How the heart of Africa became the new axis in the war on terror

World

How the heart of Africa became the new axis in the war on terror

As militant Islam finds a fresh foothold in the Sahel, we look at what awaits UK troops ready to join the fight

Adrian Blomfield

As far as Donald Trump is concerned, the news from the war on terror’s old battlegrounds has been exceedingly good of late. In 2019, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS) was driven from its last strongholds in Syria and Iraq. And last weekend, the US signed a peace deal with the Taliban, paving the way for American troops to leave Afghanistan.

It might be tempting to think that the forces of jihadism are in retreat. But on the southern fringe of the Sahara, along a vast and underpopulated semi-desert known as the Sahel, which stretches across Africa, the armies of militant Islam have massed anew and the black flag of IS is flying again.

For seven years, three international forces – one led by France, the second by the United Nations and a third drawn from the nations of the Sahel – have tried to stop the jihadist miasma. So far, they have failed. As Britain prepares to step up its political, military and humanitarian involvement over the coming months, officials across the West are warning that the region has begun to eclipse the Middle East as the new front line in the war on Islamist terror...

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