During the annual military exercise known as Flintlock, lead by American Special Operations, the US pledged support to improve the intelligence and communications capacities of its West African partners—including Chad, Nigeria, Mali, and Niger.
As the Trans-Sahelian Counter-Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) enters its eleventh year, it is more critical than ever that the US engage effectively with its African partners. As the exercise drew to a close, Boko Haram declared its allegiance to the Islamic State and a fresh spat of violence broke out in Mali.
Unfortunately, it appears that the name “flintlock” is also an apt metaphor for the nature of American military partnerships in the Sahel—the transcontinental strip of scrubland between sub-Saharan and Saharan Africa. The flintlock mechanism, common in weapons produced in the 17th century, is prone to misfiring, though added safety mechanisms to prevent misfire dramatically reduce the speed and efficiency of the weapon. Among its Sahelian partners, American military strategists are confronted with partners that frequently “misfire” by enacting brutal tactics against their own citizens, which galvanize insurgencies and regional terrorist threats that they are poorly suited to respond to quickly.