There is another opportunity for capacity building. With opium production on the rise with the Taliban seizure of Afghanistan, the east African coast has become an important transit point, one from which the insurgents—and perhaps some corrupt Mozambican officials—seek to profit. Here, both the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Coast Guard could play a mentorship role to help Mozambique security its coast.
Not all aid must be military-related. While the U.S. Agency for International Development talks broadly about broad efforts to improve health and economy in Mozambique, their programs are largely absent in Cabo Delgado. A basic education deficit means that TotalEnergies cannot recruit locally to staff its energy investments in the region. A sustainable U.S. strategy would both bolster education in the region and also increase agricultural capacity so that international companies could purchase food and supplies locally rather than fly them in from outside Cabo Delgado, if not Mozambique entirely. Mozambique must be more than Maputo.
The Biden administration is correct to say that counterterrorism should not simply be a military problem. In Mozambique, Biden has the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is. Security vacuums pose a threat far beyond national borders. Biden deserves praise for keeping the pressure on the Islamic State leadership in Syria, but that pressure only leads the group to accelerate its search for other safe-havens. It is essential the United States—and all civilized nations—block its efforts to do so. They need not be on the frontlines—Rwanda and South Africa fill that role—but a small investment in capacity building can end the Islamic State’s threat in southern Africa. It is time for the White House, State Department, and AFRICOM to step up to the plate and put some substance behind the rhetoric of both smart diplomacy and a whole-of-government approach.
Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.