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Afghanistan and Mozambique: A Tale of Two Insurgencies

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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken participates in the virtual U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue, from the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on April 7, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]

The Taliban captured Kunduz today, the first major city in Afghanistan to fall to the Pakistani-backed extremist group. The fall of Kunduz capped a tumultuous week in Afghanistan in which the Taliban continued their assaults throughout the country. The US Embassy in Kabul has figuratively pushed the panic button by urging all American citizens to leave the country and warning them not to rely on US government-organized flights.

Afghans have pushed back on the Taliban assault in key cities like Herat, but the Taliban enjoy unlimited Pakistani support while first the Trump administration and then President Joe Biden’s team opted to abandon their allies in the elected Afghan government in the thick of the fight. Even if the Taliban are not able to reconquer the country fully, they will not only spread instability throughout the region, but also serve as a safe haven and incubator for further terrorism.

Contrast that with the Islamic State insurgency in Mozambique. Like the Taliban, the Islamic State applied extreme brutality. And, as with the Taliban, military half-measures and diplomatic handwringing were insufficient to reverse the terrorist grip.

Enter Rwanda. In December 2020, Rwandan forces deployed to do what the United Nations could not and Western states would not: Repel rebels threatening the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui and prevent a massacre such as that which Rwanda suffered during the 1994 anti-Tutsi genocide. Last month, Rwandan forces deployed to Mozambique in order to help the Mozambican government push back on the insurgency in the face of international inaction. Today, word comes via the Rwandan Defense Force that “The port city of Mocímboa da Praia, a major stronghold of the insurgency for more than two years has been captured by Rwandan and Mozambican security forces. The city also holds the District Headquarters and Airport.” The capture of Mocímboa da Praia is a major victory and one that not only Mozambicans and Rwandans should celebrate but, indeed, the entire civilized world. Insurgencies do not disappear when the world ignores them; rather, they fester and expand.

Six months ago, Biden declared, “America is back.” Africans would be surprised to hear it, given how he, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ignore the continent.

The Rwandans, however, are demonstrating what leadership means. While even American generals repeat the mantra that all conflicts must have a diplomatic solution, the Rwandans (like the elected Afghan government) recognize the reality that diplomacy will not resolve the threats posed by the extremist group. If only American policymakers sheltered in Washington and behind compound walls and immune from the consequences of their decisions would learn the same lesson, the world would be a much safer place.

Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a 1945 Contributing Editor. 

Written By

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he specializes in Iran, Turkey, and the broader Middle East. He also regularly teaches classes at sea about Middle East conflicts, culture, terrorism, and the Horn of Africa to deployed US Navy and Marine units.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Slack

    August 8, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    Heh, we today would have no taliban to worry about had the US (in the past) been able to keep its hands to itself.

    During the soviet intervention in afghanistan in the 70s, US under the ‘born-again christian’ and his sidekick Zbigniew Brzezinski decided to use sunni jihadists to fight the soviets despite america’s own bloody and long history of interventions.

    Fast forward today, despite a bevy of minions serving alongside, the US couldn’t win, and now afghanistan is back to square it.

    The best thing now for US is to LEAVE THE PLACE ALONE and for once, keep your hands to YOURSELF.

  2. Commentar

    August 8, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    We, today, would have no idea of what ‘Taliban’ is, if the US had not insisted of poking its finger in every pie.

    In the 1970s, carter and his ultra hawk hawkish righthand-man Zbigniew Brzezinski decided to fight the soviets using islamic jihadists in soviet-controlled Afghanistan AND so the country soon became the playground and training ground for religious and extreme religious groups that today are so well-equipped for combat. THANKS TO AMERICA. Thanks a million.

  3. Commentar

    August 9, 2021 at 12:25 am

    Mozambique, like Haiti, is a place that Donald Trump once referred to as sh**holes, that’s why US and Europe don’t want to touch. The same with congo, nigeria, uganda…etc.

    Though Mali has been an exception due to its mineral deposits and relative proximity to north africa and europe.

    These places, or sh**holes, are nightmarish quagmires that no sane person would tread, as problems with them are terminally unsolvable. An outsider may not be able to distinguish them, but they can spot an ‘enemy’ or ‘friend’ among themselves even though to others they all look the same. That’s why UN, US, EU wouldn’t want to get involved.

  4. Slack

    August 9, 2021 at 2:08 am

    Biden says “America is back”. When has America left? The Phillipines back in the year 1942 ???

    America, whether under the dems or republicans, has always been meddling in all the jewel centers and oil deposits areas and other valuable geopolitical real estate in the world. Google ‘US has military presence in 140 countries today’ and see for yourselves how america has its grip almost everywhere.

    Thus Biden is a liar when he said america’s back.

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