In the months after 9/11, American forces in Afghanistan bombed the Taliban and, in vain, hunted for Osama bin Laden, while in Washington counterterrorism experts worried about “the next Afghanistan,” a safe haven where terrorists would train, test their weapons and organize attacks on the United States.
The list of candidates for the next Afghanistan was long. Just about every Muslim-majority country, or even those with sizable Muslim minorities, was considered suspect. Africa emerged as one of the greatest areas of concern, and the Sahel, a scrubby band of ungoverned terrain straddling Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa, proved especially troublesome.The Sahel soon became a laboratory for the United States to test its policies in the “global war on terror.” In 2002, the State Department started the Pan-Sahel Initiative, a counterterrorism program that involved working with local militaries in Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania.
Story by By NICHOLAS SCHMIDLE - Commission for THE NEW YORK TIMES magazine