Algeria’s firm handling of the siege of its gas plant in the In Amenas region is bound to get the grudging admiration of many world administrations. The body count of both hostages and ransom-seekers is high. But the operation did prevent the militants from blowing up a gas facility critical to the country’s economy, besides sending a strong message to terror groups trying to trade hostages for impossible demands. Unfortunately, despite its show of approval of Algeria’s strong-arm tactics, the international community is not too happy with the general scenario. This is not only because it feels snubbed by Algeria, which did not bother to consult the foreign countries whose citizens were taken as hostages before launching the operation. This is also because Algeria’s hostage crisis has suddenly brought to the fore the enormous challenge that confronts the West after the Arab Spring. The fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, which led to northern Mali being flooded with arms and Tuareg rebels formerly in the employ of the Libyan regime, has destabilized both Mali and neighbouring Algeria. The links among criminals, separatists and fighters allied with al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is now threatening Western interests in these former colonies besides carrying to foreign nations the threat of terror attacks on home soil. This was made evident by the Algerian crisis. The jihadist group that targeted the gas plant managed by multinationals from the United Kingdom, Japan and Norway claimed that the siege was a response to France’s recently-launched operation in Mali. Although many are unwilling to buy this claim, the declaration has sufficiently alarmed Nato allies, who now believe that they ought to stay engaged in Africa, for “decades” if need be, to wipe out the terror threat.
France’s operation in Mali and the UK government’s alarmist observations on Africa indicate that the theatre of war may soon shift from Afghanistan to Africa. The problem is that neither the United States of America nor the African nations themselves want the war option to be so summarily imposed on them. The discordance in feeling has led to a complete lack of coherence on the ground. Unfortunately, a coherent policy alone will determine the success rate against terror in Africa.