IW Roundup — April 5, 2021

This Week in Irregular Warfare

India supports the Afghan Peace Process; Polio workers killed in Afghanistan; TTP terrorists arrested in Pakistan; French airstrike hits wedding; The Islamic State claims responsibility in Palma attack; ASD(SO/LIC) and USSOCOM testify before SASC; and more…

Welcome to the latest installment of The Irregular Warrior’s news digest on Irregular Warfare and Special Operations. We hope you’ll find this collection to be interestingly broad in its scope, in addition to bringing you the stories most relevant to U.S. readers. To that end, we’ll be updating the format as we go in order to make this product as useful and informative as possible. Now on to the roundup:

Afghan Peace Process — India supports Afghan-Taliban talks

At the 9th Heart of Asia Conference held in Dushanbe, The Indian Minister of External Affairs asserted that India is supportive of the Afghan Peace Process, and intra-Afghan negotiations in particular. He exclaimed that the parties must engage in good faith. The minister also put forward his concerns regarding attacks on civilians in Afghanistan. The Pakistan Foreign Minister also present at the conference raised his concerns that gains made by IS and Al Qaeda could allow them to act as spoilers in the peace process. The Hindu, March 30. [India supports Afghan-Taliban talks: Jaishankar – The Hindu]

Meager representation of women in Afghan Peace process

As the Afghan Peace process proceeds, women see themselves increasingly marginalized in all sectors of society in the future. The U.S. peace plan has failed to significantly highlight the importance of gender equality and the representation of women in conflict resolution and in other fields. In the last six months representation of women in the peace process has been reduced from five women to just one. The space for women‘s participation in politics and other sectors is increasingly becoming narrow and may be completely erased if the Taliban get a significant share in a future Afghan government. Foreign Policy, March 30. [Women Cut Out of the Afghan Peace Process (foreignpolicy.com)]

Female polio workers killed in Afghanistan

After an attack in female journalists in the initial days of March, the month ends with an attack on three female polio workers in Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan. Officials have accused Taliban for the attacks however they have denied the claims. Taliban and other orthodox people are against the vaccinations, calling them part of a western conspiracy. However, the Islamic State (IS), who have also killed polio vaccine workers, is active in the province. Dawn, March 30. [Three women polio workers shot dead in Afghanistan – World – DAWN.COM]

Six TTP terrorists arrested in Pakistan

Six terrorists belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have been arrested by Pakistan’s security agencies. The terrorists were plotting attacks in two main cities, Lahore and Rawalpindi mainly targeting army personnel. The terrorists revealed during investigation that they have been working for masterminds based in Afghanistan. The Hindu, April 1. [Pakistan arrests six terrorists for plotting attacks against army – The Hindu]

Attack in Palma, Mozambique — Responsibility claimed by ISIS

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility of an attack killing dozens of people including a few foreigners in Palma, located in the northern part of Mozambique. The town is in close proximity to the oil rich area where an energy project has been set up by International companies. The attack was carried out by IS’s local affiliate, Islamic State in Central Africa Province. Many analysts claim that the worsening security situation of Mozambique has deep links with the grievances of locals, who out of frustration are joining militant groups. New York Times, March 30. [ISIS Claims Responsibility for Mozambique Attack – The New York Times (nytimes.com)]

The attack in Palma has brought this relatively new extremist group to the fore. The U.S. government, journalists, and most terrorist analysts are rushing to catch up on understanding this group, its relationship to IS, its operations, and its role in the region. Even the name of the group appears to be in flux, including al Shabab, Al-Sunna wa Jama’a, Islamic State in Central Africa Province, Ansar al-Sunna, and others. The most likely scenario appears at this point to be that a local insurgency has be seized upon by the Islamic State as an opportunity for growth and “diversification of its portfolio.” The deal would work well for both in that IS expands its reach and prestige at little cost, while Ansar al-Sunna likely receives training and some material support.

French airstrikes killed civilians instead of militants

France conducted airstrikes on January 3, claimed to be targeting militants near Bounti in the Mopti region of Mali. The French military asserted that the airstrikes targeted 30 men and all were militants. The Malian government seconded the statement. However local groups disagreed, claiming that the attack was conducted on civilians gathered for a wedding ceremony. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) also confirmed that the airstrikes attacked around 100 civilians out of which only 3 men were suspected to be members of a militant group. The Washington Post, March 30. [French airstrike in Mali killed 19 civilians, UN investigation finds – The Washington Post]

ASD(SO/LIC) and Commander, USSOCOM testify before Senate Armed Services Committee

Christopher P. Maier, the Acting Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Special Operations And Low-Intensity Conflict (ASD(SO/LIC)) and General Richard D. Clarke, the Commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) provided testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 25th, along with the Commander of U.S. Cyber Command, General Paul M. Nakasone. Too much was said to adequately summarize here, but you can read ASD(SO/LIC)’s Statement for the Record here and the USSOCOM Commander’s Statement for the Record here.

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