Long neglected by outside powers, the Sahel region stands at the strategic nexus of a number of growing challenges facing the African continent, Europe, and the wider Middle East.
The rise of ISIS gives Algeria an opportunity to regain the regional influence it lost following its failure to play an effective role in the Mali conflict.
The EU is unveiling a number of new initiatives to improve its approach to peace building. But it still needs to do more to tackle the deep-rooted causes of conflict.
The January 2013 French intervention in northern Mali has severely degraded the military capabilities of militant organizations. But as violent extremists are being subdued in one area, new hot spots of confrontation are emerging.
Given the grim prospects for resolving the crisis in Mali, North African governments will have to look South on security matters for years to come.
The geopolitical significance of the Sahara is becoming painfully clear, as unrest spills over borders and aggravates protracted regional crises.
Unifying the country will require widespread dialogue and international assistance.
French military gains in northern Mali will be fruitless unless they are included in a comprehensive strategy that addresses the root causes of the conflict.
Even with recent military successes in Mali, the West still needs to develop more robust common security and burden-sharing arrangements.
The conflict in Mali has its roots in regional struggles, particularly in Algeria, against violent Islamist groups.