Welcome back to Foreign Police‘s SitRep! Incredible news from Jack: we’ve tricked Robbie into becoming a Formula 1 fan, so send him all your favorite racing memes. And, because we know you’re as excited as we are for the return of competitive cycling with the Giro, here are some great helicopter tracking photos of Dutch rider Mathieu Van Der Poel wiping out the competition in the sprints.
Alright, back to work now.
Here is what awaits you for the day: Islamic State is on the rise in Africa, Biden is doing well with ASEANand Finland is taking a big step towards NATO membership.
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After failures in the Middle East, the Islamic State finds success in Africa
While the Middle East was the birthplace of the Islamic State, it is in Africa that the terrorist group is currently experiencing its greatest growth spurt.
Top U.S. counterterrorism officials and diplomats met with their foreign counterparts in Marrakesh, Morocco, this week for an annual gathering of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, where attendees acknowledged the terror group was winning land the fastest in Africa.
Like a phoenix rising from its ashes. After years of military failures in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State affiliates – along with other insurgent and criminal groups that have adopted the Islamic State brand – have extended their control and intensified their attacks on civilian and military targets in some of the most politically unstable countries. regions of West Africa. These groups often exploit local grievances and poor governance to fight their way to power in regions of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Official lines. There was a litany of grim quotes from senior US and foreign officials emerging from the rally in Marrakesh this week, which included representatives from some 80 countries. Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita has warned that Africa’s Sahel region is now home to “the deadliest and fastest growing terrorist groups in the world”.
“Most troubling is the Islamic State affiliates that are currently active in the sub-Saharan continent because the numbers are extraordinary and they have a lot of territory to play with,” said Doug Hoyt, the Acting Deputy U.S. Envoy of the Global Coalition to Defeat. ISIS, Voice of America said ahead of the international rally.
The rise of the Islamic State in Africa in numbers. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 48% of terrorism deaths worldwide in 2021, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2022 report published by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
The Islamic State affiliate in West Africa is estimated to have around 5,000 fighters in its ranks in Nigeria and Niger, as well as in neighboring Cameroon. Another branch, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which operates near the Gulf of Guinea, has around 1,000 fighters. An Islamic State affiliate in Mozambique has around 1,200 fighters, and the Islamic State also has a lower presence in Libya and Somalia.
Insert the “Mission Accomplished” banner here. Despite grave warnings, European countries that have long maintained a military presence in West Africa to support counter-terrorism campaigns, namely France, are withdrawing their mission after heated disputes with a new ruling junta in Mali that took power in a coup in 2020.
Denying that a counter-terrorism campaign ended in failure, shortly before it ended in failure, has become a centuries-old tradition for Western leaders, and Mali was no exception: the French president Emmanuel Macron has denied that the French counter-terrorist mission in Mali has failed as French troops retreated and terrorist groups gained ground.
It did not help that the American and European counter-terrorism strategy was to ally with fragile, autocratic and coup-prone governments in the region to fight terrorists, even when it was these poorly governed autocracies that provided the breeding ground for the spread of terrorism in the first place.
And guess who fills the void? There is still a large UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA. But a new player has entered the arena with the withdrawal of Western countries: none other than Vladimir Putin.
Despite the Russian president’s costly war in Ukraine, Moscow is eager to coil its tendrils in the region, bolstering its presence in Mali with military advisers and mercenaries operating for the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group – which, by the way, is already implicated in war crimes such as the staging of atrocities attributable to France.
More worrying is the fact that the Malian government’s new Russian friends have neither the numbers nor the expertise to ward off the growing rise of terrorist groups (let alone any affinity with human rights concerns).
As a senior American diplomat told us: “A thousand Wagnerians will not fill the security vacuum in Mali. … They may be killing terrorists, but they are also killing so many civilians.
This, in turn, likely creates new recruits for these terrorist groups. And the cycle begins again.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Tuesday to consider the nominations of Brigitte Brink to be an ambassador to Ukraine, Alexander Laskaris be an ambassador to Chad, and Elizabeth Richard to be the principal envoy for the fight against terrorism.
Heather Hurl Burt is about to take over as chief of staff of U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Hurlburt was previously at the New America think tank and served in the Clinton administration.
UK Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace tapped Rob Johnson to lead the department’s new Office for Network Assessment and Challenge, an internal think tank that will help UK wargame and red team strategies, as well as ‘rigorous’ assessments of British combat power.
What should be at the top of your radar, if it isn’t already.
ASEAN dines in DC Southeast Asian leaders are heading to Washington for a two-day summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As a group, they will meet with US President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, senior US trade and commerce officials and US business leaders.
Deepening economic ties, broader investments in energy, securing the seas and recovering from COVID-19 top the list, according to a senior administration official. Behind the scenes, the administration is also moving ASEAN members away from China’s orbit and closer to the United States, a long-term and diplomatically tricky campaign to pull off.
Pyongyang lockdown. North Korea went into full lockdown (even more than usual) on Thursday after the country’s authoritarian government confirmed its first coronavirus case more than two years into the pandemic, a supposedly perfect record that experts have questioned.
The outbreak forced North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to don a mask in public, and it coincided with the firing of three suspected ballistic missiles towards the sea, the country’s 16th missile launch so far this year. China has pledged “full support” to North Korea in handling the outbreak.
Extension teams. Finland’s President and Prime Minister today said in a joint statement that the country supports NATO membership “without delay”. Note this as another way Russia’s invasion of Ukraine totally backfired. Finland’s membership would give the 30-nation alliance another member on its northern flank and double the length of NATO territory bordering Russia. Neighboring Sweden is likely to follow.
The move comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Finland and Sweden and pledged security support this week, amid Russian incursions into Finnish and Swedish airspace in recent days. Karen Donfried, the State Department’s top official for Europe, told Congress on Thursday that U.S. security guarantees for Finland and Sweden in the interim period between announcing their intention to join and actually joining still need to be worked out.
Thursday, May 12: The two-day meeting of G-7 foreign ministers on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine begins in Weissenhaus, Germany.
Friday May 20: Biden is leaving for a four-day trip to Japan and South Korea, his first trip to the Asia-Pacific region as commander-in-chief.
—How the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, describe the last speech of the Russian ambassador to the UN Security Council.
Russian tanks in the wild. Someone on the internet made a video of a destroyed Russian tank in a David Attenborough-style nature video. You have to look especially for this golden line: “Like the salmon of the Pacific, Russian tanks migrate long distances from the abyss of Russia to end their lives in the beautiful fields of Ukraine.”
Slightly stronger than caffeine. Swiss police found 500 kilograms of cocaine, worth more than $50 million, in containers of coffee bean bags at Nestle’s Nespresso factory, authorities said Thursday. But don’t worry: Nespresso said in a statement that there was no cocaine in its coffee pods.