A recent report published by the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) provides insights into the ways that special operations forces can assist indigenous governance structures to halt or reverse the growth of violent extremist organizations (VEOs).
The authors of the report argue that operating in the human domain requires a “. . . deep appreciation of local worldviews, modes and patterns of life, and organic institutional arrangements that make them viable”. SOF is adept at working with government leaders at the national and sub-national level; however, SOF – in many instances – is not knowledgeable about informal governance structures that can assist in the fight against VEOs.
The country faces several home-based and foreign-based terrorist groups to include Ansarul Islam, Islamic State of Iraq and ash-sham networks in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), al-Mulathamun Battalion, and the al-Qa’ida-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM). More than 500 militant attacks in the past four years have killed hundreds of people. Burkina Faso had over 500,000 internally displaced persons in 2019. Terrorist attacks have taken place in the country’s capital as well as in rural areas.
Burkina Faso has augmented the size of its special terrorism detachment – Groupement des Forces Anti-Terroristes (GFAT). It has also jointed the G5 Sahel Joint Force to fight terrorism and criminal trafficking groups with its regional neighbors (Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger). In addition, it participates in the annual Flintlock exercise conducted by Special Operations Command – Africa (SOCAfrica).
The authors use Burkina Faso as an example of how SOF can support a country in its counterterrorism fight against VEOs. Local political legitimacy can be enhanced – and the influence of VEOs diminished – by working with indigenous, informal governance structures.
- Chapter 1 – Governance Provides in Burkina Faso
- Chapter 2 – Islamic VEOs in Burkina Faso
- Chapter 3 – Governance Environment
- Chapter 4 – Violence and Security in Burkina Faso
- Survey Methodology
- Acronyms and Endnotes
Informal Governance as a Force Multiplier in Counterterrorism: Evidence for Burkina Faso, by Margaret H. Ariotti and Kevin S. Fridy, JSOU Report 20-3, JSOU Press, July 2020, 110 pages, PDF.
Image: Derived from photo on back cover of the JSOU report and CIA map of Burkina Faso.