When asked about the Danab Brigade by Vice News, a major-general within the United States Africom Command structure quipped: “This is a Somali problem and an issue Danab Brigade and Somali’s must face. We trained them and they are very capable. Counterterrorism is very difficult. The use of propaganda is real. The fact that the al Shabaab terrorist group is claiming victory is not true.”
The context of this submission is especially important if it is to be located within the broader context of “booming” headlines by local media in the country and social media after the announcement that a motley number of US Special Forces shall be deployed to Mozambique to train the Mozambican Army counter violent extremist entities, primarily one designated as al Shabaab affiliate by the US in recent days. Donald Trump, the recently defeated and still in shock former US President, had ordered US troops to leave Somalia saying “these long wars were unwinnable”.
Before this remark, talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, another entity identified to be a terrorist entity, had begun to run hither and thither in many areas with “no direction”.
There is speculation that US President Joe Biden might extend the presence of the US army by another six months, in direct opposition to the agreement reached between the militants and the foreign power.
US Special Forces-trained members of the Iraq army were obliterated by IS and lost equipment and related war memorabilia which materials were later used to wage anarchy, attack the Yazidi’s, among other gory deeds undertaken by the Violent Extremist Entity.
US troop presence in Africa is not a new phenomenon. They have got a presence in Djibouti and Kenya, not to mention that 2017 ambush in Niger that exposed the “face behind the mask” when it comes to US Special forces presence in Africa.
Mohamed Farah Aideed humiliated US troops back in the day in Mogadishu. Remember the theme of the movie, Black Hawk Down. The US started hunting for Osama bin Laden and after twin terror attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, escalated cooperation with African states. The 9/11 attacks saw the intensified application of the Bush Doctrine, while Jihad 3.0 era defined by extremism from IS resulted in the migration into Africa of some of these most violent terrorist organisations.
Having the Danab Brigade being trained by the US Special Forces in Somalia is at par with what we are going to be witnessing in Mozambique. The facts are clear, the outcome is the same and the objective remains the same. US interests in Cabo Delgado are under siege.
No African, specifically Sadc, member state has attempted to grandstand at the mercy of US promises to indulge itself in a definite “long war” in Mozambique. It’s not worth it.
Suggestions that “Sadc is not doing anything” are driven by emotions and not by reality of counter-terrorism. Precedence is good. They started a fire in Somalia and now they are leaving the Somalis to extinguish that fire. Senior US Special Forces generals are even saying it’s a Somali issue.
Other countries that attempted to twerk to US grandiose bellicose rhetoric have suffered the brunt of these terrorists. Kenya is a good case in point. The military centric approach to counterterrorism always pursued by the US has been a confirmed legendary failure, militarily and politically, even since the days of General Westmoreland in Vietnam.
Screaming headlines were written about US Special troops presence in Mozambique. The interests are commercial. They have to be protected. At least US$51 billion is to be accrued by US companies and friendly states from exploitation of resources in Cabo Delgado. A lot is at stake. This got nothing to do with Sadc in the short term but everything to do with the body in the mid-to-long term. US troops’ presence always leads to an escalating presence of weapons of war within the affected region. The sequence is clear.
Failed states and wars erupt whilst organised crime syndicates set in. Sadc member states must holistically come up with new models of counterterrorism that target socio-economic factors leading to escalation. There is no need to believe that the US foreign policy represents a template for counterterrorism that must be adopted by all and sundry.
The war on terror is a genuine risk that needs a hands-on-the-desk approach. These fourth generation wars are indiscriminate and not winnable through the use of force alone. The Danab Brigade in Somalia will achieve the same result as those that are going to be achieved by the about-to-be-conceived Mozambican initiative.
Sapien is a trade and security analyst