The Cabo Delgado Insurgency: A Prime Opportunity for AFRICOM to Prove the Efficacy of its Holistic Counterterrorism Approach

By highlighting the holistic underpinnings of AFRICOM’s mission and outlining the conflict’s underlying dynamics, this paper seeks to argue that the insurgency in Cabo Delgado represents a prime opportunity for AFRICOM to prove the efficacy of its holistic approach to counterterrorism after years of repeated failure. In order to defend this claim, the paper will proceed as follows. First, the United States’ framing of security policy toward Africa in the 21st century will be overviewed, followed by sections addressing the importance of pursuing a holistic approach to counterterrorism in Africa and previewing how AFRICOM is the best suited vehicle for carrying out such an approach. Next, the Cabo Delgado insurgency will be introduced as a prime opportunity to prove the efficacy of AFRICOM’s holistic counterterrorism approach via four main components. The introduction to the argument is followed by sections that provide an overview of the conflict and discuss the extremist group’s founding, grievances, and member composition, in addition to a brief section on the group’s sources of financing. After providing this context, the Mozambican government’s responses to the insurgency will be described, followed by accounts of external involvement in the conflict, including that of the United States. Before discussing how AFRICOM should become more holistically involved in Cabo Delgado, specific US economic interests in the province are identified in a brief section in order to justify (i.e., beyond altruistic motives) increased US involvement. The main argument, discussing how AFRICOM should build on its holistic approach to the Cabo Delgado insurgency through four main components—counterfinance, training local militaries/police (in professionalism and transnational cooperation), building and assisting with maritime capacity, and providing aid (both humanitarian and development)—is subsequently advanced, followed by a conclusion about how holistic approaches can be used in preventing civil conflict from erupting in the first place.

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