AL QAEDA REORGANIZES IN WEST AFRICA: A detailed analysis from the Long War Journal.

On Mar. 2, a merger of al Qaeda groups in the Sahel was announced. The “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims” (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin) brings together four existing al Qaeda organizations under one banner. Ansar Dine, Al Murabitoon and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) Sahara branch are all part of the new entity. The Macina Liberation Front, an arm of Ansar Dine, is as well.

The analysis includes a discussion of how AQIM established Ansar Dine as a very calculated “cut out” operation. An AQIM senior commander “did not want the jihadists’ governance efforts [in Mali] to appear foreign to the local populace.”

This StrategyPage update from November 2016 provides more historical background on AQIM/Ansar Dine.