Wednesday, June 14, 2023


As the Global War on a Noun wound to a close, US defense priorities swung back toward conventional fights against near-peer opponents and counterterrorism funding was cut back.

However with the Great Game heating up in the global South, this is having some foreseeable consequences:
"As Washington pulls away from counterterrorism, the Kremlin has leaned in to fill the resulting void and reap benefits outside of the terrorism domain. Russia used the guise of counterterrorism support to justify its meddling in Libya, for instance, while actually pursuing other objectives in the country and on the African continent. In April 2019, U.S. forces withdrew from Libya after defeating the local Islamic State branch—but just over a year later, Russian fighter aircraft were in Libya alongside 800 to 1,400 Russians linked to the Wagner Group and other Russian private military companies (PMCs). Today, these forces are concentrated around Libyan oil facilities where Russian state-backed oil and gas companies own stakes.

Moscow has likewise leveraged its military and PMCs to woo other African governments struggling with growing insurgencies. They offer military hardware, training, and even mercenaries to help with no restrictions on use nor lectures on civilian harm in exchange for gold, natural resource concessions, or other forms of payment. As in Libya, Russian troops help secure these resources rather than actually fight al Qaeda or the Islamic State. Moreover, the combination of human rights abuses by Russian and local state security forces, authoritarian rule, and bad governance often inflames rather than suppresses a local insurgency. Russian counterterrorism assistance ultimately has little to do with terrorist threats and much more to do with sanctions evasions, buying votes at the UN, and otherwise securing Russian interests abroad.
China, too, is hip-deep in subsaharan Africa, of course, and not even bothering to use mercs as a cutout.