Despite being one of the poorest nations in the world, Niger is a strong US counterterrorism partner. The country currently hosts hundreds of US troops deployed in support of regional partners and to help combat the rise of terrorism across the Sahel. A portion of these troops are based in Agadez, a large city in central Niger that has acted as a cultural and trading hub for centuries.
Agadez has a population of over 100,000 but lacks the resources and industry to support it. The city’s economy is primarily based on transportation and trade of goods. Unfortunately, much of this trade is illicit and involves smugglers, human traffickers, and supporters of al Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) who feed off the instability in neighboring Libya and spread violence across West Africa. The lack of economic opportunities and alternative careers makes citizens vulnerable to these malign actors as they attempt to survive in the harshness of the desert.
Being marginalized by society and having previously turned to crime as a means of survival, convicts are particularly vulnerable and often specifically targeted for recruitment. Similarly, terrorist groups often seek to recruit children at an early age when they are most susceptible to violent extremist ideology.
A US Army civil affairs team in Agadez is working to address the concern of violent extremist recruiting. Through close partnership with the Mayor of Agadez, an initiative to better educate and prepare prisoners for release has begun. This effort is designed to give prisoners a chance of legitimate employment outside of crime. A donation of training manuals and books to the local prison system will greatly assist this reintegration program.
At the same time, the civil affairs team identified a school in need of repairs located near the prison and reached out to Spirit of America. Helping with some basic repairs at the school will not only improve the education of local children, but also demonstrate to the people of Agadez that their government and the US military care about every citizen, especially the most vulnerable.
With your support, a new roof for the school and supplies for the prison can be purchased and put into action immediately. The benefits from this project will reach far beyond Agadez and will not only benefit the youth and ex-convicts but will also help combat extremist influence across the Sahel.