Taliban Challenged by Uptick of Islamic State–Khorasan Province Attacks

Taliban Humvee in Kabul

“The Taliban government has said that it has defeated the Daesh group and will not allow the terrorist organization to use the territory of Afghanistan to pose any threat to other countries… At the same time, the spokesperson of the US Department of State said that the Taliban should remain committed to the fight against terrorism.”

Despite counterterrorism efforts by the Taliban, the Islamic State–Khorasan Province (IS-KP) has been responsible for a series of attacks in Afghanistan since the new year. According to the first excerpted article from Pashto-language public service news Radio Azadi, the Taliban previously stated it had defeated IS-KP; however, recent activity by the group indicates otherwise. Since its inception in 2014, IS-KP has conducted bombing and suicide attacks against both civilian and government targets, mainly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, resulting in an estimated 309 fatalities in 2021.[i] In January 2024, IS-KP claimed responsibility for detonating an improvised explosive device in Kabul, killing two civilians and wounding 14 more. This was the second IS-KP bombing in Afghanistan in less than a week.[ii] These attacks followed the highly publicized IS-KP–-claimed attack in Kerman, Iran, on 4 January, which killed as many as 84 people and injured scores more. Iran called it the single deadliest attack in the country since 1979.

Recent reporting suggests Afghanistan is once again being used as a terrorist training ground—this time by IS-KP rather than al-Qaeda. According to the second excerpted article from the Saudi news source Independent, two IS-KP suicide bombers were arrested in Pakistan and accused of planning to bomb the leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and National Awami political parties.[iii] The captured bombers admitted to receiving training in the Paktia province in Afghanistan, a remote area that shares a border with Pakistan. The article further notes that counterterrorism talks continue between Pakistan and Afghanistan, intended to decrease tension resulting from disagreements on how to handle Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders currently residing in Afghanistan. Although weakened, IS-KP appears able to continue to stage attacks in Afghanistan and the region at large. The Taliban is situated in a delicate position in the region, with any potential missteps in its counterterrorism strategy leading to an IS-KP resurgence. Internal disputes in the Taliban government have led to some Tajik Taliban members in the northern part of Afghanistan being investigated for links to IS-KP. Additionally, the Taliban does not appear to have any intention to reconcile with communities formerly linked with IS-KP, which could be a source of additional recruits for the organization. Finally, there is an ongoing concern among TTP leadership about members potentially defecting to IS-KP should the group’s jihad in Pakistan end.[iv]


 “کابل کې د ۲۰۲۴ کال لومړۍ چاودنه او د ملکیانو مرګ ژوبله (The first explosion of 2024 in Kabul and civilian casualties),” Radio Azadi (Radio Free Europe Affiliate), Accessed 13 January 2024. https://pa.azadiradio.com/a/32763886.html

At least two civilians were killed, and 14 others were injured in the first explosion of 2024 in Afghanistan, which took place in Dasht Barchi, a Shia-populated area west of Kabul. Khaled Zadran, the spokesman of the Taliban government’s Kabul police headquarters, said in a statement late yesterday that a caster-type vehicle was targeted in the blast. He announced the beginning of the investigation regarding this incident, for which no one has accepted responsibility. Before this, the Khorasan province branch of the Islamic State group or Daesh has accepted responsibility for some deadly attacks in the west of Kabul.

In the month of November, there was an explosion in Dasht Barchi that killed at least 7 people, and the responsibility was taken by Daesh, the Khorasan branch of the Islamic State group. According to the report of Agence France-Presse, although the level of insecurity has greatly increased after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, some armed groups, such as the Khorasan branch of the Islamic State group, or Daesh, are still considered a serious threat. The Daesh group also claimed responsibility for the killing of Dawood Muzamal, the Taliban governor for Balkh, last year. He was killed in a bomb attack in his office.

The Taliban government has said that it has defeated the Daesh group and will not allow the terrorist group to use the territory of Afghanistan to pose any threat to other countries. According to the report of the French news agency, the Acting Minister of Defense of the Taliban, Mohammad Yaqub Mujahid, last week announced a 90 percent decrease in the attacks of the Daesh group during the last year in Kabul. This is while the intelligence of the United States of America has said that the Daesh group in Afghanistan is involved in the bombings of the city of Kerman, Iran, last Wednesday. Two well-informed sources told the Reuters news agency last Friday that the communication information collected by the US proves that this attack, which killed nearly 100 people, was carried out by two attackers from the Khorasan province branch of the Islamic State group or Daesh… Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has denied this report while talking to the media. He said that ISIS has no capacity or presence in Afghanistan to plan any attack in Iran. At the same time, the spokesperson of the US Department of State said that the Taliban should remain committed to the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan…

Last Wednesday, January 3rd, explosions took place in Kerman city of Iran during the ceremony of Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of IRGC Quds Force. Iran has called it the deadliest attack in the country since 1979. A day after the incident, the Islamic State or Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday and said that two of its members planted explosives on their bodies. The group did not say that this was done by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State group or Daesh…

“بازداشت دو مهاجم انتحاری داعش «آموزش‌دیده در افغانستان» در پاکستان (Two ISIS suicide bombers ‘trained in Afghanistan’ were arrested in Pakistan),” Independent Persian (Persian language Saudi Research and Marketing Group Agency media outlet), 13 January 2024. https://www.independentpersian.com/node/382361/

Pakistan’s Counter-Terrorism Department said on Friday, January 12, that two suicide bombers belonging to the Khorasan branch of the Islamic State (ISIS), who planned to attack Maulana Fazl-ul-Rehman, the leader of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Party, and Amil Wali Khan, the leader of the National Awami Party of that country, have been arrested. According to the Express Tribune, Najmul Hasnain Liaqat, one of the senior officials of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism department, said in a press conference in Peshawar that the two suicide bombers were arrested in Peshawar and two suicide vests, three hand grenades, and some explosives were recovered from them.

The official of the Anti-Terrorism Department said that the explosives of these suicide attackers have been neutralized, and they have confessed to planning suicide attacks against Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman and Emil Wali Khan in the initial investigations.He said that these two ISIS suicide bombers were trained in Paktia province in Afghanistan and then went to Pakistan. Pakistan’s counter-terrorism department has not provided a document about the suicide training of these two ISIS members in Afghanistan. Taliban officials have not commented on this matter so far. But the Taliban deny training terrorists, including ISIS, in Afghanistan.

The Taliban call their suicide bombers “martyrs”. These forces have been trained in the training centers of the Taliban in such a way that they are ready to kill themselves to achieve the “dream of reaching heaven”. Among these suicide forces, there are a large number of young people who are waiting in line for a suicide attack and blowing themselves up on the way to the Taliban’s targets… Recently, ISIS has launched explosive and suicide attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman traveled to Afghanistan on Sunday, and met with Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Hasan Akhund, the prime minister of the Taliban, Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the political deputy of the prime minister of the Taliban, Amir Khan Motaghi, the foreign minister of the Taliban, Mullah Yaqub, the minister of defense of the Taliban, and other officials. Jamiat Ulema Pakistan has claimed that Mullah Yaqoob told Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman that the Taliban do not distinguish between themselves and Pakistan, and Mullah Yaqoob has expressed hope that the tension between the Taliban and Pakistan will decrease…The tension between the government of Pakistan and the Taliban regime has been formed in connection with how to deal with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The government of Pakistan wants the Taliban to hand over the leaders of the TTP inside the territory of Afghanistan and not to allow this group to use the territory of that country to attack. But on the other hand, Taliban reject the presence of foreign terrorists like TTP in Afghanistan. Senior Taliban officials have repeatedly said that TTP is Pakistan’s internal problem and that country must deal with it. Following the domination of the Taliban over Afghanistan, the number of explosive and terrorist attacks in Pakistan has increased. TTP and its allied groups are responsible for most of these attacks. ISIS is also trying to increase attacks in Pakistan. America has described the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan as a serious threat to the region and the world.


[i] For additional information on IS-K’s history, ideology, tactics, and a summarized threat assessment, visit: Catrina Doxsee, and Jared Thompson. “Examining Extremism: Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP),” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 8 September 2021. https://www.csis.org/blogs/examining-extremism/examining-extremism-islamic-state-khorasan-province-iskp

[ii] See: “داعش مسئولیت دومین انفجار مرگبار در کابل را هم بر عهده گرفت (ISIS also claimed responsibility for the second deadly explosion in Kabul),” Radio Farda, 9 January 2024. https://www.radiofarda.com/a/kabul-isis/32768439.html

[iii] Pakistan’s parliamentary election is scheduled for 8 February 2024. A detailed list of political parties and their political affiliations published by the UK Government can be found here: “Country Policy and Information Note Pakistan: Political Parties and Affiliation,” Home Office UK Government, May 2023. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/645cb936ad8a03000c38b295/PAK_CPIN_Political_parties_and_affiliation.pdf

[iv] The ICCT published a recent analysis on the potential resurgence of IS-KP and the Taliban’s counterterrorism efforts at: Antonio Giustozzi. “The Islamic State in Khorasan between Taliban counter-terrorism and resurgence prospects,” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, January 30, 2024. https://www.icct.nl/publication/islamic-state-khorasan-between-taliban-counter-terrorism-and-resurgence-prospects

Image Information:

Image: Taliban Humvee in Kabul
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Taliban_Humvee_in_Kabul,_August_2021_(cropped).png
Attribution: Public Domain

Malian Coup Leader Faces Challenges Reconquering Kidal

MINUSMA Goundam 2015

“I am sending planes to bomb their positions and the army will return to Kidal….”

Over the past half-decade, Malian insurgents, and especially the al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for Supporters of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), have expanded their influence across northern Mali and have begun to control key towns in that region, such as the primarily Tuareg-inhabited Kidal. However, according to the excerpted article from the French-language publication togotimes.com, interim president of Mali, Assimi Goïta, has vowed to reconquer Kidal. While the Malian Army may be more powerful than JNIM, the reconquest and government rule of Kidal raises questions about heavy-handed tactics the Malian Army will employ and whether the Army will cooperate with Russia’s Wagner Group,[i] which has aided it in counterterrorism for the past year.[ii]

At the same time, Goïta is rejecting any negotiations with the Coalition of the Movement of Azawad (CMA), [iii] which seeks autonomy for Tuareg regions of northern Mali. Unlike JNIM, which is explicitly jihadist and unwilling to compromise with the state, the CMA accepts Mali’s legitimacy as a nation-state. In his speech, Goïta stated he would send the Army to liberate any area of the country that disassociates from being “Malian,” which hinted at little room for accommodation of the “Tuareg” CMA. Goïta’s threats to send warplanes to bomb Kidal alongside his partnership with Wagner suggest that an excessively harsh military operation may be underway and that it could alienate civilians in northern Mali from government rule and ultimately favor recruitment into JNIM or the CMA.

Less than two weeks after Goïta’s speech, discussed in the excerpted article in French-language media agenceecofin.com, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) withdrew from its base in Aguelhok, Kidal region following demands from Goïta and other Malian coup leaders.[iv] However, Goïta condemned MINUSMA for its accelerated exit from Aguelhok due to intensified combat with JNIM and not transferring the base or weapons to the Malian Army. Rather, MINUSMA destroyed them so they would not fall into the hands of JNIM, which ultimately took over the Aguelhok base for a short period of time.[v] The rapid MINUSMA withdrawal and JNIM advances in its aftermath will make Goïta’s realization of his promise to reconquer and hold Kidal more difficult, even as his political credibility rests on it. On top of this, cooperation with Wagner could result in the alienation of northern Malian civilians from the government. Further, the chasm between Goïta and the CMA make any political resolution in northern Mali less likely as well.


“Ce message important d’Assimi Goïta au CMA, le JNIM et leurs llies (This important message from Assimi Goïta to the CMA, JNIM and their allies),” togotimes.com (French-language publication edited in Togo that provides commentary on current affairs in Francophone African countries), 10 October 2023. https://togotimes.info/2023/10/10/mali-ce-message-important-dassimi-goita-au-cma-le-jnim-et-leurs-allies/#google_vignette

The reconquering of Malian territory will not be a subject to discussion. Regarding this point, the latest transitional president Assimi Goïta is categorical. There is no question of him accepting a compromise with anyone. He refused the elders of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, who were sent by the CMA, JNIM, and their allies to negotiate. 

“We must dissolve any entity from one state or another and dissociate ourselves from any movement. You have to accept being Malian…. I am sending planes to bomb their positions and the army will return to Kidal before the 30th and if MINUSMA gets involved, the Malian people will decide their fate.”

“Bamako accuse la Minusma d’avoir précipité son retrait du camp d’Aguelhok sans le rétrocéder (Bamako accuses MINUSMA of expediting its withdrawal from the Aguelhok camp without handing it over),” agenceecofin.com (French-language publication based in Geneva, Switzerland and Yaounde, Cameroon that focuses on African economic affairs), 26 October 2023. https://www.agenceecofin.com/securite/2610-113102-mali-bamako-accuse-la-minusma-d-avoir-precipite-son-retrait-du-camp-daguelhok-sans-le-retroceder

The Malian army condemned in a press release released on Tuesday afternoon, October 24, the withdrawal of MINUSMA from the Aguelhok camp without handing it over. According to the FAMA, this rapid departure aided the introduction of “terrorists to destroy several installations,” the message added. The areas abandoned by MINUSMA have, for several months, been at the center of violent clashes between the FAMA and armed rebel groups in the north of the country…. But faced with intensifying fighting, the UN mission decided to accelerate its exit from the area, and condemned in the process the destruction of some of its equipment in attacks.


[i] For additional details on Russia’s deepening engagement with Mali and neighboring Sahelian states, see Jason Warner, “Russia-Supported Military Rulers in Mali, Burkina, and Guinea Continue To Deepen Ties,” OE Watch, 04-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/russia-supported-military-rulers-in-mali-burkina-faso-and-guinea-continue-to-deepen-ties/

[ii] Human Rights Watch, for example, found that “Malian armed forces and foreign fighters apparently from the Russia-linked Wagner Group have summarily executed and forcibly disappeared several dozen civilians in Mali’s central region since December 2022…. They also destroyed and looted civilian property and allegedly tortured detainees in an army camp. See Human Rights Watch, “Mali: New Atrocities by Malian Army, Apparent Wagner Fighters,” July 24, 2023, https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/07/24/mali-new-atrocities-malian-army-apparent-wagner-fighters

[iii] The CMA is signed the Algiers Peace Accords in June 2015, which sought “to restore peace in Mali principally through a process of decentralisation or regionalisation, reconstituting a national army from the members of the former armed groups that were signatories, and boosting the economy (particularly in the north), based on dialogue, justice and national reconciliation.” The coalition is composed of the Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), the Haut Conseil pour l’Unité de l’Azawad (HCUA), and part of the Mouvement Arabe de l’Azawad (MAA-CMA), which were all formerly pro-independence movements in northern Mali. However, the CMA has remained an umbrella organization for northern Mali Tuareg militias. See International Crisis Group, “Mali’s Algiers Peace Agreement, Five Years On: An Uneasy Calm,” June 24, 2020. https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/sahel/mali/laccord-dalger-cinq-ans-apres-un-calme-precaire-dont-il-ne-faut-pas-se-satisfaire

[iv] The latest era of pervasive instability in Mali began in 2012, when the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) led an attack on Aguelhok and subsequently other northern Malian towns. Several weeks later, in March 2012, one of the future JNIM coalition components, Ansar al-Din, released a video of its fighters massacring dozens of Malian soldiers at the Aguelhok base. After this, Ansar al-Din and other al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) allies took control over most of northern Mali. This led to the military overthrow of the civilian government in Bamako and later, in early 2013, the French-led military intervention in northern Mali. The intervention expelled Ansar al-Din, AQIM, and their allies – at least temporarily – from the territories they held in northern Mali, including Aguelhok. See: Alexander Thurston and Andrew Lebovich, “A Handbook on Mali’s 2012-2013 Crisis,” Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA), Working Paper No. 13-001, 2 September 2013. https://sahelresearch.africa.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/170/ISITA-13-001-Thurston-Lebovich.pdf

[v] France24 journalist Wassim Nasr posted on X (formerly Twitter) the claim by JNIM of an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a MINUSMA convoy as it was departing the Aguelhok base. According to JNIM “all of the occupants” of one vehicle were killed. This claim reflected how JNIM was prepared to immediately frustrate and take advantage of the MINUSMA withdrawal to seize the base and pilfer items from it before the Malian armed forces could arrive. Wassim Nasr, “#Mali #JNIM #AQMI revendique un IED contre un convoi @UN_MINUSMA à #Aguelhok « le 23.10 un véhicule détruit […] tous les occupants tués » // « le 24.10 un IED contre un blindé FAMa & #Wagner entre #Hombori et #Gossi […] tous les passagers tués »,” X (formerly Twitter), 25 October 2023. https://twitter.com/SimNasr/status/1717211647608021370

Image Information:

Image: MINUSMA Goundam 2015
Source: Attribution: MINUSMA
Attribution: CC x 2.0

South Africa Spotlighted for Links to Funding Islamic State in Africa

Flag of the Islamic State.

Flag of the Islamic State.

The impression created by recent events is that Washington rather than Pretoria is steering counter-terrorism operations in South Africa.”

South African reactions to the newest round of U.S. counterterrorism sanctions on its citizens underscore systemic policing challenges in the field of counterterrorism. In November 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned four South Africans and eight South African businesses for offering material support to the Islamic State (IS),[i] namely, its newest branches in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.[ii] This follows similar sanctions of four South Africans, also listed for supporting the IS, in March 2022.[iii] Commentaries from two noted South African geopolitical commentators shed light on how South Africans understand the degree of threat that the IS poses to their country and just why it has become a target for U.S. sanctions.

In the first of the two excerpted articles from the noted centrist pan-African think tank The Institute for Security Studies, South African foreign policy analyst Peter Fabricius questions whether the threat of IS in South Africa is overblown. On the one hand, since the warnings of IS within South Africa are coming from external entities—namely the United States—some citizens perceive the threat as minimal and sanctions as simply being an extension of Western “obsession” with terrorism. On the other, he notes that there may well be an air of legitimacy to such sanctions, given that assessments by international monitoring entities have underscored South Africa’s lackluster counterthreat finance efforts.

In the excerpted article from The Conversation Africa, noted South Africa terrorism scholar Hussein Solomon articulates his lack of surprise that South Africa has emerged as a relative hotspot for terrorism threat financing. At the source of its institutional insufficiency in counterthreat financing, Solomon notes South African “corruption, general lawlessness, and a security apparatus focused on party factional battles.” Long regarded as a bastion of security in a continent recently beset by terrorism, cracks are beginning to show in South Africa as well.


Peter Fabricius, “Are red flags about the Islamic State in South Africa alarmist?” Institute for Security Studies (centrist pan-African think tank), 11 November 2022.


Alarm bells about the threat of terrorism in South Africa have recently been sounding more stridently and more often. Are these false alarms or is the danger growing?

This question is complicated by the fact that the warnings are largely from foreigners, especially the United States (US). To many, this indicates alarmism or even outside interference. To others, panic buttons are being pressed because South Africa’s law enforcement, intelligence and prosecution services aren’t doing their jobs well enough.

South Africa’s failure to deal effectively with IS and terrorist financing has a host of causes. These include problems in the intelligence, detection and prosecution services still recovering from the ravages of state capture during Jacob Zuma’s presidency…These issues are aggravated by political factors such as an ideological disposition to underestimate the terror threat and see it as an obsession of the West….

The impression created by recent events is that Washington rather than Pretoria is steering counter-terrorism operations in South Africa. That obviously can’t be good.

Hussein Solomon, “South Africa Provides Fertile Ground for Funders of Terrorism. Here’s Why,” The Conversation Africa (centrist pan-African editorial site), 10 November 2022. https://theconversation.com/south-africa-provides-fertile-ground-for-funders-of-terrorism-heres-why-194282

There is a long history of concerns about [South Africa’s] deficiencies in dealing with terrorism financing activities within its borders…

The latest US action comes as South Africa is rushing to avert “greylisting”: being placed on the list of countries subject to increased monitoring by the Financial Action Task Force. The inter-governmental task force has identified deficiencies in the country’s policies and efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism financing…

In its last evaluation, published in October 2021, the task force said South Africa had a strong legal framework against money laundering and terrorism financing. But its implementation had significant shortcomings, including a failure to prosecute criminal cases….

Since 2007, the South African government has not done much to ensure that the country does not become a terrorist haven. Corruption, general lawlessness, and a security apparatus focused on party factional battles all account for why terrorist financiers thrive in the country.


[i] For the official statement from the November 2022 sanctions, see: “Treasury Designates Members of ISIS Cell in South Africa,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, 7 November 2022.https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0616

[ii] For an extensive overview of the emergence and evolution of the Islamic State in Africa, see: Jason Warner et al., The Islamic State in Africa: Emergence, Evolution, and Future of the Next Jihadist Battlefront, (Hurst/Oxford University Press), 2022.

[iii] For the official statement from the November 2022 sanctions, see: “Treasury Sanctions South Africa-based ISIS Organizers and Financial Facilitators,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1 March 2022.  https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0616

Image Information:

Image: Flag of the Islamic State. 
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/14690988398 
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Benin Park Rangers Take on Counterterrorism Tasks

“In Benin, there is a lot of communication between us [park rangers] and the Beninese armed forces, but our roles are very distinct.”  

The French-language Beninese investigative media website daabaaru.bj published an article discussing an attack that left two Beninese police officers and two militants dead along Benin’s northern border with Burkina Faso.  A separate excerpted article in the Paris-based pan-African website jeuneafrique.com discussed the incident in the context of Pendjari Park rangers, who work in the area.  Although no one has taken credit for the attack, it occurred in the area of operations of the al-Qaeda–affiliated Group for Support of Muslims and Islam (JNIM).  According to the jeuneafrique.com article, the rangers acknowledge that they now coordinate with security forces to monitor jihadists’ infiltration into bases in the national park.  Current protocol for the park rangers when confronting jihadists is to contact the Beninese military and withdraw to allow the soldiers to intervene.  The article suggests that if the rangers are to be trained by a third party, the contractors should be former soldiers because they already have some relevant skills for both conservation and encountering terrorist groups.  In addition, although the park rangers acknowledge that several of them have lost their lives to jihadists in the Sahel in recent years, they are determined to continue working.  The rangers also note that they are not capable of developing a strategy to prevent terrorism, but it is necessary for the governments in the Sahel to formulate a more comprehensive strategy for how park rangers should deal with not only poachers, but now also jihadists.


“Quatre morts dans une Attaque terroriste (Four dead in a terrorist attack),” daabaaru.bj (French-language Beninese website), 26 June 2022. https://daabaaru.bj/atacora-quatre-morts-dans-une-attaque-terroriste/

The Commissariat of Dassari, commune of Matéri, department of Atacora was attacked by an armed group on the night of Saturday June 25 to Sunday June 26, 2022. The result was four dead, including two on the Beninese side and significant material damages.

Source: “African Parks: ‘Au Bénin, face aux jihadistes, nous ne définissons pas la stratégie militaire’ (African Parks: ‘In Benin, faced with the jihadists, we do not define the military strategy’),” jeuneafrique.com (Paris-based pan-African website), 25 June 2022. https://www.jeuneafrique.com/1355173/politique/african-parks-au-benin-face-aux-jihadistes-nous-ne-definissons-pas-la-strategie-militaire/

The rangers are armed according to the park where they work for the needs of the missions entrusted to them.  Their training, on the other hand, is relatively standard: it includes modules on respect for human rights, on escalation during an engagement, on how to deal with different risks and on how to behave when arriving at a crime scene.We use external trainers, who work under the direction of our head instructor.  The outside supporters are often former soldiers, some of whom also have real expertise in the field of conservation.  Our role is not to carry out national security missions, but to preserve the integrity of the areas entrusted to us.  Our rangers are trained to fight against poaching, but are effectively confronted with all kinds of threats, including jihadists.  In Benin, there is a lot of communication between us and the Beninese armed forces, but our roles are very distinct.  And when it is established that jihadists are involved, we withdraw immediately and let the military intervene.

Boko Haram Train Attack Raises Frustration with Nigeria’s Counterterrorism Strategy

81 Division NA - Camp Zairo, 2017.

81 Division NA – Camp Zairo, 2017.

“We failed to learn from our Boko Haram experiences, thus validating the dictum that those who fail to learn from their experiences are doomed to repeat them.”

The Nigerian government has been unable to curb Boko Haram attacks.  The excerpted article from Nigeria based vanguardngr.com expresses frustration over the government’s incompetence following an attack on a train in Kaduna State in late April.  According to the article, this is only the latest of many failures in Nigeria’s counterterrorism strategy dating back to the notorious Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping of 2014.  The train attack is particularly notable because it occurred outside of Boko Haram’s main area of operations in northeastern Nigeria and came just two years after another Boko Haram faction loyal to al-Qaeda shot and almost downed a military helicopter in 2020.Vangaurdngr.com has previously been critical of the federal government led by northerner Muslim President Muhammadu Buhari, suggesting that the dire economic situation in Nigeria and lack of a government mandate over certain rural areas in Kaduna have facilitated Boko Haram’s spread in the country.  The article asserts the government is mismanaging the security situation in the country and failing to learn from previous mistakes in countering Boko Haram.  Unless the negative security trend lines are reversed, the article indicates the Buhari administration will have a legacy of empty promises.  Ultimately, the article demands the government prioritize defending communities against Boko Haram and warns that unless this is done, the group will continue to expand its operations and conduct devastating attacks like this one that erode the government’s legitimacy.


“Failure to learn from our Boko Haram experience,” vanguardngr.com (Nigerian media outlet), 19 April 2022. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/04/failure-to-learn-from-our-boko-haram-experience/

The train attack was obviously staged to embarrass and blackmail the Federal Government. They downed a military jet and attacked the Kaduna Airport twice. The steady massacres and attacks of defenceless communities in Southern Kaduna as well as Plateau and Benue states by herdsmen terrorists have gone largely ignored by the Buhari government. The parlous economic situation and near anarchy due to the failure of the Federal Government to protect innocent and defenceless people have continued to put a question mark on the positive legacy this regime has recorded. We failed to learn from our Boko Haram experiences, thus validating the dictum that those who fail to learn from their experiences are doomed to repeat them. We hope the next regime will review the actions of major actors of this administration in mismanaging our security.

Image Information:

Image: 81 Division NA – Camp Zairo, 2017.
Source: Hussaina Muhammad (VOA)
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Nigerian Governor Assures Counterterrorism Success Against Boko Haram

7 Div NA - Camp Zairo, 2017.

7 Div NA – Camp Zairo, 2017.

“He reiterated that kinetic measures alone will not end the war and therefore advised that a political solution be applied.”  

Babaguna Zulum, the governor of northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State, is assuring Nigerians that a multi-pronged counterterrorism approach is leading to success against Boko Haram.  According to the excerpted 18 February article from Nigerian current events-focused Vanguard News, Zulum met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and reported that 30,000 Boko Haram members had surrendered voluntarily to the Borno authorities.  He further underscored that defections from Boko Haram substantiate that dialogue with the insurgents, including guarantees of assistance for insurgents who lay down their arms, must accompany the army’s use of force.

Zulum noted that the heavy presence of Nigerian troops in southern Borno coincided with the defections and called for a similar deployment in northern Borno.  This indicates that military pressure on the insurgents led to demoralization and caused some of the insurgents to surrender.  Further, Zulum advised that once the government cleared insurgents from local areas, then it should immediately return displaced people to their homes with military protection.

Zulum distinguished between those Boko Haram members who the government captured and those who surrendered, with only the latter granted a chance for rehabilitation.  Given the success of such efforts, Zulum urged the Nigerian government to provide increased funding to repatriation, resettlement, and reconciliation programs.  More broadly, Zulum claims that Boko Haram will not be defeated completely on the battlefield and, therefore, the government must seek some form of political settlement through negotiations.


“Boko Haram insurgency’ll end by 2023 — Zulum,” vanguardngr.com (Nigerian news source), 18 February 2022. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/02/boko-haram-insurgencyll-end-by-2023-zulum//

The governor further said that the Borno state government does not offer any incentive to the fighters to come out of the forests; rather, they have done so voluntarily.

Zulum disclosed that he discussed the continuing surrender of the insurgents and the case of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with the president even as he said that the security situation in Borno state has improved considerably, hoping that things will continue in that direction. He reiterated that kinetic measures alone will not end the war and therefore advised that a political solution be applied.

“… I’m pleased to inform you that there was a very heavy military deployment into the southern Borno. And I hope such a deployment will also take place in northern Borno, with a view to clearing the ISWAP insurgents in the Lake Chad.”

Source: “More than 8,000 Boko Haram terrorists have surrendered,” premiumtimesng.com (Nigerian news source), 21 September 2021. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/486107-more-than-8000-boko-haram-terrorists-have-surrendered-goc.html

The Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC), 7 Division, Abdulwahab Eyitayo, says more than 8,000 Boko Haram terrorists have so far surrendered to troops.… He said the surrender by the repentant terrorists was a welcome development, adding that the overwhelming fire power of the troops was responsible.

Image Information:

Image: 7 Div NA – Camp Zairo, 2017
Source: Hussaina Muhammad, VOA
Attribution: CC x 2.0

East African Special Forces Commit to Cross-Border Counterterrorism Operations

Rwandan Defense Force combat lifesaver training.

Rwandan Defense Force combat lifesaver training.

“In order to allow the state of siege to quickly restore peace in Ituri and North Kivu, the deputies supported during the debate the pooling of the Ugandan and DRC armed forces to hunt down the ADF and other negative forces.”

On 1 December, the Rwanda-based website Taarifa Rwanda reported on Uganda and Congo’s joint special forces operations against Allied Defense Forces (ADF) militants in Congo.  ADF is loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  The article noted that Uganda and Congo believe they are preempting the siege of towns in Ituri and North Kivu, Congo by the militants.  It was also noted that the Congolese National Assembly unanimously voted to support joint special forces operations and that there would be a long and protracted hunt by the two countries’ special forces in the jungle to root out the militants. 

In August, Rwanda itself deployed soldiers to Mozambique to combat ISIS-loyal militants in that country.  This was the first-ever foreign military excursion for Rwanda to coastal East Africa.  More than one month later, according to the excerpted 25 September article in Kenya-based The East African, Rwandan president Paul Kagame pledged to continue counterterrorism operations in Mozambique.  The article noted that Kagame traveled to the epicenter of the insurgency in Cabo Delgado province to address the joint forces of the Mozambique Armed Defence Force and Rwanda Defence Force, stating that Rwandan troops would not leave Mozambique until the security situation was stable.

According to the The East African, Rwanda’s contingent in Mozambique includes 1,000 soldiers, who Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi regards as heroes.  Both Nyusi and Kagame justified the Rwandan troop deployment as necessary to fight the ADF and other ISIS-loyal militants, who Kagame described as a regional threat.  Kagame, for example, noted that the militants included Kenyans, Tanzanians, Congolese, Somalis, and Rwandans.  The two articles demonstrate how East African states are increasingly viewing counterterrorism through a regional lens and how cross-border counterterrorism operations, such as Uganda in Congo or Rwanda in Mozambique, will likely become more common in the region.


“Uganda-DRC Special Forces Search Bombed ADF Areas,”  taarifa.rw (Rwandan based news website), 1 December 2021.  https://taarifa.rw/uganda-drc-special-forces-search-bombed-adf-areas/

Members of the Congolese national assembly unanimously voted to support joint Ugandan and DRC operations to be more effective in tracking down the ADF, because, according to them, “before the state of siege is equal to during the state of siege.” In order to quickly restore peace in Ituri and North Kivu, the deputies supported during the debate the pooling of the Ugandan and DRC armed forces to hunt down the ADF and other negative forces.

Source: “Kagame says troops will stay put in Cabo Delgado to ensure stability,  theeastafrican.co.ke (Kenya based publication covering regional developments), 25 September 2021.  https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/news/east-africa/kagame-says-troops-will-stay-put-in-cabo-delgado-3562164

President Paul Kagame has praised the Rwandan troops deployed to fight insurgents in Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique for their good work fighting insurgents. While addressing the joint force of Mozambican Armed Defence and Rwanda Defence Force on Friday at Cabo Delgado, he also said the soldiers will stay put to stabilize and facilitate the return of displaced civilians to their homes. He was accompanied by his Mozambican counterpart Filipe Nyusi.

The Rwandan contingent is 1,000-soldier strong, made up of the army and the police who recently launched offensives against the insurgents in Cabo Delgado province. Botswana later sent a contingent of 296 and South Africa deployed 1,500 soldiers. President Kagame has defended the deployment, and said his country is footing the deployment bill for now, and the mission will stay on to train the Mozambican army, pointing out that the nature of the threat was regional given that the insurgents not only included Mozambicans, but also Tanzanians, Ugandans, Kenyans, Somalis, Yemenis, Congolese and Rwandan fighters.

Image Information:

Image: Rwandan Defense Force combat lifesaver training.
Source: US Army Africa from Vicenza, Italy
Attribution: CC x 2.0