The Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership
Building Partner Capacity to Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism

Published Date: March 31, 2014

This paper was produced in cooperation with the Center for Complex Operations (CCO) at National Defense University.

The Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) is a multiyear, interagency program to counter violent extremism (CVE) by building the resilience of marginalized communities so that they can resist radicalization and terrorist recruitment, and to counter terrorism (CT) by building long-term security force counterterrorism capacity and regional security cooperation. By U.S. government standards, TSCTP is an exceptional program for its ability to marshal interagency resources in support of a regional security approach that spans the “3Ds” – Diplomacy, Defense, and Development. The program covers ten countries in the Sahel and Maghreb: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia.

This analysis was conducted during the 2013 interagency review of the U.S. government’s approach to stability in the Maghreb and Sahel, and a related TSCTP program review. A CNA Corp. analyst on assignment at CCO conducted not-for-attribution interviews of personnel from the headquarters level (U.S. government agencies) to the mission level (U.S. Embassy country teams) who are responsible for planning and implementing TSCTP activities, in order to understand the program’s strategy, coordination, successes, and failures. Six functional categories of TSCTP engagement were derived from these interviews, in order to conceptualize the program’s activities outside of traditional agency-specific stovepipes.

This study provides an overview of TSCTP activities, an analysis of the program’s planning and implementation challenges from the strategic to the tactical level, and recommendations that can shape and inform the program to better respond to the region’s ongoing security challenges. As it currently stands, TSCTP provides both military and non-military approaches to the region’s challenges, and is a means by which to maintain the United States’ indirect, or “by, with, and through,” approach to countering terrorism and countering violent extremism in the region. Therefore, despite its planning and implementation challenges, TSCTP provides a base that can be learned from and improved upon in future iterations of the program.