In the tri-border region of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger the relationship between Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) has gone through various phases over recent years. From peaceful co-existence and even collaboration up to and including most of 2019, there followed high intensity conflict in 2020, only for there to be a return to relatively low levels of violence thus far in 2021.
Changing Relationship between JNIM and ISGS
Critical changes in the conduct of terrorist groups, from Mali to the Lake Chad Basin, such as the sudden transition from a non-aggressive posture towards full-scale conflict or the forging of new alliances, have the potential to alter the entire security dynamics in the Sahel. Undoubtedly, the volatility of the relationship between JNIM and ISGS represents a constant threat to stability across the whole region.
Consequently, there is a pressing need for more complete understanding of this intricate relationship, including: the complexity of their relationships with the local populations and their traditions and religious beliefs; the reasons for the highly unusual peaceful period between the two groups and, perhaps more importantly, the subsequent descent into violent conflict; and the effects on regional security of their conflictual relationship.
Additionally, greater knowledge regarding each group's activities is necessary, including: the relevance of changing/removing key leaders; the abilities of the groups to provide informal governance; the increased focus on the acquisition of natural resources and access to other sources of wealth; and the developing recruiting process.
Monitoring of Activities
Fundamentally, the terrorist groups' activities should be carefully monitored in order not only to understand the history and current state of the security dynamics, but also to ensure the best possible preparation should the extreme violence flare up again.