Operation Neptune Spear

May, 2011 – I was in Islamabad on an official visit to meet with counterparts. This visit coincided with the famous ‘taking out’ of OBL in Abbotabad, Pakistan and, it was only the night before I and a diplomat talked about Abbotabad over dinner. The next day I received text messages from colleagues asking if I had any role in the OBL operation. The travel and the meetings that followed were a great experience. Here’s a video clip by CNN.

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A thought on National Security

I believe we have a problem in hand, a problem that we might be faced with if we do not seriously think about and take proper measures. Our neighbour and strategic partner, India has recently seen a wave of terror attacks that targeted western tourists. Most recently, last week’s terror attack in Mumbai, a series of attacks with meticulous planning that shocked the world, took the elite forces of India 60 hrs to bring an end to. It is still not clear who is responsible for the attacks although reports are emerging that it has been linked to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistani based international terrorist organization that is said to have links with Al Qaeda. Indian security forces took 10 hrs to respond to the initial site of attack and its intelligence machinery has failed to prevent this attack that killed over 180 people. This has put the Indian national security architecture on the drawing board and has led to the resignation of key government figures related to homeland and national security.

Maldivian Context

I cannot put anything here about the Mumbai attack that you have not got from open source materials, nor am I trying to make an analysis of it. My emphasis here is that our small nation, the Maldives needs to act on to prevent to our best of abilities if not review our capabilities to prevent, respond to and tackle such threats to our national security. Tourism is our main source of income and hence it is vital to our economy, therefore the protection of the tourism industry should be one of our national security interests. If we do a recap of recent incidents that have threatened our national security, we all know that the intrusion by a LTTE vessel into our territorial waters, the Sultan Park bombing, stand off at the island of Himendhoo and the assassination attempt on former president Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom were serious national security breaches. We now have added worries or risks in the form of the current economic crisis, maritime terrorism/piracy that has become rampant and now terrorists targeting tourists.

A National Security Strategy

To my understanding, I do not know if we have a national security strategy. If not, then it is high time we formulate one. This would require the chief security institutions; MNDF and MPS to sit together to make assessments and identify threats to our national security. Perhaps the newly created post of National Security Advisor currently held by the former Chief of Defence Force, Major General Mohamed Zahir could be made the chair of a National Security Committee, appointed by the president with the approval of parliament. No matter how small we are or how poor in resources, we are not  immune  or unconsidered to contemporary threats. The threats are real and we have witnessed it close by. We have issues ranging from climate change/natural disasters, economic security, religious extremism, home grown terrorism, neglected critical infrastructure and organized crime to mention a few that might threaten our nation’s security if we do not act accordingly.

This is an era nations are rethinking and rebuilding their security architecture to deal with asymmetric threats. For us, formulating a comprehensive and holistic National Security Strategy for the next 5 years would be the starting point. Next could be to build on to it by reviewing and improving our capabilities with a greater focus on benefiting from strategic alliances and through bilateral, plurilateral or multilateral cooperation with the international community to strengthen our nation’s security.

Policing Terrorism Crime

A critique on four articles that are related to policing of terrorism.

Although there are differing views on how policing of terrorism should be done, all four articles gives emphasis on the importance of police leading the way at the local level.

Connors & Pelligrini (2005) talks about the need for the preparedness of local agencies to deal with terrorism by developing prevention and response strategies putting more emphasis on Weapons of Mass Destruction. Furthermore they suggest on broader engagement by local law enforcement to counter terrorism, supported by multi-disciplinary teams and a high intelligence capability.

Howard (2004) talks on how police should go about creating a hostile environment for terrorism through the protection of critical infrastructure and collaboration with private businesses. He believes UK has the leading edge in policing terrorism and further discusses its model of integrating crime prevention and counter terrorism strategies.

Scheider & Chapman (2003) and Murray (2005) advocates on the application of community policing philosophy to be more productive rather than the traditional approaches outlined in the other two articles. Murray deliberates on the likelihood of reverting to traditional policing by organizations to tackle terrorism and states, although that happens to be the case, community policing should be the overarching approach to thwart terrorism.

Today everyone believes, traditional security or approaches to tackle terrorism are least successful and requires nation states to adopt a holistic approach to fight terrorism. What we have gathered from the four articles is that police are to play a key role to tackle it. The UK’s model of integrating crime prevention strategies into counter terrorism strategies is one good practice that can be followed. I also believe community policing, that goes along with police – public trust would be an effective approach in that it restructures police organizations to become problem solving oriented. Community policing can also prove to be effective especially in tackling home grown terrorism that is based on constant flow of critical information from the public members in a locality. Police are central to policing terrorism and therefore must adopt strategies that are appropriate to the setting of the community. A proactive role, with the engagement of community and other key stake holders that forms a “hostile environment to terrorism” can be an effective method to police terrorism.

Readings

Connors, T & Pellegrini, G, 2005, ‘Hard won lessons: policing terrorism in the United States’, Safe Cities Project, Manhattan Institute, New York pp 4-26.

Howard, P (ed) 2004, ‘Hard won lessons: how police fight terrorism in the United Kingdom’, Safe Cities Project, Manhattan Institute, New York pp 5-18.

Murray, J 2005, ‘Policing terrorism: a threat to community policing or just a shift in priorities?’, Police Practice and Research, vol 6(4) pp 347-361.

Scheider, M & Charpman, R 2003, ‘Community policing and terrorism’, Journal of Homeland Security, pp 1-7

Al-Qaeda propaganda shifts focus

The three statements released by Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in March focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The leaders seem to be refocusing their propaganda on issues that resonate with Muslims across the world, rather than the conflict in Iraq, which has not been mentioned since the start of the year.

This shift could indicate that Al-Qaeda is preparing its supporters for the failure of its plans to establish an Islamic state in Iraq.

Source: Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor, 3 April 2008

GWOT – Global War on Terrorism

In retaliation to the 9/11 attacks, the United States attacked Afghanistan and Iraq by naming them as sponsors of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. The United States call their counterterrorism strategy, Global War on Terrorism or GWOT. In his essay McLeod goes on criticizing the United States’ Global War on Terrorism by calling it a strategy that is unrealistic and that has distracted the US from their most imperative security issue i.e. the destruction of Al Qaeda. Its (GWOT’s) continuation, he says, would threaten the US’s national security and would undermine its counterterrorism efforts. To some extent McLeod’s argument can be agreed upon, keeping in mind that eliminating terrorism is something that is unachievable which is evident as we browse through the history of terrorism.

McLeod states that in its Operation Enduring Freedom (the necessary war), the United States did cause heavy damage to Al Qaeda by killing a number of its soldiers and key leaders. This effort destructed the organizational cohesion Al Qaeda had in planning the 9/11 attacks. McLeod claims that the invasion of Iraq has distracted the US from destroying the Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is now said to be reorganized and skilled. The Iraq chapter, according to McLeod, was unnecessary and led to the diversion of resources away from Afghanistan, damaging the possibilities of capturing key Al Qaeda leaders such as Osama Bin Ladin and Aiman AlZawahiri. This argument as well is taken and understood as for the fact that Al Qaeda that was partly destroyed are found to be surging back with the possible capability of carrying out another attack against US interests.

Throughout his essay McLeod states that the threat of Al Qaeda is the most immediate and dominant to the US. This rule out the focus on other potential terrorist groups though not organized well as Al Qaeda or networked with them, finding capabilities to pose themselves as threat to US interests or other Western interests. I am here referring to the new generation of Islamic terrorists either in support of the Jihadist movement or simply sympathizing Osama Bin Ladin or Al Qaeda. I can’t see the defeat of Al Qaeda as the defeat of terrorism. Terrorism today has become a phenomenon and is growing in various forms in various regions. With its foreign policies, the US is attracting more hatred against them and they come in the form of terrorists and their dreadful attacks.

Reading:

Keith McLeod,”Has the US response to the “War on Terrorism” been appropriate to the threat?” STST8009 essay 2004

Are terrorist acts always wrong?

Terrorist acts are delegitimized by the state. The state has a right to protect its people and to listen to what the people has to say. Sometimes the state tends to lend a blind eye to some of the suffering its people have which creates a complex problem. There is a saying that goes “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. When one man’s actions are praised, the other man’s actions are discouraged on the same matter of violence. But then again can the state be blamed for the actions it’s individual take? This tends to create the problem of people wanting to take back the power from the state and out of desperation terrorists are born.

Terrorism in today’s world seems to be a subjective word. It depends on the view of the user and therefore the question of whether terrorism is bad or good cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Sometimes terrorism is a good in that it aims to achieve a collective good for a people of a state that is being oppressed by a dictator or a terrorizing king.

In today’s world we also hear about state sponsored terrorism a lot in the news. Should we call the people who try to get order back to the state, terrorists? I do not think so. It is an individual right of every citizen to have their freedom intact within the laws of the created state. Laws and state are created by men so therefore some will agree and some will not, depending on there ideology. Nobody likes being oppressed, therefore unless a solution is found terrorism will exist. Either if it’s bad or good does not matter. Everybody wants liberation or freedom!

Al Qaeda – Targets, tactics and methodology

Trademark Al-Qaeda attacks involve multiple, simultaneous or near-simultaneous bombings using conventional explosives and striking at Western and, in particular, US targets. The group’s use of suicide bombers in a global context may be seen as an important contribution to the Islamist extremist arsenal. Defence against the suicide bomber is virtually impossible without creating a ‘state of siege’ in societies that place a high value on their perceived freedoms and rights. From the terrorist perspective, the suicide bomb also serves to emphasise the moral and spiritual divide between Islam’s ‘holy warriors’ who embrace death and the Western ‘infidels’ who fear it. This may be reflected in the use of suicide bombers in operations that could be conducted by other means, though the loss of the perpetrator also hinders detection and helps preserve the cell.

Prior to 11 September 2001, Bin Laden and Zawahiri directed a number of high-profile support and strike operations, such as the August 1998 bombings of the US embassies in East Africa and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, using their own activists and attack teams.

The methodology of Al-Qaeda’s core leadership has shifted since 11 September 2001. Operations have been carried out by distinct terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda through their training experiences in Afghanistan or direct connections to Al-Qaeda’s mid-level leadership, or by autonomous units that adhere to Al-Qaeda’s core principles but do not have any direct connections to Bin Laden, Zawahiri or the mid-level core leadership. The UN Monitoring Team on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban noted in its sixth report to the Security Council on 8 March 2007 that the reliance on like-minded affiliates “is in line with the ambition of the core leadership to play a more direct role in determining strategy while encouraging local groups to do whatever they can as opportunity arises at the tactical level”. This cell-based structure consisting of a few activists held together by bonds of kinship as well as faith has also proven extremely difficult, although not impossible, for security services to disrupt.

Jane’s World Insurgency and Terrorism, posted 18 May 2007