Since 2017, an Islamist insurgency has terrorized Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. Known locally as al-Shabaab, the group has committed heinous acts like beheadings, abducting children and destroying schools and hospitals, leading to a humanitarian disaster and over a million displaced Mozambicans. The violence has also threatened the development of natural gas fields that would strengthen the country’s suffering economy. Fortunately, the militants are now on their back foot after Mozambique’s neighbors sent troops in July 2021 to counter the ISIS-linked group. But the region’s problems are deep-seated and will require sustained engagement to stave off further violence and advance peace. Last Friday, the United States signaled it was prepared for such a commitment to Mozambique.
The Rwandan armed forces and police deployed to the Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique have made impressive gains combatting the Islamic State-affiliated al-Shabaab militants that have devastated the area. These 1,000 or so forces secured the key port city of Mocimboa da Praia in August, and the militants — who have committed grave atrocities, killed thousands and driven nearly a million people from their homes — have been forced to retreat from several areas of this natural resource-rich region.
Since 2017, armed militants — often carrying the Islamic State flag — have been on the offensive in the northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado. The human toll of this violence is grave, with more than 3,000 killed, nearly a million displaced and an acute hunger crisis. Beyond the immediate priority of stemming the violence and addressing the dire humanitarian situation that is already affecting neighboring provinces, the crisis affords the government of Mozambique and the international community the opportunity to address long-standing challenges.
The Global Fragility Act (GFA) is an ambitious law that makes preventing conflicts and promoting stability in countries prone to conflict a U.S. foreign policy priority. Following years of efforts that overemphasized military operations in response to extremist violence and insurgencies, the GFA requires a long-term investment to address the underlying drivers of conflict. The Biden administration has released a new strategy to implement the GFA with 10-year commitments of assistance to a group of fragile states. The GFA and the new strategy rely, in part, on recommendations made by the USIP-convened Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States.