Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) shares regular updates about the work of our global programs. Our US program, helmed by US Program Director, Daniel R. Mahanty, works with US institutions to protect civilians trapped in conflict around the world. This biweekly newsletter is compiled by the program’s fellows.
The US in Afghanistan
The Biden administration is considering an extension to the May 1 deadline for withdrawal set in February 2020. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, while the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting recommitted to pursuing a negotiated peace agreement. A February 2021 report commissioned by Congress recommended US withdrawal extend past May 1 to correspond to security conditions in the country. At least 55 civilian deaths in Afghanistan were documented by the New York Times in the past two weeks. The Taliban is responsible for most of the casualties, but at least three civilians died as a result of Afghan force operations.
US Response to the Myanmar Coup
In the days following the military’s seizure of power in Myanmar, the US government publicly condemned the coup and called for the restoration of the democratically-elected government, and soon after imposed sanctions on certain Burmese military leaders. Last week, as the death toll from the military’s crackdown on demonstrations rose to over 500 people, and as more people fled to Thailand to escape the violence, the US government took the additional steps of pulling out non-essential diplomats and suspending its tariffs agreement with Myanmar. US State Department spokesman Ned Price also called on the government of China to hold the military in Myanmar accountable for the unrest and bloodshed.
US Designates “ISIS-Mozambique” a Foreign Terrorist Organization
Following a spate of violence targeting civilians, commercial interests, and security forces in the Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique earlier this month, the US government has designated the local group Ansar al-Sunna (known locally as Al Shabaab and referred to by the US as ISIS-Mozambique) as a foreign terrorist organization and deployed a small contingent of Special Operations Forces to train Mozambican forces. Experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) highlighted the risk that the designation could hamper humanitarian assistance or complicate local efforts to resolve the conflict. Meanwhile, human rights groups called attention to human rights violations committed by Mozambican security forces and private security contractors, most notably by the Dyck Advisory Group. Over 1,300 civilians have been killed as a result of violence since 2017 according to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data.
US Response to Atrocities in Tigray
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the Ethiopian government’s ongoing military campaign in Tigray as “ethnic cleansing” during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which the Ethopian government has dismissed as “spurious”. Since the outset of fighting in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, the United States has called for the immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, and the beginning of a reconciliation process, while also condemning the killings, forced removals, and other human rights violations (reportedly including the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war), and called for access to the region for the delivery of humanitarian aid. USAID will deploy a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Ethiopia to continue delivering assistance.
The US at the United Nations
Since the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the US administration’s agenda at the UN has become clearer.
- During the first month of its presidency of the UN Security Council, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced that she will prioritize gender-equality during her tenure.
- Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris used her speech at the 65th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women to highlight the importance of gender-equality as well.
- On March 19, President Joe Biden, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield also reaffirmed their commitment to international partnership and institutions during a virtual meeting with the UN Security Council.
- Furthermore, the US highlighted the importance to continue the work on nuclear non-proliferation and renew the UN Security Council Resolution 1540.
- Finally, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield noted that the challenges in the eastern DRC “requires the full implementation of commitments under the 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation framework”.
What We’re Reading
- Airwars published their annual report on civilian harm in 2020.
- Mwatana’s most recent report on the human cost of conflict in Yemen is a jarring, yet essential, read.
- Jeff Schogal argues in Task and Purpose that the US is provoking and therefore risking another cold war, this time with China.
- In Just Security, Caroline Smith argues that atrocity prevention must be steered into a new direction. Early warning systems must evolve, away from military solutions.
- Towards a Better China Strategy | Tuesday, April 6 | 9:30-10:15 AM ET
- Institution-Building in Weak States – Implications for Afghanistan | Friday, April 16 | 9:00-10:00 AM ET
- Biden and Congress at 100 Days – Assessing Arms Trade Policy | Monday, May 3 | 9:30-11:00 AM ET