South Africa's military chief has warned that terrorists in Mozambique must be dealt with before the problem spreads further afield.
Rudzani Maphwanya was speaking in Pretoria following an agreement on Tuesday to expand a joint regional force in Mozambique.
The South African troops are part of the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission (SAMIM) to support Mozambique in its battle against jihadism in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, which started in July last year.
Other countries contributing troops include Angola, Botswana, Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.
Rwanda has also deployed troops as part of a bilateral agreement with Mozambique.
The virtual summit, chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, was also an opportunity to take stock of the latest SAMIM forces.
About 600 members of the South African National Defence Force have been in Cabo Delgado province between October 2021 and January as part of Operation Buffalo.
Maphwanya said Samim forces had been involved in intense fighting, destroying enemy bases and capturing hundreds of weapons and fighters.
"SAMIM forces met strong resistance from the terrorists but were able to inflict fatal casualties and disrupt activities as well as continue to dominate and pursue the terrorists in the operational area"
"We strongly believe that if we do not curb the scourge of terrorism and nip it in the bud whilst it's still on the other side, eventually it will affect the entire region."
While the deployment of South Africa's military in northern Mozambique has been extended, its role has also shifted from aggressively fighting Islamic extremist rebels to a peacekeeping effort, the top general said:
"We must create conditions for the people of Mozambique to start picking up where things have fallen between the cracks and start going on with their lives, so governance aspects must also be strengthened because the problem cannot be resolved purely by means of the military," said Maphwanya.
Since 2017, the insurgency in Mozambique has been blamed for more than 3,000 deaths, with more than 800,000 people displaced and more than 1 million in need of food aid, according to the U.N. World Food Program.