(Extensions of Remarks - May 23, 2013)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E737]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                       HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH

                             of new jersey

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, May 22, 2013

  Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Subcommittee on 
Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International 
Organizations, which I chair, held a hearing that examined the 
challenges faced by the nations of Africa's Sahel region, especially 
the spread of terrorism and drug trafficking in the area. These 
problems alone pose a danger to the security of both the Sahel and 
developed countries, not only because of air traffic to West Africa 
that transits northern Mali, but also because of the use of the region 
as a base of attacks by Islamic extremists on Western targets. 
Moreover, the preexisting humanitarian crisis is now worsened, as are 
human rights concerns. The underlying political instability is becoming 
equally serious.
   We held the hearing as a joint session because the threat we face 
goes beyond the jurisdiction of one subcommittee. It involves not only 
Africa's Sahel region, but also countries in North Africa, specifically 
Algeria and Libya. It also involves terrorist groups originating from 
and based in nations outside the Sahel. It is a sign of how seriously 
the Foreign Affairs Committee considers this matter that our three 
subcommittees have come together today to consider this matter.
   There are various definitions of the Sahel, but for the purpose of 
the hearing, we meant the nations of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina 
Faso, Niger and Chad.
   In early 2012, the Government of Mali was overthrown in a military 
coup and subsequently lost control of the northern area of the country, 
which constitutes more than half of its land area. Mali had long been 
considered a stable example of African democracy, but as we learned in 
our Subcommittee's hearing in June 2012, the coup and resulting loss of 
so much territory revealed a hollowness and rot within the Mali 
democratic system. The influx of well-armed terrorist groups, broken 
promises to neglected ethnic groups, lack of adherence to democratic 
principles and rampant drug smuggling all made the Mali government 
vulnerable to breakdown. We must ask now whether other countries in 
Africa's Sahel region are also more vulnerable than we think.
   Mali provided a staging ground for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, 
or AQIM, which is daily becoming an ever-greater threat in the region 
and perhaps globally. AQIM is considered the best funded of all al-
Qaeda affiliates and, through its ties to other terrorist groups, may 
be funding their activities as well.
   In a July Subcommittee hearing last year, we learned that Boko Haram 
in Nigeria is not a unified organization, but rather various factions--
some of which are focused on embarrassing the Nigerian government, but 
others that have a more global jihadist view. It is the latter that 
have been present in northern Mali and pose a threat to Western 
interests. Boko Haram attacks led Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan 
last week to declare a state of emergency in three northern states in 
his country. A radical Boko Haram splinter group, known as Ansaru, may 
have attacked Nigerian troops en route to the peacekeeping operation in 
   In Mali, three terrorist groups dominate the rebellion that split 
off the North: MUJWA, a splinter group of AQIM; Ansar al Deen, an 
Islamist Tuareg rebel group, and the MNLA, a more secular Tuareg group. 
These groups have different aims and sometimes clash with one another. 
Nevertheless, they collectively have posed and continue to pose a 
threat to the peace in Mali and the region. As a result of the rebel 
actions in northern Mali, there currently are more than 300,000 
internally displaced persons in Mali, more than 74,000 refugees in 
Mauritania, 50,000 refugees in Niger and nearly 50,000 refugees in 
Burkina Faso. The displacement of nearly half a million Malians strains 
already-scarce resources in the Sahel, with aid recipients often in 
remote areas.
   French forces were able to forestall a rebel advance into southern 
Mali earlier this year, and an African military contingent is in the 
process of being deployed to Mali even now. However, chasing rebels out 
of Mali's major northern towns will be easier than ending ongoing 
terrorist attacks or reconciling ethnic groups whose enmity has grown 
over the last year.