The Southern African Development Community’s (SADC’s) counter-terrorism operations in Mozambique have been quite effective and are a good example of an African solution to an African problem, the US military’s Africa Command (Africom) believes.
This is according to General Stephen J Townsend, Commander of Africom, who made the remarks during a digital press briefing earlier this year.
Townsend said he was concerned about the expansion of terrorism across Africa, in terms of both geographical reach and influence. In southern Africa, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is moving into Mozambique, with the potential to spread into Tanzania and further south into Mozambique.
“This is an expansion of ISIS in Africa, specifically ISIS in Central Africa,” he said. “They have expanded into this region…of northern Mozambique, Cabo Delgado. This region is important to Mozambique not only because it’s part of the country, but because it is the site of one of the largest energy deposits in Africa, if not in the world. And there is a consortium of international energy companies there trying to productively extract the energy resource, and it stood to benefit…the government and the people of Mozambique to a tremendous degree. It’s a life-changing resource for the people of Mozambique. And now all of that is at risk because of the rise of ISIS-Mozambique.”
Townsend said the United States’ response has firstly been to make a note of the expansion. “We have provided deployments, small deployments to train counterterrorism forces with Mozambique. But more importantly, other partners have stepped up. First to step up were European partners like Portugal and now the European Union. Portugal established a training mission there that has now transformed into a European training mission. I visited that training mission a few months ago, and they are on the ground and they are training Mozambican security forces at this training academy.
“And probably more dramatically, we have seen an African organization led by the SADC, Southern African Development Corporation: SADC has deployed forces from all the neighbours of Mozambique, and including Rwanda, have deployed to Mozambique. And they have very effectively pushed ISIS-Mozambique out of the populated areas of Cabo Delgado and back out into the jungle, into the remote areas. They’re still there, but SADC’s operations have been quite effective and this is exactly the kind of solutions that the United States likes to see: solutions led by African partners, buttressed by other international partners, and supported by the United States where we can lend a hand.”
The United States on 31 January launched a third Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) programme with Mozambique, in which the US Army is partnering with the Mozambican military to hone special operations skills.
The JCET programme provides foreign military and US special operations forces an opportunity to exchange knowledge and best practices, the US Embassy said. In addition to military training, the two-month US Department of Defence (DoD) JCET exercise will focus on the law of armed conflict, human rights, and medical training.
“As a strategic partner, the United States is committed to ensuring our military-to-military engagements continue during such an important moment for Mozambique’s national security,” said US Ambassador to Mozambique Dennis W Hearne at the launch of the JCET programme. “Military exchanges like these are important for the security and prosperity of Mozambique and the region.”
This is the third JCET exercise in Mozambique since March 2021, a show of a sustained increase in US-Mozambican security cooperation. In November 2021, Africa Command Commander General Stephen J Townsend visited Maputo, one month after Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) made a scheduled port visit.
The DoD also provided tactical combat casualty care and combat lifesaver training courses for the Mozambican armed forces in 2021, which will continue in 2022. Mozambique participated in the second multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express in January 2022 and continues its long-standing participation in the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme.