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Across the Sahel and Sahara regions of West Africa, large swaths of territory are essentially ungoverned. Criminal organizations, militant Islamist groups, and ethnic separatist movements created and now enjoy these ungoverned spaces as bases of operation. The case of Mali is of particular interest due to the success of militant Islamist groups in capturing and holding territory, the impact of ungoverned space on the growth of such groups, and the means by which the international community and state checked the militants. In turn, this paper examines factors related to the creation, maintenance, and elimination of ungoverned space in the western Sahel region of Africa. Using the aforementioned case study, it will investigate how militant Islamist groups use ungoverned spaces to their advantage, the spaces’ impact on regional security, and the responses of states and international organizations to threats posed by such groups.