16 Mar: AFRICOM Cmdr Gen Walhauser on Climate Change: Sahel Receding Almost a Mile Per Year

* Climate & Security: AFRICOM Commander on Climate Change: Sahel Receding Almost a Mile Per Year.

AFRICOM Commander on Climate Change: Sahel Receding Almost a Mile Per Year

Climate and Security; 16 March 2018

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During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Marine General Thomas D. Walhauser, Commander of U.S. Africa Command (head of all U.S. forces on the African continent, barring Egypt), fielded a question from Sen. Gillibrand regarding the links between climate change, food insecurity and terrorism, and their impacts on AFRICOM’s mission and posture. General Waldhauser noted, in particular, the role of climate change in desertification, stating: “I would say from the climate perspective, is that we have seen the Sahel – the grasslands of the Sahel – recede and become desert almost a mile per year in the last decade or so. This has a significant impact on the herders who have to fight, if you will, for grasslands and water holes and the like.”

Below is General Waldhauser’s full statement on the subject: 

Senator, some of the numbers you stated are certainly overwhelming. And when it comes to the African continent, unfortunately those numbers are sometimes the order of the day. Last year, for example, in Somalia there were over 6 million people who were food insecure. This year it’s going to be around 5 million people. And that’s just in that region.

I would say from the climate perspective, is that we have seen the Sahel – the grasslands of the Sahel – recede and become desert almost a mile per year in the last decade or so. This has a significant impact on the herders who have to fight, if you will, for grasslands and water holes and the like.

So these environmental challenges put pressure on these different organizations — some are VEO [violent extremist organizations], some are criminal, but it puts pressure on these organizations just for their own livelihood.

So, consequently, in areas like northern Mali, ISIS West Africa and the northern part of Niger, these are areas that are a very concern to us. And this is why we’re trying to work so closely with those countries there, so that they can maintain security, that they can keep it, at a minimum, keep these challenges inside those particular boundaries. But there are some significant challenges, and the numbers sometimes in Africa can overwhelm you.

Click here to watch the full hearing. The exchange referenced above begins at 02:11:37.

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