Faculty in the News In the News

November 29, 2017 at 7:13 pm

Kendhammer in VOA: Investments in Niger ‘Make a Real Difference’

Dr. Brandon Kendhammer

Dr. Brandon Kendhammer

Dr. Brandon Kendhammer, Associate Professor of Political Science, was quoted in a Voice of America news story headlined “Questions Linger Over US Role in Fighting Terrorism in Sahel.”

WASHINGTON — The deaths of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger last month have raised questions about America’s role in the fight against violent extremism in a sparsely populated region of Africa….

Some activists and U.S. lawmakers are concerned that some regional partners have authoritarian governments. Even Niger, said Brandon Kendhammer, an associate professor and director of the International Development Studies Program at Ohio University, is “problematically democratic.”

Still, Kendhammer characterized U.S. involvement as a net positive. “It’s pretty clear that these investments do make a real difference in the ability of the region to provide its own security,” he said.

Seeking input has been key to that success, according to Kendhammer. Despite perceptions among some observers that AFRICOM works unilaterally, the command has a track record of seeking local expertise and wide-ranging perspectives, Kendhammer said.

Pentagon officials expect to complete their investigation into the Niger attack in January.

Based on what is now known, the U.S. soldiers killed last month were involved in exactly the kind of work that troops stationed in the Sahel undertake, Kendhammer said.

A big part of that role involves training local forces via workshops and fieldwork. Training can cover everything from basic operations to advanced tactics, including rapid response to terrorist attacks. To maximize their impact, the U.S. follows a “train the trainer” model, Kendhammer said, working with elite local forces who, in turn, share knowledge and skills….

Either way, affiliating with an established terrorist organization can be more pragmatic than ideological. According to Kendhammer, the particular group alleged to be behind the Niger attack was previously affiliated with al-Qaida and switched in 2015 or 2016 to find a better strategic partner.

Read more of the interview at Voice of America.


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