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A nation must think before it acts.
The past decade has witnessed a sea change in U.S. military engagement in Africa. With the establishment of a new permanent command, significant increases in security assistance, and the pioneering of new tactics driven by technical innovations in intelligence analysis and drone warfare, the U.S. military has become an integral player in the continent’s security. Nevertheless, there exist few assessments of the extent to which increased U.S. military engagement is paying dividends. This article examines how the current U.S. military strategy in Africa is different from those in the past and whether it is meeting the stated U.S. objectives of neutralizing transnational threats while contributing to the continent’s political stability. It finds that U.S. performance is mixed, with recent successes at containing the spread of al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliated groups coming at the potential detriment of longer-term regional security. The article concludes with recommendations aimed at helping the armed forces of the U.S. and other regional actors better fight terrorism while managing political risks.