Are there opportunities to wind down fighting with some terrorist groups in the region?
Jacob Zenn is an adjunct assistant professor on African armed movements at Georgetown University's Security Studies Program and a senior fellow on African affairs at the Jamestown Foundation. He conducted an organizational mapping of Boko Haram for the Swiss Embassy in Nigeria in 2015, ahead of negotiations that led to the release of 123 Chibok schoolgirls. Zenn’s new book, “Unmasking Boko Haram: Exploring Global Jihad in Nigeria,” was published in April 2020 by Lynne Rienner in association with the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews.
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In a January 14, 2018, Lawfare article, Alexander Thurston wrote that “mounting evidence pushed me, despite my strong initial skepticism, to acknowledge and begin to analyze the ties and exchanges between Boko Haram and AQIM.” The humility to amend prior analysis reflects well here.
Editor’s Note: The war against terrorism involves fighting more than terrorists. Some groups use guerrilla war, and still others are proto-states. The post-9/11 struggle has also brought the United States into greater contact with warlords, clans, and other non-state actors. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Jacob Zenn of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Jamestown Foundation, respectively, try to bring a sense of order to these many actors, offering a spectrum of "violent non-state actors" as a way to better conceptualize them.