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Outlasting the Caliphate: The Evolution of the Islamic State Threat in Africa


Journal abstractctc sentinel

The annus horribilis Islamic State Central suffered in 2019, during which the group lost the last stretch of its “territorial caliphate” in Iraq and Syria and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed, does not appear to have had a discernible impact on the overall operational trajectory of the Islamic State threat in Africa. Post-2019, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province sustained around the same high level of violence while Islamic State provinces in Libya, Sinai, and Somalia remained pernicious, though generally contained, threats. In some parts of Africa, the group grew as a threat. Both wings of the Islamic State’s new Central Africa Province as well as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara wing of the Islamic State’s West Africa Province escalated their violent campaigns post-2019. The Islamic State’s province in Algeria remains effectively defunct, and though the Islamic State affiliate in Tunisia failed to conduct major attacks, it remained active. As the authors stress in this article and an upcoming book, the overall resilience of the Islamic State in Africa should not be a surprise; it underscores that while connections were built up between Islamic State Central and its African affiliates—with the former providing, at times, some degree of strategic direction, coordination, and material assistance—the latter have historically evolved under their own steam and acted with a significant degree of autonomy.

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