Daily Review: Taliban Terrorist Links, Future of Security in West Africa

Daily Review: Taliban Terrorist Links, Future of Security in West Africa
A Taliban commander rests at a check point in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 7, 2023 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

Hello everyone. Today at WPR, we’re covering the Taliban’s links with al-Qaida and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan, as well as the future of regional security in West Africa.

But first, here’s our take on today’s top story:

War in Ukraine: Russia attacked Ukraine’s main inland port on the Danube River, directly across the river from NATO member Romania. The move sent global food prices even higher, as Moscow continues to target Ukraine’s ability to export grain. (Reuters)

Our Take: Ukraine had ramped up its usage of the Danube as an alternate route for exports since Moscow pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal in mid-July. Since then, Russia’s targeting of this port, as well as others, shows that Moscow is not backing down on its decision to undermine that deal and curtail Ukrainian grain exports more broadly.

The targeting of this port, and the timing of the attack, is still surprising, though, considering how poorly last week’s Russia-Africa summit went for President Vladimir Putin. As we mentioned last week, several leaders from Africa leveraged their positions of neutrality to publicly pressure Putin over the grain deal at the summit. This latest attack could jeopardize Russia’s ties with those leaders, whose populations will now suffer even more as a result of rising food prices.

Russia’s doubling-down could signal that Putin feels the value of the Global South’s neutrality on the war has reached a point of diminishing returns. If so, he could soon find out if he is right, as deliberately sending food prices even higher could be the tipping point that pushes some leaders in Africa to take a more vocal position against Russia when it comes to the war in Ukraine.

In early July, U.S. President Joe Biden stirred controversy by stating that al-Qaida no longer has a presence in Afghanistan—thanks, he suggested, to the Taliban.

The Taliban predictably applauded Biden’s statement. But others pointed out that it contradicted a U.N. report issued in February, which stated that “ties between Al-Qaida and the Taliban remain close, as underscored by the regional presence of Al-Qaida core leadership.”

How are we to make sense of these conflicting characterizations? Antonio Giustozzi takes a closer look at the situation in Afghanistan:

The US has worked with the Taliban in Afghanistan to target al-Qaeda amid the war on terror.

Slowly and Carefully, the Taliban Are Reining in Jihadists

US President Joe Biden said that the Taliban forced al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan. A UN report says otherwise. So which is it? Read more.

In many respects, the toppling of Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum last week by a junta led by the head of the Presidential Guard was typical of the other coups that have wracked the Sahel region in the past three years.

But if there has been a significant difference between them, it has been in the response to this latest coup by Niger’s neighbors and the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, particularly the threat of an armed intervention to restore democracy.

As columnist Alexander Clarkson writes, that highlights a nascent transition between waning Western power structures in the region and efforts to construct a new system of collective security there.

An ECOWAS Intervention in Niger Could Remake West African Security

West Africa’s ECOWAS bloc might step up as the region’s security guarantor after the coup in Niger. Read more.

The coup in Niger has affected France's security strategy in West Africa and partnership with ECOWAS.

Poland is rushing troops to its eastern border after accusing Belarus, its neighbor and Russia’s closest ally, of violating its airspace with military helicopters. The Belarusian military denied the accusations.

Belarus has become a focus of attention ever since Wagner Group mercenaries redeployed there following their failed mutiny last month. More recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin intimated that Wagner fighters could expand the war in Ukraine by turning their eyes toward Poland. But even before Wagner arrived, Belarus had been involved in the war in Ukraine, even if Minsk hasn’t sent troops of its own to the conflict, as Pavel Slunkin wrote last year.

With or Without Troops, Belarus Is Already Part of the War in Ukraine

Dec. 22, 2022 | Belarusian troops are not yet on the ground in Ukraine, but the Lukashenko regime is already involved in the war in other ways. Read more.


Former U.S. President Donald Trump was indicted yesterday on felony charges for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The four-count indictment marks the third criminal case brought against Trump this year, with the possibility of more to come.

Trump became the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges earlier this year, leaving the U.S. in uncharted waters. As columnist James Bosworth noted at the time, though, examples in Latin America provide plenty of lessons for what happens when a former president is indicted:

Latin America Can Tell Us Something About Trump’s Indictment

April 3, 2023 | Former presidents across Latin America have been indicted for corruption before, offering a clue into how Trump’s indictment will go. Read more.

That’s all for today’s Daily Review. Coming up, we’ve got stories on democracy in Southeast Asia and on why the U.S. should formally end the war on terror.

Have a great day,

Jakob Cansler

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