Source : Air Force Magazine – Abraham Mahshie – How the Burkina Faso Coup Could Impact U.S. Air Force Counterterrorism Operations

AFRICAN AIR CHIEFS SYMPOSIUM, KIGALI, Rwanda—A military coup in the fragile West African country of Burkina Faso may prevent the U.S. Air Force from continuing vital counterterrorism surveillance and targeting efforts in an area where Islamic terrorism is growing, the Burkina Faso vice air chief told Air Force Magazine Jan. 26.

Presidential vehicles were found littered with bullets and soldiers mutinied across the country Jan. 23 while President Roch Kaboré disappeared from public view. Instead, French-educated Army Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba declared he was in control and would end the reign of terror caused by Islamic militants. Burkina Faso citizens took to the streets in support of the military takeover, but a security expert tells Air Force Magazine that African military coups in the name of citizen security often create a vacuum that strengthens terrorist groups.

“I can’t even reach my chief of defense right now,” Burkina Faso Deputy Air Chief Col. Victor Beloum told Air Force Magazine in a French-language interview on the sidelines of the African Air Chiefs Symposium in Kigali.

Beloum said he left the capital Ouagadougou for the conference co-sponsored by U.S. Air Forces Africa just as the coup began to unfold. (…)

Beloum said the U.S. Air Force had been helping with training, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and targeting data that it shares with the Burkina Faso Air Force.

The State Department provides about $65 million in security assistance, primarily for peacekeeping operations, and the Defense Department provides another $30 million in counterterrorism assistance. When neighboring Mali suffered a coup in August 2020, the State Department cut off security assistance and military intelligence sharing halted. Both nations are part of the arid Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa.

The five weak states of the Sahel have vast territories and uncontrolled spaces where Islamic State group and al-Qaeda affiliated group JMIN are known to exist. The U.S. Air Force operates ISR platforms out of the Sahel nation Niger from Air Base 101 and Air Base 201, contributing intelligence to French ground forces who have killed terrorist leaders in recent years.

But the terrorist threat has spilled into Burkina Faso.

In June 2021, 100 people were killed in the northern village of Solhan, an attack blamed on terrorists who crossed the border from Mali. In November 2021, another attack killed 50 members of security forces, according to press reports.

The United States has long assisted the five nations making up the G-5 Sahel group, and supported France’s Operation Barkhane, which began in 2014. (…)

“Along with regional partners, U.S. Africa Command conducts military operations to disrupt, degrade, and neutralize violent extremist organizations that present a transnational threat,” AFRICOM spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Timothy S. Pietrack told Air Force Magazine in a statement. (…)


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