SEST-577 Security Issues in North Africa
Fall for 2017-2018
Yerkes, Sarah
The region of North Africa (the Maghreb), traditionally overlooked by US policymakers, has taken on an increasing strategic importance to the United States since the 2010-2011 uprisings commonly known as the Arab Spring. While much of the region underwent tremendous political change, perhaps the most significant outcome of the Arab Spring was that it underscored the inextricable and complex relationship between political stability and security.

Six years later, each of the four countries that make up North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya) faces unique yet important security challenges and opportunities, deeply intertwined with the political path each country has taken. The states of the Maghreb range from Morocco, an early member of the US-led Counter-ISIL Coalition; to Algeria, a highly centralized state with an ailing president; to Tunisia, simultaneously the sole democracy in the Arab world and the largest exporter of foreign fighters to ISIS of any nation; to Libya, whose civil war has the potential to destabilize the entire region. Given the varying trajectory of each of the four Maghreb countries, this course will provide students with the opportunity to examine a number of security issues – civil war, counter terrorism, foreign fighters, security sector reform – within a relatively small swathe of land.

This course will pay special attention to the changing security environment following the Arab Spring, but will also dive deep into each country’s history to understand how the Maghreb got to 2010. We will look at colonial legacies, the rise of Islamist political parties and secular-religious tensions, changing demographics, and the Maghreb’s external relations.

During the first half of the course we will examine each of the four North African countries separately to unpack the historical and contemporary security challenges facing each country. In Morocco, we will look at the country’s successful countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts that have been exported to sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. We will also spend time on the conflict with Western Sahara, a 40-year-old dispute that receives little attention in the United States. In Algeria, we will examine the brutal 10-year-long civil war that has had a lasting impact on both Algeria’s political institutions and the public psyche and allowed Algeria to take a far more decisive stance against internal security threats than its neighbors. We will also prognosticate about Algeria’s future – analyzing how the end of the Bouteflika regime might impact Algeria’s security situation. In Tunisia we will discuss how the new democracy has handled security threats, looking at Tunisia’s security sector reform efforts and the country’s constant battle between freedom and control. In Libya, we will focus on the security situation following the death of Gadhafi and how Libya spiraled into civil war and enabled the establishment of an ISIS stronghold in Sirte.

The second half of the course will examine cross-regional dynamics as well as the relationship between North Africa and its neighboring regions – the Middle East, the Sahel, and Europe. Here, we will look at the factors driving North African refugees to risk their lives to go to Europe and spend some time discussing why several of the recent perpetrators of terror attacks in Europe share a North African origin. We will also learn about the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), a U.S. government initiative to address terrorist threats and stem the flow of violent extremists in North Africa and the Sahel. Throughout the course we will engage in discussions regarding the impact of North Africa on U.S. national security interests and policy. Students will have the opportunity to practice writing policy memos and engage in mock US policy deliberations.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

Course syllabi
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Fall '17: Yerkes S (file download)
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