The Islamic State is losing in Africa

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From The Chicago Tribune:

“Oct. 26, Islamic State fighters seized control of the ancient port town of Qandala in northern Somalia, marking the group’s most significant territorial acquisition to date in that country. In a propaganda video released the following day – and described in dozens of credulous news reports – heavily armed men can be seen marching into the town and hoisting their signature black flag over a tall whitewashed building.

Look closer at the video, however, and it’s the same fighters parading past the camera again and again. It was a transparent attempt by the group to seem bigger, and more resilient, than it is in reality. And sure enough, the Islamic State was soon forced to abandon Qandala, retreating to the mountainous enclave where its leader, Abdiqadir Mumin, has been hiding out since he defected from al-Shabab in October 2015.

This is the story of the Islamic State in sub-Saharan Africa. It has achieved a number of symbolic victories – a pledge of allegiance from Boko Haram in Nigeria, the loyalty of at least one faction of the militant group al-Mourabitoun in Mali, and the support of a few minor al-Shabab sellouts like Mumin – but it has failed to displace al-Qaida as the continent’s premier jihadi franchise.

That’s partly because the Islamic State misjudged the jihadi movements it targeted in Africa, failing to appreciate both the strength of their ties to al-Qaida and the degree to which their leaders valued their autonomy. But it’s also because al-Qaida affiliates have fought back hard against encroachment on their turf – and the Islamic State has offered its own fledgling affiliates little in the way of military support.”

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