In Other News – Terrorist Attack in Kabul, Africa’s Sahel and terrorist attacks, & More – 8/27/2021

August 27, 2021

Terrorist attacks in Kabul kill numerous US service members, civilians and Afghans, harbinger of challenges to come. Thursday’s tragic attacks near Kabul airport were coordinated, complex, and effective at challenging the Taliban’s authority in a high-profile act of destruction. The attacks have been claimed by regional ISIS-affiliate, ISIS-Khorasan “ISIS-K”, which was officially established in early 2015 and is primarily comprised of Taliban defectors, former Pakistani Tehrik-i-Taliban members, and former members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. For several years ISIS-K has been fighting against the Taliban, particularly in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan where both groups want to rule the drug trade. ISIS-K has also remarked that the Taliban was in partnership with the US military and has abandoned the jihadist battlefield for a national, not universal, cause. A UN Security Council report from February 2021 indicates that ISIS-K was responsible for the deaths of about 600 civilians and 2,500 Afghan security forces from early 2020-2021, and even though the group had lost territory it maintained sleeper cells in Kabul. Thursday’s ISIS-K attacks are likely indicative of violent unrest to come as the Taliban navigates how to govern a country that is impoverished, economically dependent on illegal narcotics sales and foreign aid, rife with dissenting violent jihadists groups, and devoid of many competent civil society and service members who recently fled the nation.

In Africa’s Sahel, steady stream of terrorist attacks demonstrates continued breadth and brutality of al-Qaeda and ISIS-linked militants. Last week, two armed militant attacks on villagers in southwestern Niger resulted in more than 50 deaths, and on Wednesday over 16 Nigerien soldiers were killed in a southeast attack by terrorist group Boko Haram. Niger, which borders seven countries and is among the world’s poorest, has seen an uptick in terrorist attacks over the past year. According to Niger’s newly elected President Mohamed Bazoum, his country is struggling to contain the insurgency and can’t afford to purchase the airplanes necessary to secure multiple vulnerable areas. Despite more than eight years of military intervention led by the French, armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS in the region persist, and French President Emmanuel Macron recently announced plans to withdraw about half of the French troops, explaining that France doesn’t have the vocation or the will to stay eternally in the Sahel. France will, however, continue to be instrumental in leading specialized counterterrorism efforts in the region in collaboration with other local and international partners. In addition to ongoing attacks in the Sahel, some jihadists are moving south into deeper parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and continue to exploit porous borders, ethnic tensions, criminal networks, political instability, and weak or corrupt security forces.

Big Oil investing heavily in offshore oil projects in Brazil, Latin America, diversification important for long term economic health. During 2020, while demand for oil plummeted in many parts of the world, Brazil was increasing its output and production shows little sign of stopping. According to Brazil’s energy minister, the nation will be pumping 5.3 million barrels daily by 2030 and could be among the top five oil producers in the world. Brazil has been offering high quality, low-priced oil at a time of strife and competition among OPEC+ countries, making its projected 75% increase over the next 10 years a more realistic target. Further, Brazil’s offshore pre-salt fields are appealing because they offer crude oil with low carbon intensity, making them a slightly greener option during the transition to decarbonize the global economy. In addition to Big Oil’s investments in Brazil, leading companies are also putting significant funds into offshore projects and exploration in Guyana and Surinam. Venezuela, too, is hoping for easing of sanctions in the upcoming months that might help the nation reclaim its spot as a dominant producer. While Latin America is poised to take a leading role in oil production over the next five to ten years, simultaneous economic diversification will be critical given the increasing global efforts to reduce carbon dependance.