As the US is changing the nature of its military presence in Iraq, the US-led global anti-ISIS coalition is shifting its focus to the African continent.
Last week, the State Department announced that the anti-ISIS coalition is forming the Africa Focus Group, which will be co-chaired by the US, Morocco, Italy, and Niger. The US also welcomed Burkina Faso as the 84th member of the coalition.
The State Department said the Africa Focus Group will “enable the Coalition to undertake civilian capacity-building programs to help address the ISIS threat across Africa, and to synchronize those efforts with existing initiatives on the ground.”
The US has been quietly expanding special operations missions across Africa to fight against Islamist militants. The US is quick to label any Islamist group as an ISIS affiliate, but some experts have disagreed with the US designations.
For example, the US has designated the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) that is fighting against the government in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as an ISIS affiliate. But a report from the UN Group of Experts on the Congo found no conclusive evidence that ISIS and the ADF were linked besides public statements.
The UN report said both ISIS and the ADF benefit from the US designation since it makes the groups appear to be more powerful. The designation also helped the US since it authorized the deployment of special operations troops.
The US announced on Thursday that it formally ended its combat mission in Iraq against ISIS, but all 2,500 troops that are stationed in the country will remain in an advisory role. In Syria, the US maintains a presence of about 900 troops under the guise of fighting ISIS, but in reality, the occupation is part of Washington’s campaign against Damascus.