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.