Africa File

The Africa File is an analysis and assessment of the Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa and related security and political dynamics. 

Africa File: 2020 year in review

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

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The United States faces an international security environment that is rapidly deteriorating. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) is dedicated to producing continuous assessments of threats to the US and our allies and helping our readers understand their nuance and scale. The Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa is one such threat that is growing quickly but is often overlooked. CTP has endeavored to provide the assessments needed to understand this challenge in 2020 and will continue and expand our efforts in 2021.

Highlights from 2020

AEI hosted a webinar with Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, the commander of US Special Operations Command Africa, in September. He warned of African Salafi-jihadi groups’ growing lethality and increased responsiveness to their parent organizations and al Qaeda’s “methodical” coercion of vulnerable populations in West Africa. Watch the video or read the transcript here.

AEI Resident Fellow and CTP Adviser Katherine Zimmerman argues that reducing the US military footprint in Africa too much will undercut America’s competitiveness against near-peer rivals and disrupt the fight against the Salafi-jihadi movement. Read her argument here.

AEI Research Fellow and CTP Research Manager Emily Estelle argues that geopolitical competition and the Salafi-jihadi threat intersect and interact with each other in Africa and the Middle East. She identifies a “vicious cycle” in which proxy conflicts extend and expand local wars and create favorable conditions for Salafi-jihadi groups. Read the report or op-ed and listen to a podcast.

The CTP team is tracking the deteriorating security situation in East Africa. Estelle and Zimmerman argue that the withdrawal of most US troops from Somalia is shortsighted and will strengthen al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate that is increasingly focused on plotting international terror attacks. Al Shabaab in Somalia may also benefit from the destabilization of neighboring Ethiopia. Read further on Somalia here, and find CTP Analyst Jessica Kocan’s Ethiopia Crisis updates here.

Below, please find a selection of Africa-focused analysis from the Critical Threats Project team and our partners in 2020. The regular Africa File will resume in January 2021. We hope that you enjoy these publications and look forward to continuing the conversation next year. You can always send feedback to [email protected].

On the Salafi-jihadi movement

On regional security dynamics

On West Africa

On North Africa

On East Africa


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Jan '21
Dec '20
Nov '20