The challenges of the security environment in West Africa were brought home last week by the tragic deaths of four US Special Operations soldiers in an attack by extremist militants in Niger. Our thoughts go out to their families and their friends. And, our most sincere thanks go to the men and women continuing to serve in that region.
While Spirit of America has been working closely with US Special Operations personnel in Niger and throughout West Africa for several years, not everyone may be aware of the importance of the region in national security efforts. To help explain the issues at stake, and to shed light on what it means to serve in that environment, I would like to introduce the newest member of the Spirit of America Advisory Board.
Brigadier General Don Bolduc was most recently the commander of US Special Operations Command-Africa. He retired this summer after 32 years of active duty service and is a legend within Special Operations circles. Watch as he explains the importance of US missions in Africa. You can also download or steam the audio here.
In short, according to General Bolduc,
Niger is a lynchpin country in West Africa. The trafficking, the extremist organizations coming out of Libya, Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad, make Niger the crossroads for violent extremist organization activities [from] North, South, East, and West. That’s hugely important, and that’s why Niger stands as a very key location for the United States…
…In very, very remote areas, small [US Special Operations] teams — about 12 guys — partnered with battalion-sized elements of our Nigerien counterparts operate in the most remote areas, the toughest terrain that you’ve ever seen. I can tell you that the way I like to characterize it is, it’s not the end of or the edge of the earth, but you can see it from there…
…The question is…are we going to handle the problem when it’s small or are we going to wait until it gets too large and then becomes a significant problem for everyone?
I invite you to listen to my whole discussion with General Bolduc. He, more than most of us, understands the issues at stake and the costs associated with improving stability and security in tough places like Niger.
And, I ask you to join us in remembering the sacrifices of those who have paid the ultimate price in these far-flung yet critical regions.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with your questions or comments.