Western countries attempt to remedy instability and insecurity in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa by providing Security Force Assistance (SFA). Since 2010, billions have been spent on training and equipping armed forces and security forces in the six countries studied here: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Somalia. SFA has been intended to address long-term structural problems related to the low capacity of state security units, including ineffectiveness, corruption, and abusive practices. But it is also used to combat short-term symptoms of instability and debilitated state capacity such as insurgencies, organised crime, illegal immigration and smuggling.
In this comprehensive review of SFA efforts, we highlight how such assistance might contribute to political fragmentation within states, and in particular within their security forces. Arguably, SFA efforts in the countries investigated often appear to be ineffective and, at times, even counter-productive.