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Lack of opportunity, not ideology, fueling terrorism
March 19, 2017, 1:59 pm

Eliminating terrorists from their strongholds in Africa is not a big issue, sustaining the gains made is the real problem, says the top US military commander in Africa.

"We could knock off all the ISIL and Boko Haram this afternoon, but by the end of the week, so to speak, those ranks would be filled," said General Thomas Waldhauser, the man in charge of US military operations against extremists in Africa. 

Speaking before the US Senate Armed Services Committee last week, General Waldhauser noted that without economic opportunity the continent's massive population of young people would be susceptible to terror groups. Young people in Africa joined extremist groups because "they needed a job, they needed a livelihood," he said, adding, "It’s not, for the most part in those regions, about ideology."

“Africa's young people need to have a future, one that comes from long-term investment in the region. We've got to find a way to get at education, health care," he said. "We can't kill our way to victory here."

The general told members of the Senate committee that 'soft power' — the use of economic or cultural influence rather than military might — is an important approach to combating extremism on the continent. "Once you have a secure environment, development needs to take place, and that's where soft power kicks in," Waldhauser said.

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