IW Roundup — March 22, 2021

This Week in Irregular Warfare

Withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan; Al Shabab and U.S. Special Forces in Mozambique; Attacks in Mali, Niger; and more…

Welcome to the fourth 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:


Withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan unlikely to meet agreed deadline

President Joe Biden said that it will be “tough” to meet the May 1st deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, as negotiated by the Trump administration.  He explained that the negotiations by his predecessor were not effective and that now he is in position to make decisions regarding when the troops should leave the Afghan soil. This indicated that the new President might prolong the presence of troops in Afghanistan, although Biden says it would not be “a lot longer.” The New York Times, March 17. [Biden Says Withdrawing U.S. Forces From Afghanistan by May Deadline Is ‘Tough’ – The New York Times (nytimes.com)]

Non-Compliance with troop withdrawal deadline will lead to “a reaction”—Taliban

As a response to the statement of President Biden relating to a possible delay in withdrawal of U.S. forces beyond the May 1st deadline, Taliban have issued a warning. At a press conference in Moscow, the Taliban negotiating team asserted that Washington must hold their part of the deal and leave on the agreed deadline. It was also conveyed that non-compliance with the deal will have repercussions. However, the nature of “the reaction” was not discussed. The negotiating team also emphasized on their demand of installation of Islamic government in the country. Dawn, March 20. [Taliban warn US against delaying troop pullout beyond deadline – Newspaper – DAWN.COM]

The Taliban’s threatened retaliation if the U.S. stays past the May 1st deadline should come as no surprise. The withdrawal of U.S. forces on this timeline would create an opening for the Taliban to freely attack the government just as the “fighting season” opens. Without direct and substantial support, the Afghan government forces may well collapse under the sudden strain. By way of comparison, last year there were four times the current number of US forces in Afghanistan.

Young children beheaded by terrorist group in Mozambique

Brutal activities and atrocities gain momentum in Mozambique as the world is distracted by COVID-19. The local insurgent group, Al Shabab, beheaded numerous children in the province of Cabo Delgado, some as young as 11 years old. Although the group has same name as the group operating in Somalia, no direct links have been found between them. However, the groups use techniques similar to those used by in the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The Mozambican Al Shabab has reportedly received foreign fighters from the Islamic State (IS), and has recently been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organization by Biden Administration.  The Washington Post, March 16. [Cabo Delgado: Children as young as 11 beheaded by Mozambique militants, U.K. aid group says – The Washington Post]

US soldiers help Mozambican troops fight Islamic State

United States Special Forces have started training Mozambique’s troops in order to curtail insurgent elements. Over the course of two months, a dozen Green Berets have to train Mozambican marines in counterinsurgency tactics. Some of the insurgents are reported to be from Tanzania but most are Mozambican nationals who have joined due to extreme poverty and systemic corruption. The New York Times, March 15 [American Soldiers Help Mozambique Battle an Expanding ISIS Affiliate – The New York Times (nytimes.com)]

Atlanta shootings mark rapid increase in Anti-Asian hate crimes

Anti-Asian hate crimes have risen exponentially in West, especially during the tenure of the Trump administration as violent voices perceived support from the White House. Adding to the list of violence against Asians, a shooting spree in  Atlanta took life of 8 people among which 6 were Asian women. According to some, the virus has come as an opportunity to turn micro-aggressions that existed previously into full-fledged violence.  The Washington Post, March 18. [A new focus on Asian communities in the West as Atlanta shootings continue year of heightened anti-Asian violence – The Washington Post]

Time has yet to tell wither the Biden Administration’s more empathetic tone and regular appeals to rationality will have a noticeable effect in reversing the racism that emerged under former President Trump.

Attack on military post in Mali killed 33 soldiers

A military post was attacked in Mali, at Tessit, near the border with Burkina Faso and Niger. The attack took lives of 33 soldiers, with 14 wounded. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. Nevertheless, evidence exists that IS and Al Qaeda fighters have been active in the area recently. The conflict started as a separatist movement in the northern part of the country. However, many armed groups seized upon the opportunity and joined in. The conflict has had a domino effect as it has spread to Burkina Faso and Niger, contributing to greater regional instability. Al Jazeera, March 17. [Attackers on trucks and motorbikes raid Mali base, kill 33 troops | Armed Groups News | Al Jazeera]

Attack on civilians in Niger — 58 killed

A group of civilians have been attacked in the villages situated in Tillaberi region of Niger. Gunmen on motorcycles launched the attack as people were returning from market day and claimed lives of 58 civilians. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the region is known to have an Islamic State presence. As the situation of the country deteriorates, it adds to the challenges faced by newly elected President Mohamed Bazoum.  The Guardian, March 16. [Motorcycle gunmen kill at least 58 civilians on market day in Niger | Niger | The Guardian]

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