The non-resolution of the Sahara conflict hinders the counter-terrorism efforts in the North African and Sahel-Saharan region, USA Today writes Thursday.
"Unresolved disputes (such as the one between Morocco and Algeria over the sovereignty of the Western Sahara) continue to fester, preventing regional governments from consolidating control over key trouble spots", says Ilan Berman, vice-president of the American Foreign Policy Council and an editor of the Council's World Almanac of Islamism.
Warning against the exacerbation of the security situation in Africa, Berman recalls the Marrakech Security Forum, held on February 13-14, which shed light on aggravating factors, notably population growth, stagnant economies, pervasive corruption, ineffective governments and rampant criminality.
He warned that these factors "have helped make Africa a laboratory for radical groups", adding that the scope of the problem is far broader than commonly understood in the West.
In this regard, he says that the continent is also a major source of foreign fighters now active in the Syrian civil war.
The Institute for the Study of Conflict and Radicalisation, a British think tank that monitors global jihadist trends, recently estimated that a quarter or more of the 20,000-plus extremists now fighting on the Syrian battlefield come from the region.
"That's not just a near-term problem for the Middle East, it promises to be a major long-term African security headache once Syria's jihadists start returning home a few years hence", he notes.
"We are still paying far too little attention to these developments. Preoccupied with the fight against the Islamic State, the Obama administration and its counterparts in Europe have paid scant attention to other manifestations of radical Islamism", he adds.
As a result, Western counterterrorism policy remains overwhelmingly reactive, focused on today's main threat, he points out, adding that because it is, "the United States and its allies run the risk of missing the makings of the next great one".