Very recent news such as that referring to Mozambique – where Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah (ASWJ) attacked a military base in Cabo Delgado on January 23, while the khatiba of Harakat al Shabaab, linked to Daesh, momentarily controlled the city of Mocimboa from Praia, in the same province, on the 23rd – they make it clear that jihadist terrorism is not stopped by a pandemic like that of Covid-19. And the same can be said of Afghanistan – where on the 25th the local branch of Daesh murdered more than 25 people after a siege of a Sikh temple in Kabul, in parallel to the daily violent actions of the Taliban, despite their formal agreement with Washington- or Mali – where 29 soldiers died on the 19th as a result of a jihadist assault on a base located in the town of Tarkint and where on the 26th the main opposition leader, Soumaila Cisse, was kidnapped, just three days of elections. And these are just a few examples of what, in a few words, leads us to understand that the effort to impose their dictation, with or without a pandemic, will not wane for them.
Capacity and will
Obviously its current capacity, especially if we think of the most powerful networks of that network of dozens of violent groups that feel inspired by an extreme version of Islam, is not what they had in Al Qaeda, when it enjoyed such a sanctuary. renamed Afghanistan (1996-2001), or Daesh, when he managed to establish a pseudo-caliphate in part of Syria and Iraq (2014-2018). But they retain sufficient capacity and will, both at their hard core and through their regional franchises and the individuals and groups who are inspired by their extremist ideology in many parts of the planet, to press ahead with their criminal onslaught.
That is why now, when accumulated experience shows that there is no military solution to a threat of this type and the repeated mistakes made in Afghanistan, Iraq and so many other scenarios become clearer – playing with a fire that has become more than against its Western promoters (either with the Mujahideen or the Taliban in its day or with Abubaker himself in Baghdadi more recently) – it should be clear that a change of course is necessary. A course that, without forgetting the necessary military component, must be accompanied by others of a socio-economic and political nature in a long-term multilateral effort. The problem is not only that the military media is unable to solve a problem such as that posed by terrorism, but that a response has never been activated that goes beyond attending to the most visible symptoms of the threat, to focus on the roots of the problem. And that means offering jihadists a very powerful coupling flag, derived from the painful living conditions (both in terms of well-being and security) of many people who cannot meet their basic needs and whose rights are systematically violated. Therefore, if it is assumed that the military route is not enough and that the socio-economic and political one has never been put into operation, it is only possible to augur an increase in the problem.
Military action and diplomacy
In relation to the first issue (the military), this is so because the pandemic is going to detract military resources in many scenarios to combat violent jihadism. This is what we are already seeing in Afghanistan, where Washington is desperately trying to find a minimally decent exit from the swamp where it has been stuck since October 2001 (with the rest of the allies setting foot on dusty ground). And the same occurs in Iraq or Africa, with a clear reduction in the number of personnel deployed there to instruct the local armed and security forces, with the aim of training them to guarantee the security of their respective territories, and, simultaneously, those in charge of the fight against terrorism against the groups active there.
But it is also not foreseeable that, just now, when the demand to preferentially attend to one’s own needs is more urgent, there will be an increase in the level of diplomatic and political involvement to mediate or facilitate peace processes, or an increase in the meager volumes of development aid, humanitarian action or attention to the most basic demands of populations too often neglected by governments incapable or scarcely inclined to put their fellow citizens as a priority on their agendas. This means that what has not been done in recent decades will continue to be a pending issue that will decisively contribute to continue feeding the breeding ground that violent extremism feeds on. And, seen from the other side of the mirror, that means that the jihadists will be less constrained to continue their plans both in the countries where they have more presence and in the west (by the way, they have not received any mandate or recommendation not to step on Europe because of the coronavirus). .