THIES, Senegal – Violent extremist groups and their affiliates are collaborating more in northern Africa, and regional forces must be built up and supported with deeper intelligence sharing to counter the increasing threat of attacks, the head of the U.S. military's Special Operations Command Africa said Monday.
Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc spoke on the sidelines of Flintlock, the U.S. military's annual counter-extremism training exercise based this year in Senegal. Monday marked the opening of training of African forces as ambassadors, generals and troops gathered on an airfield in Thies, Senegal, holding flags that represented the some 1,700 participants from about 30 countries across Africa, and other Western countries.
The training comes as the region battles a growing threat from al-Qaida-linked extremists and Nigeria's Islamic extremist group Boko Haram which has pledged support to the Islamic State group .
Violent extremist organizations have become more collaborative, sharing tactics and procedures, said Bolduc.
"They have traded ideas and concepts on how to message and present themselves in public, solidifying their ideology and what they stand for. And we have watched that collaboration manifest itself in becoming more effective in north Africa," he said.
Nations have also started to come together to look at how regional cooperation can support countering the threat of the extremists, he said, pointing to the multi-national force battling Boko Haram with troops from Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon.
He warned, however, that the military is not the only solution.
Intelligence sharing is vital, but so is working with civil administrations to connect from the ground up to deal with the threat, he said.
Gen. Amadou Kane, the chief of staff of Senegal's armed forces, said the threat of extremism affects all nations.
"We can't know where the threat will next come, so we must then reorganize ourselves," and make efforts to do that with neighboring countries, he said.