Africa is under attack. In what can only be described as a genocide Africa’s wildlife is being mercilessly slaughtered to fuel an overgrowing illicit trade in Ivory. In the last two years it is estimated that over 60,000 elephants and 1,600 rhinos have been killed for their tusks. However, in a world dominated by headlines pertaining to Afghanistan, Syria, and renewed Russian expansionism the risks to national security posed by poaching are often overlooked by the mainstream media. The reality is that the fight against poaching might soon necessitate a war against poaching if current trends continue.
After 13 years of The War On Terror the United States and her collation allies have managed to pummel Al-Qaeda into a shell of its former self. Bin Laden has been eliminated, Afghanistan no longer serves as a safe heaven, and diligent intelligence gathering has prevented any attacks on American soil. It would be easy to say that Al-Qaeda has been defeated and the war won, but this could not be further from the truth. Instead of dissolving from decapitation attacks on leadership such as Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda has instead transformed into a highly decentralized organization with no central leadership providing direction. While previously being predominately located in the Middle East, Al-Qaeda cells and affiliates are now located across Northern Africa, and thus have access to funds garnered by poaching.
Poaching produces more revenue per year than another illicit activity with close to 19 billion dollars being generated annually. To be put in perspective a single rhino horn can go for upwards of 50,000 dollars per kilo, more than both gold and platinum. With these sorts of funds flowing from poaching it was only a matter of time before terrorist organizations cashed in, and that time is nigh. Al-Qaeda offshoot Al-Shabab is estimated to receive 40 percent of its funds from the ivory trade, funds used to perpetuate attacks that have already claimed hundreds of lives. Further more groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have used funds derived from poaching to take hold in Mali, an action that required significant military operations by France to reverse. The reality of the situation is that through poaching terrorist organizations are being revitalized in Africa and there lies a great risk that many of the gains won in Afghanistan could be lost to a terrorist resurgence in Africa.
Al-Qaeda has adapted and is reaping the rewards of a resurgence in Africa, it is time that U.S. counter terrorism policy adapt as well. While token action has been taken by the U.S. in the form of drone strikes and military advisers being deployed to Kenya and Somalia it is simply not enough. The U.S. must provide substantial military, intelligence , and finical aid to African nations if it means to quash the resurgence of Al-Qaeda. Not only do terrorist strong holds need to be eliminated but the underling problem of poaching must be addressed if any substantial progress is to be made.
End of Part One
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