Gringo Lost

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Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism

The most worrisome aspect of NATO’s collaboration with Qaddafi

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Over the weekend news broke that Libya’s former intelligence services had links to the CIA and MI6. This news shouldn’t shock anyone who acknowledges that after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Libya agreed – through a process that included back-channel negotiations – to relinquish its nuclear weapons program. Reportedly, however, the relationship expanded after 2003, to include cooperation on counter-terrorism efforts.  In this arrangement, Libya shared information on terrorist groups and took-in rendered suspected terrorists. Again, news that shouldn’t shock anyone.

However, criticism against the U.S. and NATO now centers on two things: 1) How immoral it was to collaborate with Qaddafi. And 2) How that collaboration may affect our role in the future government of Libya.

To the first point. Saying it was reprehensible to work with Qaddafi presumes that other options were more preferable. In reality, had the U.S. forgone collaboration it would have lost a strategic asset in Northern Africa and been worse off. Essentially, intelligence played the hand it was dealt.

To the second point. Rebel forces, unless oblivious, most likely had already suspected U.S. and NATO involvement with Qaddafi before the discovery of these documents. At worst, this could deepen suspicion of Western influence, but that does not deny they will still need Western support to survive. Lastly, it would have been significantly more difficult for Western intelligence to grapple with the rebellion in Libya, had it not already established a foothold in the country through Qaddafi.  The reality did not present a choice between good and bad, but instead a chance to choose the less worse of two options.

Perhaps the most worrisome part of this story has been covered in the Christian Science Monitor. By relinquishing his nuclear weapons program, Qaddafi lost his most important security umbrella. This made it easy for NATO to turn on him and aid the rebels. Essentially, this has signaled to countries like Iran and North Korea that by giving up their nuclear weapons program they face greater risk of Western backed rebellion.


Written by gringolost

September 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom

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Just so everyone knows, that headline doesn’t belong to me. It’s from the cover of [reportedly] al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine “Inspire,” which the group is using to recruit and propagandize Westerners. Bear in mind, this rag doesn’t have to reach a wide readership to be effective. Instead, it only has to find the mind of a lone self-starter such as Fort Hood attacker Nidal Hasan or attempted Time Square bomber Faizal Shahzad.

The magazine is available online for downloading but I didn’t want to post a link from my website for two reasons. 1) I’d rather not propagate this kind of message. And 2) speculation is the document has become a cyber-battleground between jihadists and cyber-attackers using the platform to infect terrorist networks with trojan viruses. But for those interested, supposedly the magazine includes an interview with Abu Basir (formerly Nasir al-Wuhayshi), a leader of AQ in the Arabian Peninsula. And a message from Ayman al-Zawahiri. Stimulating reading, I’m sure (sarcasm).

Written by gringolost

July 3, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Posting posts from better blogs makes this blog better

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Here’s a roundup of some good blog posts from around the web.

From Dave Reidy at Demagogues and Dictators, “Corruption and Counter-Productive Policy

  • Reidy addresses the story of Guinea-Bissau, the small western African state which is becoming a regional drug-trafficking hub. The government of “Guinea-Bissau,” Reidy points out, “is either impotent to stop drug traffickers or is entirely complicit and enmeshed in illegal activities.” He goes on to extrapolate that developments in Guinea-Bissau reflect the growing nexus between crime and terrorism.

From Tim Stevens at Kings of War, “What Prospects for Cyberdeterrence?

  • Stevens discusses the potential for deterrence (think: Mutually Assured Dysfunction?) against cyber attacks. Some critical questions: How do you deter an act which cannot, with 100%, be attributed to a government or state actor? And if deterrence won’t work because of this, then what about cyber defenses? Consequently, what is the utility (or futility?) of cyber defenses? Conclusion: deterrence cannot serve as the dominant “strategic anchor” in cyber security as it did in Cold War nuclear security; and crusty old military structures must adapt to be more flexible, especially in the realm of cyber defense.

From Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk, “Missile Defense and the Prague Treaty

  • Lewis, who is an expert in nuclear strategy and nonproliferation, discusses whether the New Start treaty will require the US to limit its ballistic missile defenses. Here’s my quick intro: the US loves its missile defenses and so does its European, Asian allies; Russia… not-so-much. So, although Russia and the US want to lower the amount of nuclear weapons in the world, they have slightly different views on how to go about it. Another basic essential: the US has a more defensive nuclear strategy, while Russia counts on tactical offensive nuclear weapons for its strategy. This offense-defense balance makes nuclear disarmament difficult.

Bonus blog post: The Data Blog at the Guardian UK has some great charts on world military spending.


Why people join terrorist groups

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Last week NYTimes Magazine ran the story The Jihadist Next Door which chronicled the radicalization and self-recruitment of Omar Hammami, a member of the terrorist group al Shabaab in Somalia.

Hammami, who grew up in Alabama a product of a middle-class family in a two-religion household, began his radicalization while in high school. According to the story, during his sophomore year in 2000 Hammami defended Osama bin Laden after a classmate suggested bin Laden be shot dead for his involvement with the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

“What if I said that about Billy Graham?” said Hammami to his classmate, a Christian.

“Billy Graham is a peaceable preacher,” said the classmate “Osama bin Laden is a terrorist.”

In reply, Hammami said “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

From here, the article takes the story of Hammami and reveals some insight into how individuals go from unlikely beginnings to become international terrorists.

In my opinion (*not a psychologist), Hammami had some behavioral traits that are fairly common amongst Islamic radicals who resort to terrorism. Specifically, recognition and popularity amongst Islamic peers seemed to drive Hammami’s participation in violent jihad. Reportedly, Hammami’s feelings towards the conflict in Somalia and the suppression of the Islamic armed group al Shabab hardened his resolve to fight. Paraphrasing from the article:

By 2006, Hammami had become convinced that “jihad had become an obligation.”  And further, he wanted to help his “captive brothers and sisters” while helping himself “obtain the highest rank available” as a Muslim. In August 2006 Hammami wrote “where is the desire to do something amazing? Where is the urge to get up and change yourself — not to mention the world and other issues further off?”

Eventually, Hammami would travel to Somalia and join up with al Shabaab, which brings me to my next point: along with notoriety, I feel individuals become radicalized because they embrace conflict and have a proclivity towards merciless adventurism. In essence, they are jihad adrenaline junkies. I think this trait is shared amongst other jihadists, like the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Thus along with the ascetic of traditional Islamic life, these radicals also enjoy the popularity and adventure that violent jihad can give them.

Written by gringolost

February 3, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Saudi Arabia fights Houthi insurgents in Yemen?

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The Washington Post reports that Saudi Arabia’s Air Force bombarded rebel bases inside of Yemen.  Meanwhile, the Saudi government denies these allegations, saying that it only attacked Houthi rebels within Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has become increasingly anxious about instability and militancy in Yemen, which is also facing separatist sentiment in the south and a growing threat from resurgent al Qaeda fighters.

“As of yesterday late afternoon, Saudi air strikes began on their positions in northern Yemen,” the adviser said, asking not to be named because operations were still going on.

“There have been successive air strikes, very heavy bombardment of their positions, not just on the border, but on their main positions around Saada,” he said, alluding to the capital of the northern province where the rebels have been battling Yemen government forces since August.

The al-Houthi rebels are followers of Zaydism, a branch of Shia Islam.  The Yemeni government struggles with the Houthi rebellion based in northern Yemen, while also attempting to eliminate terrorist safe-havens and a Sunni separatist movements in the South.

Written by gringolost

November 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Case by case: Drugs, rebellion and terrorism – Peru.

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Some governments in the world have problems with a combination of illicit trafficking, international/regional terror movements, and local insurgencies.  On their own these problems are considerable, but when combined together they give governments serious headaches without easy solutions.

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is morphing into an attempt to address these issues together. (*With the results of this countering strategy being debatable).  What many do not realize is that OEF concerns more than just Afghanistan, but The Philippines and Horn of Africa as well.   And in each of these areas, there is a blurry separation between what constitutes a trafficker, rebel and terrorist.  This blurry line is what makes them difficult to counter.

For example:

  • Afghanistan has its poppy growers, Taliban-like insurgents, and al Qaida affiliated groups.
  • The Philippines has the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Abu Sayyaf, human-trafficking and banditry economy.
  • The Horn of Africa has its warlords, pirating, and similar al Qaida-like groups.

But with each of these countries, an attempt to eliminate one problem can detriment attempts to counter another.  As is the case with the debatable counter-drug policy in Afghanistan which could lead farmers into the hands of the Taliban.  Or the counter-terrorism policy against Abu Sayyaf which can conflict with a reconciliation approach towards the MILF.  Not to mention, that trying to do too much with too few resources can be counter-productive in its own right.

Peru is a special case, just like all the others.

There are two main rebel groups and a significant cocaine trade in Peru.  Sendero Luminoso (or “Shining Path”) is the most internationally renown and violent of the two rebel groups.  The second is Túpac Amaru, which gained worldwide notoriety after it took hostage Japanese embassy personnel in an attack that lasted over 4 months.  Both of these organizations have been seriously weakened by decapitation that resulted in the arrests of top-level leadership.

In the Shining Path case, the arrest of Abimael Guzmán fractured the organization.  While the Japanese hostage situation resulted in the deaths of 14 members of Túpac Amaru’s high-level command.  These two episodes, occurring in 1992 and 1997, reduced the threat to the Peruvian state.

Yet, the danger for Peru is that both rebel groups will come back in force.  However, it appears that both groups have shifted their focus from leftist rebellion to drug trafficking.  Now Peru’s main countering strategy should be against the illicit drug economy, and not counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency.

But what is the best way to stop trafficking without stirring up rebellion?

Peru will have to diminish cash incentives for farmers that produce illicit crops, while simultaneously giving them economic alternatives.  Intimidation spread by traffickers must be policed without corruption.  And consumption must be reduced in a way that doesn’t necessitate interdiction or crop eradication, mainly this is because interdiction rises the profit-motive while eradication strengthens the link between farmers and rebels.

All of this is much easier said than done.  But, in my opinion, the US can reduce the illicit drug economy if it truly takes on the problem with “smart power,” as is claimed to be the renewed focus of US foreign affairs.

Smart power would encompass an approach that was both domestic and international.  It would include treatment at home with support for economic development abroad. It would include strategies that seek to address the drug problem at the two key nodes where it starts and ends:  The farmers who produce and the users who consume.  It would do this in a way that reduces criminality at both of these non-violent nodes of the production cycle.

Other gringo lost posts with a similar bend:

The ‘Wedge’: creating divisions between terrorists and insurgents in the Philippines

This is your counterinsurgency.  This is your counterinsurgency on drugs.

Counter-narco woes

Synchronized drug gang violence across the State of Michoacan

I’m in Mexico. So, I should write about Mexico

The ‘Wedge’: creating divisions between terrorists and insurgents in the Philippines

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Distinguishing between “terrorists” and “insurgents” can be difficult.  In the Philippines it is especially difficult, where last week the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted an operation against Abu Sayyaf terrorists that also killed 10 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) insurgents.  Adding to the confusion, it is not clear whether the MILF insurgents were aiding Abu Sayyaf terrorists on the island of Basilan, or if they were merely unfortunate passersby.  Now in Afghanistan nabbing Taliban insurgents with al Qaida terrorists may be a good thing, the same is not necessarily true in the Philippines.

The government of the Philippines and MILF leadership had been trying to forge a peace settlement which included a mechanism to share intelligence on Abu Sayyaf.  This mechanism was called the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, but efforts on this front have stalled alongside peace negotiations for over a year.

One goal with this type of an agreement is to establish a wedge between the MILF and Abu Sayyaf by granting some political autonomy to the MILF in exchange for increased stability.  This type of deal made sense because MILF was less prone to conduct “terror” types of operations or participate in criminal acts, as is done by the Abu Sayyaf group.  Now with the deal inactive, it may be the case that some elements of the MILF and Abu Sayyaf are collaborating, which could significantly add to the complexity of the government’s counterterrorism operations.

Last week the Defense Secretary of the Philippines announced that he wants the military to “finish off” Abu Sayyaf within the next year.  Signaling his commitment to the Islamic terrorist group’s annihilation, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro ordered the military to conduct counterterrorism operations during the holy month of Ramadan.

But Teodoro’s efforts are going to prove cumbersome if he cannot elicit MILF’s support with intelligence collection, nor prevent them from actively assisting Abu Sayyaf terrorists.  To properly split the two groups, both the Filipino government and MILF must actively engage in substantive negotiations.  Fortunately, it seems that the recent operation has prompted both the government and MILF to resume (or at least think about) the negotiation process; and hopefully this will result in some real actionable intelligence and prevent the MILF and Abu Sayyaf militants from forging an alliance that would prove difficult to combat.