More attacks or more services? Insurgent groups’ behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia

Mohammed Ibrahim Shire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, service-providing insurgent groups have responded differently, with some initiating more attacks amid ongoing destabilisation while others have immediately veered towards precautionary measures such as initiating public awareness campaigns and setting up quarantine centres. What drives these divergent responses? Relying on publicly available and semi-private sources, this article examines how the Taliban in Afghanistan, Ha'ayt Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria, and Al-Shabaab in Somalia have operationalised their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings reveal that the divergent responses are rooted in the framing of the pandemic discourse. The Taliban and HTS both interpreted it as a calamity that needs responding to and repurposed their activities accordingly by stepping up their attacks against combatants while concomitantly exploiting the humanitarian vacuum created by the pandemic by delivering health services. However, as the pandemic surged, the two groups gradually scaled down their combatant targeting and prioritised delivering health services to bolster their legitimacy and build popular support for their proto-states. By contrast, Al-Shabaab labelled the pandemic as a Western and Chinese ‘problem’, and made no visible changes to their operations in response to the crisis, only belatedly beginning to offer health services as the pandemic worsened.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalBehavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression
Early online date8 Dec 2020
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 8 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • pandemic
  • terrorism
  • covid-19
  • violence
  • service provision
  • insurgent groups

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'More attacks or more services? Insurgent groups’ behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this