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Mauritania is Fighting Sahel Jihadism and Winning

Mauritania has taken over the rotating presidency of the G5 Sahel, which coordinates the anti-jihadism fight of five countries in the region. To Mauritania’s east, the death toll in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso has been rising inexorably, but this largely desert country of four million has not experienced an attack in almost nine years. Mauritanian authorities, for their part, began investing in training and retaining soldiers. Military spending increased, providing better and newer equipment, and soldiers’ pay was paid directly into the bank rather than through officers, and soldiers were given social benefits. Today, that programme to boost military morale and competence has borne fruit, as shown in the tight policing of the border, a notorious weak point in the other Sahel countries. At the same time, Nouakchott launched a battle of the minds, to deter vulnerable young people from joining the jihadists. In 2010 a dialogue between leading Muslim scholars and around 70 jailed jihadists caused around 50 of the detainees to repent.