[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk(*) for the reader's awareness.]
Below are the takeaways from the week:
India conducted an airstrike inside Pakistan for the first time since the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war, significantly increasing the possibility of war between two nuclear powers. The Pakistani military spokesperson threatened use of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons if hostilities escalate. Indian warplanes preemptively targeted Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a Pakistani-based Kashmiri militant group, on February 26. JeM conducted a high-causality suicide attack on Indian security forces on February 14.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tendered his resignation on February 25, citing mounting hardliner pressure and the Supreme Leader’s subordination of the Foreign Ministry to informal diplomatic channels led by the IRGC Quds Force. President Hassan Rouhani has not yet accepted Zarif’s resignation. Zarif’s resignation would amplify hardliner influence in the regime’s decision making, potentially setting conditions for Iran to leave or violate the nuclear deal in the near future.
The U.S. Department of State confirmed on February 25 that the UAE helped facilitate the release of U.S. citizen Danny Burch, who had been kidnapped in September 2017 in Sana’a, Yemen. It is unclear whether the al Houthis transferred Burch to Oman in January 2018 or whether he remained in captivity in Yemen. Burch’s release is part of a Trump administration effort to free American hostages globally.
Jama’a Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM), al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s affiliate in Mali, conducted its first explosive attack in Koulikoro region in central Mali. JNIM militants attempted to breach a European Union training base on February 21. The death of JNIM’s deputy leader and lead operational planner Abu Yahya al Hammam on February 21 may temporarily decrease the group’s rate of attack.
HORN OF AFRICA
The scheduled withdrawal of 1,000 African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers from Somalia may allow al Shabaab to recapture small towns near Somalia’s capital. Burundian AMISOM forces began a partial withdrawal from Somalia on February 21 as part of AMISOM’s accelerated drawdown of Burundi’s contingent, which includes withdrawing from several towns in central Somalia. Al Shabaab may increase attacks on the capital and nearby population centers following the drawdown.