The European Union (EU) agreed on Monday, July 12, to send troops to train the embattled and overmatched Mozambican military. Mozambique is in a bloody fight against ISIS terrorists in the restive northern area of Cabo Delgado. 

The insurgency, which has been ongoing since 2017 and has resulted in over 3,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 800,000 civilians, has gotten significantly worse over the last year.

The training is expected to take place late in 2021, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. Specifically, the EU will train 200-300 special forces members of Mozambique’s military.

“The mandate of the mission will initially last two years,” the European Council, representing EU members states, said in a released statement.

The U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) sent troops in March for a two-month mission to train Mozambique’s Marines to combat terrorists. However, back in April, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that there were no other scheduled deployments of U.S. troops to the country and none have been requested.

Europe and Africa Rally Behind the Fight of Mozambique Against ISIS
Troops from Special Operations Command – Africa open ceremonies before beginning training of Mozambique Marines. (DoD)

Portugal, the former colonial power in Mozambique, is expected to contribute about half of the troops as well as the commander for the EU contingent. Portugal already deployed a 60-man training mission earlier this year in Mozambique. The Portuguese force has been training host nation forces on intelligence gathering and sharing, and the use of drones (UAVs) to track jihadist movements.

African Solidarity

The other nations that are expected to contribute troops to the EU mission are not yet known. Nevertheless, Spain, Italy, and France are rumored to be among those sending military assistance. This news from Europe comes on the heels of the announcement last week by the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) that they will also deploy troops to help the embattled Mozambican forces. 

Executive SADC Secretary Stergomena Tax said, “the Southern African Development Community (SADC) approved the deployment of the SADC Standby Force in support of Mozambique to combat… terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado.”

The SADC didn’t state how many troops will deploy or how long the deployment will last but it is expected that they will send between 2,000 and 3,000 troops.

Furthermore, Rwanda, which is not part of the SADC, has already begun to deploy 1,000 troops at the behest of the Mozambican government. 

The Rwandan troops consist of police and security forces highly trained in security and terrorism issues. They are expected to be deployed to and secure Mozambique’s liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities to lure back international investors.

A number of foreign companies, including the French company Total, ceased operations in March due to terrorist attacks on the town of Palma, where Total’s facilities were located

Europe and Africa Rally Behind the Fight of Mozambique Against ISIS
Rwandan soldiers are heading to Mozambique to help safeguard LNG facilities. (AFP)

ISIS in Mozambique: A Multifaceted Problem

ISIS in Mozambique is steadily gaining power and its attacks on key road junctions, infrastructure, and civilians have increased. The terrorists have ransacked towns and beheaded civilians, taking some of the women as sex slaves and forcing some of the men to join their ranks.

The EU and SADC forces will no doubt help the ill-trained and equipped Mozambican military and stabilize the immediate security situation in Cabo Delgado. Nevertheless, many security analysts believe that the foreign intervention will be used by the Islamic State as a recruiting tool for international jihadists calling it a global jihad against the infidels. 

Further, the root causes of the Islamic insurgency are still unaddressed. Despite the region being rich in natural resources, rampant corruption has cut out all but a few members of the population from the wealth. Most of the population lives in abject poverty. Young people face a jobless future with no hope of their lot improving. Meanwhile, they receive little governmental support. All these factors play right into ISIS’s hands and create a recruiting tool for many of the young. 

While the military interventions by the EU and SADC are needed, without massive social, economic, and development programs the violence is bound to continue.