Fighting to Avoid Conflict: U.S. Counterterrorism Model in Northwest Africa

  • Colonel Samuel W. Curtis

This paper proposes that national security decision makers consider using special operation forces (SOF) forward in contested security environments outside of theaters of war to enable partner forces to combat violent extremist threats. Assumption of low-risk presence early buys down risk later as U.S. forces gain needed situational understanding. To the degree that SOF enablement activities are successful, the United States can achieve positive effects for U.S. national security interests in an acceptable time horizon. Additionally, time is gained for long-term institution building and governance activities to achieve sustainable results. First, this paper addresses key concepts and assumptions concerning the strategic indirect approach in terms of security cooperation and shaping operations. Second, we discuss the strategic environment and threat in North and West Africa. The paper then addresses the USSOF enablement model of select regional partner forces. By analyzing SOF supporting actions in North and West Africa, we present four specific insights for future potential enablement operations outside of areas of declared combat operations.