March 23, 2005
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WARFARE BY THE NUMBERS
Hot Topics on Counter-Terrorism Operations
DIY cruise missiles?
COUNTER-TERRORISM: The Syrian-Yemen Anti-Terror Axis
March 23, 2005: Many Moslem countries that once tolerated, or even
supported, Islamic terrorism, have changed their minds. Sort of. It’s a
complicated situation. Take, for example, Syria and Yemen. Both nations
have long been the home of many Islamic terrorists. For Syria, it was
state policy. Islamic terrorists who hurt Syria’s enemies, and did not
attack Syria, were welcome to set up shop, openly or covertly, in
Syria. But the American invasion of Iraq fired up Islamic radicals,
especially the ones in Syria, to such an extent that the government
feared for its own existence. Thus the recent willingness by Syria to
cooperate in cracking down on Islamic terrorism.
At airports, it wasn’t seizing toenail clippers from passengers that was keeping terrorists off aircraft, but the sure knowledge that nearly everyone on the flight would immediately come after you if you tried to take over another aircraft. There have been several incidents where suspected terrorists were promptly smothered by other passengers, and one case where a real terrorist was stopped from setting off a bomb by spontaneous and energetic action by other passengers. On the ground, local police were quick to use existing informant networks to seek out terrorist suspects. New informant networks were developed in Arab-American communities. Within months after September 11, 2001, it became much more difficult for al Qaeda to operate in the United States.
All of this took place before DHS even existed. So the question now
is, what can DHS do to capitalize on counter-terrorism efforts that
work, and might be made to work better.
The focus on technology as a solution has become an obvious blind
alley. The real problems, the obstacles to providing effective homeland
“protection” are essentially software issues. First responders are not
well aligned with each other, federal agencies are not well aligned
with state agencies, and the armed forces are not well aligned with
anyone (and not all that enthusiastic about the mission). Many of these
groups can do a good job by themselves, but if DHS wants to take
protection to a new level, it needs to get everyone communicating with
each other. This has proven very difficult to do. Many of these
bureaucracies equate communication with subordination. No one wants to
become part of someone else’s empire. The FBI has long had those kind
of problems with state and local law enforcement agencies.
Communication is more than exchanging phone numbers. Details like who
must do what for who when there is a terrorism problem, have to be
carefully worked out in advance. This sort of thing has been very
difficult to do in the past. Just ask the FBI. More futile and
expensive efforts, to develop hardware tools that vanquish terrorists,
no doubt appear an easier path to pursue than getting everyone to
communicate and cooperate.
March 16, 2005: American and British warships in the Persian Gulf
have, so far this year, seized 14 small ships (wooden dhows), and 125
people on these ships, for suspected terrorist activity. Many of the
boats were found carrying weapons, cash and documents indicating
terrorist activities. The Arab nations along the west coast of the
Persian Gulf have been increasingly successful at preventing al Qaeda
terrorist attacks in their countries. Saudi Arabia, where many of the
organizers, money, and troops, for al Qaeda come from, has seen
terrorist operations declining in the last year. In the last two years,
some 500 people (police, civilians, terrorists) have
been killed or wounded in Saudi Arabia as a result of al Qaeda attacks,
or police operations against the terrorists. Because Islamic
conservatism is popular in all the Arab Gulf states, there are
potential al Qaeda members everywhere. But except for a few violent
encounters in Kuwait, most of the other Gulf states have just quietly
arrested the known terrorist wannabes. The presence of non-Moslem
troops in Iraq, and Iraqi Sunni Arabs willing to provide help in
carrying out attacks, has drawn hundreds, if not thousands, of Gulf
Arabs north. Local police and border guards have made it increasingly
difficult to just drive north, and into Iraq. So many aspiring
terrorists have taken to the sea, employing the many seagoing smugglers
that work the Gulf waters. While the smugglers have been eluding naval
patrols for thousands of years, they have never encountered anything as
formidable as the American and British warships. Using radar, other
sensors, helicopters and UAVs, the warships have made it extremely
difficult for the smugglers to get people, and stuff, into Iraq. As a
result, the smugglers have raised their fees. The evidence collected
from the seized ships indicates that the terrorists, at least some of
them, are running short of money, weapons and people.
March 15, 2005: Russian secret service operatives will undergo
training at a FBI training facility on US territory; as another
form of cooperation between Russian and American security services.
Special agents of Federal Security Service (FSB) participate in
operations and investigations with FBI. At
a recent meeting in the Russian city Novosibirsk, top officials of
secret services discussed current terrorism issues and called for
greater cooperation among intelligence agencies. The conference was
attended by 75 delegations from 50 countries, including highest
officials from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), European
Union (EU), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Shanghai
Cooperation Organization, as well as officials from the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the FBI.
The Israeli secret intelligence service MOSSAD was also present.
Russian FSB calls for creating a common terrorist database which would
contain list of terrorist organizations and personalities, as well as
the channels of financing for terrorist activities.
Also highlighted as the importance of sharing Intel on terrorist
activities. According to the majority of conference participants,
terrorism is widely spread today and is a stable contemporary factor.
It was noted the success of efforts by intelligence services at the
Olympics 2004 in Greece and
plans for similar efforts during Winter Olympics in Italy and the
ASEAN forum in South Korea in autumn 2005, as well.
March 14, 2005: Although Yemen has openly, and actively, aided the
United States in the war on terror, many Yemenis are fans of Osama bin
Laden (whose father came from Yemen) and al Qaeda. There are many al
Qaeda sympathizers in the Yemeni military and government as well. These
sympathizers have been discreetly aiding Iraqi Baath Party officials
who have fled Iraq, and now Syria. There has also been some active, but
covert, support for the terrorists operating in Iraq. Cracking down on
this is not easy, even with FBI and CIA agents stationed in Yemen. The
problem is that the Yemeni government is a jumble of tribal and family
relationships. Even if you know an official is helping terrorists, you
go after him if he is well connected. Unless, of course, such support
Islamic terrorists becomes public, thus embarrassing the culprit, and
making him vulnerable to removal from office, or worse. There’s also a
lot of corruption in the government as well, so it’s often the case
that you can’t step on a terrorist supporter because you are doing
business with him on some dirty deal. This has been going on since (and
before) September 11, 2001, and it’s been driving American officials in
Yemen nuts. But these things are typical of the Middle East (and many
other parts of the world.) Family relationships, and making a buck are
more important than what a bunch of foreigners think. The United States
has tried to use money to deal with the problem, but it’s often
difficult to figure out how best to deploy the bribes. And some of the
hard core Islamic radicals are on a Mission from God, and thus
difficult to reach with mere cash.
March 9, 2005: The war on terror is often a police operation. This
means that you soon find that you have a list of “the usual suspects.”
One of the strangest of those is the Cambodian merchant marine. For
example, the mysterious freighter that took on an unknown load in North
Korea recently, and is bound for an uncertain destination, seems to
have a Cambodian registry. Cambodia only has 211 vessels registered
that are 1000 tons (GRT) or larger. One would think that keeping track
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