of Defense Conference. With some 35 countries taking part, the U.S. is co-hosting the event with Botswana. He added it “shows that it’s going to be African led, and U.S. enabled, as we address the major challenges and security challenges across the continent, not just across the Sahel, but other places across the continent. I’m on a listening tour, but they’re going to be giving their recommendations and tabling them for discussion.”

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