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Inter-communal violence will threaten stability in Nigeria, other West African countries -US intelligence report

Report identifies China, Russia as major threats to US interests


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THE 2021 Annual Threat Assessment (ATA) report of the United States Intelligence Community says terrorism and inter-communal violence can destabilise Nigeria and other West African countries in 2021.

The Annual Threat Assessment, a yearly report of worldwide threats to the national security of the US, reflects the collective insights of the US Intelligence Community (IC).

The 2021 edition was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in April 2021. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, in coordination with Intelligence Community leaders, released the report to the Congress as an unclassified annual report of worldwide threats to the national security of the United States.

The report, posted on the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, dni.gov, identifies China’s push for global power and ‘provocative’ actions by Russia as the major threats to the US at the moment.

However, looking at how instability in different parts of the world will affect US interests, the report notes that most parts of Africa will experience instability as a result of terrorism and socio-economic and political issues.

Specifically, the report observes that West African countries, including Nigeria, may be destabilised by a ‘volatile’ mixture of terrorism and inter-communal violence.

Assessing the situation in Africa, the report says, “East Africa will struggle with ethnic conflict in Ethiopia, power struggles within the transitional government in Sudan and continued instability in Somalia, while a volatile mixture of inter-communal violence and terrorism will threaten West Africa’s stability. 

“Conflicts, undergoverned spaces, the marginalisation of some communities, and persistent communications connectivity are likely to fuel terrorism during the next year, particularly in the Sahel and parts of eastern and southern Africa.”

It explains that “Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, a string of contentious elections will elevate the risk of political instability and violence.”

Nigeria is already grappling with the dismal effects of the terrorist activities of Boko Haram and other Jihadist insurgents in parts of the North, while clashes between herdsmen and farmers have resulted in deadly inter-communal violence in the Middle Belt and the South. Nigeria is also currently witnessing violent communal clashes in Southern Kaduna and escalating banditry in some of the northern states.

In a recent memo, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said it had uncovered a plot by terrorists to attack airports across the country.

  • Army, Police keep mum on US intelligence report

Meanwhile, efforts by The ICIR to get the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force to react to the US intelligence report, particularly the prediction that terrorism and inter-communal violence could destabilise Nigeria and other West African countries, were not successful.

When contacted by The ICIR, Spokesman of the Nigerian Army Muhammed Yerima said he was just getting to know about the report and therefore would not be able to comment on it. 

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Also, spokesman of the Nigerian Police Force Frank Mba did not answer phone calls made by The ICIR‘s correspondent. An SMS sent to his mobile phone was also not replied as of the time of filing this report.

  • Intelligence report identifies China, Russia as biggest threats to US interests

‘China’s push for global power’ is the biggest threat faced by the US, according to the report.

 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping

 

“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will continue its efforts to spread China’s influence, undercut that of the US, drive wedges between Washington and its allies and partners, and foster new  international norms that favor the authoritarian Chinese system,” the report says, adding that Chinese authorities believe that the US has been trying to check the country’s rise with economic measures since 2018.

The US intelligence community, in the report, further observes that “China is touting its success containing the COVID-19 pandemic as evidence of the superiority of its system” over that of the United States.

According to the report, China will try to increase its influence through ‘vaccine diplomacy’ by giving countries favored access to the COVID-19 vaccines it is developing. 

“China also will promote new international norms for technology and human rights, emphasising state sovereignty and political stability over individual rights,” the report says, adding that “China will remain the top threat to US technological competitiveness”.

“China uses a variety of tools, from public investment to espionage and theft, to advance its technological capabilities,” the report stresses.

Noting that China will continue pursuing its goals of becoming a great power, the report says, “Beijing is increasingly combining its growing military power with its economic, technological, and diplomatic clout to preserve the Communist Party, secure what it views as its territory and regional preeminence, and pursue international cooperation at Washington’s expense.”

The US intelligence community further observes that China will advance its interests by building a world-class army while at the same time destabilising international norms and relationships.

The intelligence report says China will continue to rapidly expand and diversify its nuclear arsenal and double the size of its nuclear stockpile during the next decade.

The report equally notes that China is not interested in arms control agreements that restrict its modernisation plans and will not agree to substantive negotiations that lock in US or Russian nuclear advantages.

The report further says China is working to match or exceed US capabilities in space to gain the military, economic, and prestige benefits that the US has accrued from space leadership. Noting that counterspace operations will be integral to potential military campaigns by the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), the report says China has counterspace  weapons capabilities intended to target US and allied satellites.

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China’s deployment of cyber technology also poses a major threat to the US interests.

“We assess that China presents a prolific and effective cyber-espionage threat, possesses substantial cyber-attack capabilities, and presents a growing influence threat,” the report says, noting that China’s cyber pursuits and proliferation of related technologies increase the threats of cyber attacks against the US homeland, suppression of US web content that Beijing views as threatening to its internal ideological control, and the expansion of technology-driven authoritarianism around the world.

The report equally notes that China can launch cyber attacks that, at a minimum, can cause localised, temporary disruptions to critical infrastructure within the United States.

“China will continue expanding its global intelligence footprint to better support its growing political, economic, and security interests around the world, increasingly challenging the United States’ alliances and partnerships,” the report further observes.

In the same vein, the 2021 Annual Threats Assessment says Russia “will continue to employ a variety of tactics this year meant to undermine US influence, develop new international norms and partnerships, divide Western countries and weaken Western alliances, and demonstrate  Russia’s ability to shape global events as a major player in a new multipolar international order.”

 

Russian leader Vladimir Putin

 

According to the report, Russia will continue to develop its military, nuclear, space, cyber and intelligence capabilities, while actively engaging abroad and leveraging its energy resources to advance its agenda and undermine the United States. 

The intelligence report adds, “We assess that Moscow will employ an array of tools – especially influence campaigns, intelligence and counterterrorism cooperation, military aid and combined exercises, mercenary operations, assassinations, and arms sales – to advance its interests or undermine the interests of the United States and its allies.” 

It further notes that Russia will continue to expand its global military, intelligence, security, commercial, and energy footprint and build partnerships with US allies and adversaries, particularly China, to achieve its objectives. 

The 2021 Annual Threat Assessment explains that Russia will remain the largest and most capable rival to the US on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) for the foreseeable future.

Noting that Russia will remain a top cyber threat to the US, the report says that “Russia presents one of the most serious intelligence threats to the US, using its intelligence services and influence tools to try to divide Western alliances, preserve its influence in the post-Soviet area, and increase its sway around the world, while undermining US global standing, sowing discord inside the US, and influencing US voters and decisionmaking.”

Russia, according to the report, views US elections as an opportunity to try to undermine US global standing, sow discord inside the United States, influence US decisionmaking, and sway US voters.

“Moscow conducted influence operations against US elections in 2016, 2018, and 2020,” the report states.

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Further observing that Russia will remain a key space competitor, the report says that Russia continues to train its military space elements and field new antisatellite (ASAT) weapons to disrupt and degrade US and allied space capabilities.

Besides China’s push for global power and provocative actions by Russia, the 2021 Annual Threats Assessment also identifies ‘provocative’ actions by Iran and North Korea as major threats to the US.

“Iran will present a continuing threat to US and allied interests in the region as it tries to erode US influence and support Shia populations abroad, entrench its influence and project power in neighboring states,” the report says, adding that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may take a number of aggressive and potentially destabilising actions, including the resumption of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) testing, to reshape  the regional security environment and drive wedges between the United States and its allies.

 

 

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