Date of Award

Spring 2018

Thesis Type

Open Access


Interdisciplinary Studies


Dr. Richard Lewin

Committee Member

Dr. Mario D'Amato

Committee Member

Dr. Rachel Newcomb


This paper takes an interdisciplinary approach in examining the United States role in the conflict in Mali and Niger. As a strategic locale in a region that is plagued with conflict, the U.S. is faced with increasing involvement across Africa, specifically the Western Sahel. With an Al Qaeda that continues to shift, change, and grow, the U.S. is faced with a War on Terror that is increasingly difficult to contain or succeed in. In an effort to shift the narrative to one from counterterrorism to one of counterinsurgency, this paper takes an in depth look at the political, geographical, sociocultural, economic, and religious factors that have helped Al Qaeda to expand in the Western Sahel. The paper also examines the United States’ geopolitical role in the world, its historic military successes and failures, and what it needs to do to win the Global War on Terror. The second half of the paper moves beyond analysis to suggested improvements to U.S. actions at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. The primary actors examined are of our political and military leadership, international partners, conventional military forces, special operations forces, and civic and development actors. This paper attempts to show how we can refine and improve the United States’ role in combating AQIM in the Western Sahel by using fewer resources, better meeting the needs of the local population, and creating an environment that is more difficult for our takfiri opponents to succeed in.

Rights Holder

Caleb Archuleta