AFRICOM Commander Reports Tenfold Increase in Islamic Terrorist Activity in Africa Over 26 Years

FIRST ON FOX – The number of Islamic jihadist terrorists in Africa has increased tenfold, the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has told Digital. U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, commander of AFRICOM, sat down on Sunday for an exclusive virtual interview with Digital ahead of this week’s African Chiefs of Defense Conference in Gaborone, Botswana.  

Langley covered, in a wide-ranging interview, the threats from China, Russia, and Iran, and gave insight into an apparent shift in U.S. military policy, particularly in West Africa, following that 1,000 U.S. personnel must leave.

On Islamic terror, the general said, “we’ve been monitoring and identifying indications and warnings for a number of years. Just for statistics, back in 2008 Islamic jihadists on the global scene, only 4% was on the African continent. Now that number is up to 40%. So, in executing AFRICOM’s mission of being able to provide indications and warnings, monitor and respond, is all for protection of the homeland.”

He said that AFRICOM “is charged with executing our mission, which expands from deterring threats on the African continent, gaining access and influence and being able to respond to crises.”

Langley told Digital of the specific concern over Chinese operations in Africa. “We look at the threat of the People’s Republic of China, we know that they are exploitative for possible and coercive when necessary, when they engage across the continent through the Belt and Road Initiative first.” 

“But sometimes they have aspirations of military capacity and capability. They already have a base at Doraleh in Djibouti. Time will tell what their overall aspirations are. Will it be power projection, or will it be air denial in defense? We don’t know. Right now, they say it’s for counter piracy. So we are monitoring all the time what the PRC’s overall global intentions are in the strategic realm.”

AFRICOM’s commander shifted his attention next to Russia. “Yes, in the last few years, we saw the activities of Wagner encroaching upon a number of African countries and then sowing the seeds of disinformation, trying to get to be the security partner of choice in a number of these countries across the Sahel, all the way down to the Central African Republic, and as far north as Libya.”

“So through their disinformation campaigns,” the general continued, “it has evolved into the sponsorship of the Russian MOD (Ministry of Defense) after the demise of . So we’re seeing that, and we monitor that on a full basis, to identify what the overall strategic imperatives or aspirations of the Russian Federation.”

He believes Russia is strongly using disinformation in the African theater of operations to strengthen their position on the continent, and this needs, he says, to be countered. “What the U.S. needs to do, we need to increase our information operations. We need to be able to match what our assurance actions are, especially ‘a whole government’ approach, in being able to partner with our African partners, addressing some of their challenges, challenges that extend from climate change to violent extremist organizations, that we have the overall value proposition, by being able to harvest our shared values, and shared objectives of stability and security.”

“I think that our assurance actions and what we offer holistically, across State Department and diplomacy, across the USAID and development, across the Department of Defense and building partnership and capacity with other security forces, is the whole enduring solution, especially when we’re talking about extremist organizations.”

, which is reported to be active, particularly in mining, in countries as diverse as Niger and Sudan, Langley would only say “we’re closely monitoring activities by Iran.” Recently, sources claimed Iran is exporting, or arranging to export, uranium from Niger. Uranium can be used for the production of peaceful nuclear power, but it is better known as a vital ingredient in the production of nuclear weapons.

U.S. forces were told by Niger’s Russian-leaning military junta earlier this year to remove some 1,000 personnel from the country. The U.S. has two air bases in the country, where manned and unmanned aircraft have been launching missions against terror groups such as . 

After months of reportedly sometimes heated negotiations, the Pentagon has agreed that all U.S. personnel in the country will leave. “About Niger, and about our repositioning and moving of our equipment and assets out of there this year, we’re on pace,” Langley stated, “I’m sure that we’re going to keep reaching those benchmarks.”

A Department of Defense (DOD) official has confirmed to Digital that all U.S. personnel will be off Base 101, on the outskirts of Niger’s capital, Niamey, by mid-July. The official added that all Americans will have left the larger base 201 at Agadez by Sept. 15.

In Niger, he stressed that “the safety of our troops is first and foremost.” Langley is also expecting “a responsible, orderly withdrawal that’s agreed by both the U.S. government and the transitional government of the CNSP (Niger’s military junta).” 

On May 19, the DOD confirmed in a statement that both the U.S. and Niger “established procedures to facilitate the entry and exit of U.S. personnel, including overflight and landing clearances for military flights.”  

When asked where U.S. personnel and their manned aircraft and drones will move to from Niger, he appeared to stress a change in policy. “As far as what we had in air base 201, or 101, you know, that was based on the needs in the last decade.” 

“Where we’re going now, as far as what our strategy calls for, is to double down in security cooperation activities such as security force assistance brigades, such as state partnership programs, or all the exercises that we do to be able to build partnership and capacity.”

Giving apparent new details on U.S. military strategy in Africa moving forward, Langley added “as far as our overall adjustment of our strategy, our strategy is going to be holistically across Sahel, extending into West Africa, namely because it’s informed by the threat. We all know this is going to be African-led, so they’re specified.”

This week Langley is in Botswana at the Africa Chiefs of Defense Conference. With some 35 countries taking part, the U.S. is co-hosting the event with Botswana. He added it “shows that it’s going to be African led, and U.S. enabled, as we address the major challenges and security challenges across the continent, not just across the Sahel, but other places across the continent. I’m on a listening tour, but they’re going to be giving their recommendations and tabling them for discussion.”