The Evolution of Vehicles as a Terrorist Weapon | Paul Ashley | Pulse | LinkedIn

French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck July 15, 2016 that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France, July 14. Credit: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck July 15, 2016 that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France, July 14. Credit: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Since the early 1980s, vehicles have been used as a weapon in numerous terrorist attacks. The basic ‘model’ had vehicles delivering explosives to a target and then detonating them, causing death and injury. The normal saloon/sedan car has historically been seen as too small to carry out attacks. But like any other terrorist weapon, terrorists have seen greater potential in their usage.

We have now seen a different type and style of attack, after the December 19, 2016 terrorist attack in Berlin, Germany. A large heavy lorry was driven into a crowded Christmas market and has left many wondering where it is safe from such an attack and what to do should one happen.

The use of a vehicle as a terrorist weapon has its origins in 1980’s Lebanon with multiple attacks using vehicles as a tactic. The first was on April 18, 1983 when a van packed with explosives detonated outside the United States Embassy in Beirut killing 63 people.

The attacks at the time were attributed to the Islamic Jihad which was thought to be backed by Iran.Later the use of a vehicle as terrorist weapon was used again in Beirut, where large vehicles were driven into the American Marines barracks. On the October 23, 1983 a large Mercedes van was driven next to the barracks of the Marines and detonated were large numbers of soldiers were sleeping. The explosion left 146 American Marines dead. On the same day and nearly at the same time a French barracks which housed the Parachute Chasseur Regiment in Beirut was attacked using the same tactic which resulted in 58 soldiers dying.

In December 1989 the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) used a large dump truck which they armoured to attack a permanent British Army checkpoint between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland border at Derryard near Rosslea, County Fermanagh. Inside the armoured vehicle, the terrorists had various weapons, including machine guns, rockets, grenades and a flame thrower, which they used to attack a small detachment of eight British soldiers and one member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Two soldiers died and one was severely wounded.In May 1992 PIRA carried out a three part coordinated attack on different security force locations in Northern Ireland. Two were carried out using a Human Proxy Bomb, where cars were used with large amounts of explosives, but failed in their attempt to blow up their target. The third location at Cloghoge vehicle checkpoint manned by the British Army was attacked using a large van which was packed with a large amount of explosives and detonated.

The attack showed remarkable ingenuity. The South Armagh Brigade of PIRA fitted a van with wheels that could be driven along a railway track. The vehicle was “driven” on the railway track until it was very close to the checkpoint. The vehicle was then detonated using a mile long wire. The explosion killed one soldier but twenty three that were inside a fortified bunker survived with injuries.

On February 26, 1993, Ramzi Yousef, who was born from Pakistani-Palestinian parents, drove a van loaded with a 1,310-lb (590kg) bomb of urea nitrate-hydrogen gas enhanced device under Tower one of the World Trade Centre in New York, United States. His intention was to destroy the tower, and hoped that it would fall onto the second tower thus destroying the World Trade Centre. He failed but events in September 11, 2001 sadly succeeded.

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, an American citizen, used a Ryder truck to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma United States. The explosives consisted of several tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and a large quantity of fuel oil, which was detonated by McVeigh igniting a two minute fuse. The explosion resulted in the destruction of the entire north wall of the building along with other buildings in the area and causing many deaths.

Near the end of 2004, hostilities had died down in the Iraq war, but on December 25, 2004 terrorists found a new way of using a large vehicle to attack a target. A large fuel tanker was driven towards the Jordanian Embassy in the Mansour district of Baghdad. The vehicle failed to detonate with any truly destructive force and merely left an orange glow that lit the evening up. The vehicle split in half with one half of the tanker lodged in the gates of the Libyan Embassy and the other half landing in the small courtyard of a house approximately 75 metres away.

In Nice, France on July 14, 2016, Bastille Day, a 19 tonne lorry driven by lone wolf Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhel was driven into a celebrating crowd. He killed 84 people before being stopped. The Islamic State of the Levant, or Da’esh, had discovered a new way to use a large vehicle as a terrorist weapon.

For some time al-Qaeda and Da’esh had been using its online magazines Dabiq and Inspire to conduct lone attacks against the West using any method possible, but since the attack in Nice they have called for their followers to use large vehicles and encouraged them to drive them into large crowds. Certainly Anis Amri who drove the latest heavy vehicle in the Berlin attack listened to them.

The use of such vehicles to carry out this style of attack is likely to continue as they are easily obtained by either hijack, hired, stolen or simply purchased. The stopping of such a vehicle especially when fully laden would defy most barriers and although the small Jersey Barriers would not necessarily stop the vehicle it would certainly slow them down.

In Iraq after the 2003 invasion, and some years after, large vehicles were used to crash through various locations. In order to stop them Jersey barriers were put in place but the terrorists found that they could be breeched. In places where these barriers were in use, several suicide vehicles were used to gain entry to each level. For example on October 24, 2003 three suicide bombers in large vehicles were used to breech the barriers outside the Palestine and Sheridan Hotels in Baghdad, Iraq. This included a cement truck filled with explosives.

The first was used to breech the first layer of barriers; the second to do the same but was mistimed and missed the target. The third driver who was driving around the roundabout waiting his turn saw the explosion and drove his vehicle through the first level, thinking the second had been broken through. He was caught up and rather than being able to detonate his vehicle between the two hotels causing immense damage and death, the driver detonated the device where it had stopped causing little damage.

The lessons learnt from this were several; first where the metal handles were in the top of the barrier, a long thick ‘metal rope’ was placed and woven into all the barriers at that location. Any attempt to drive through them they would be stopped as it would be impossible to drag all the barriers. The second lesson was that where possible, a large wide trench should be dug to prevent access to the barriers.

Of course in a city these types of defence maybe impossible but it would be possible to have points of entry away from main roads and the barriers could be linked together. Another form of defence that could be used in cities is to educate the public by having some sort of air alarm that would be sounded at the start of an attack.

The types of vehicles used in recent attacks are easier to obtain than aircraft and the ability to cause mass casualties is still great but not on the same scale. Authorities are not able to do much in regards to spotting who would carry out such attacks. It is extremely important that all counter-terrorist organisations and Intelligence agencies share and pool knowledge in this area so as to limit those who are on the radar from escaping and eventually stopped before a terrorist act is carried out.

Europe is under siege at the moment and attacks of this type are likely to occur again. Strong measures must be taken to protect the public. Admitted the security forces are doing their best but with so many to watch someone somewhere will escape the net and be able to carry out another dreadful terrorist attack similar to those in Nice and Berlin. The next phase could be the use of plant vehicles such as a JCB which could scoop barriers out the way and drive through causing many fatalities.

Source: The Evolution of Vehicles as a Terrorist Weapon | Paul Ashley | Pulse | LinkedIn

ISIL ramps up fight with weaponised drones

In the past, ISIL has used drones in Iraq and Syria for general intelligence-gathering, as spotters for mortar firing, and even for filming propaganda videos [John Beck/Al Jazeera]
Mosul, Iraq – As fighting raged in eastern Mosul on a recent afternoon, a black Humvee arrived at an Iraqi army command post with a collection of plastics, electronics and rotor blades lashed to its back.

Soldiers leaped to unload the cargo, which comprised the remnants of the latest tool in ISIL’s armoury: drones.

The haul included a number of small devices of the kind favoured by filmmakers and hobbyists, costing a few hundred dollars apiece. But there were also larger, fixed-wing craft fashioned out of corrugated plastic and duct tape, apparently made by the fighters themselves.

Since mid-2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group has held Mosul, after sweeping through northern Iraq in a shock offensive.

It is now their last urban stronghold in the country, and for more than two months, the Iraqi army’s operation to retake the city has met fierce resistance, including snipers, ambushes and suicide attacks using explosive-laden trucks. Drones have been used for reconnaissance and to relay instructions to suicide bombers, said General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a commander with the elite counterterrorism service in eastern Mosul.

“They use them to give directions to suicide car bombs coming towards us, as well as to take pictures of our forces,” Saadi told Al Jazeera.

In the past, ISIL has used drones in Iraq and Syria for general intelligence-gathering, as spotters for mortar firing, and even for filming propaganda videos. Soldiers have regularly spotted these drones over army positions on the outskirts of Mosul, prompting bursts of gunfire skywards.

But there is a fresh threat, Saadi said: ISIL has begun to use the drones themselves as weapons. “They also use a new tactic, where the drone itself has a bomb attached to it,” he explained.

This has already proven lethal. Last October, after Kurdish Peshmerga fighters downed an ISIL drone north of Mosul and began transporting it back to their base for examination, a small amount of explosive material inside the device detonated, killing two Kurdish fighters and injuring two French special forces soldiers with whom they had been working. These were the first reported casualties from one of ISIL’s weaponised drones.

Several of Iraq’s allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have long flown drones in the country for both attacks and observation. Even Saadi’s own men use small craft for reconnaissance, he said.

But American forces leading the anti-ISIL coalition have been slow to realise the threat posed by the armed group’s drone use, said PW Singer, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and an expert in robotic warfare. “We’ve known of non-state actors … using drones for years,” he told Al Jazeera. “We’ve also known that the commercial spread of the technology made it possible for anyone to buy [them],” yet the rush towards countermeasures began only recently, he added.

The defence department last July asked Congress for an extra $20m to help tackle the threat posed by ISIL’s use of unmanned aircraft, and Lieutenant General Michael Shields, director of the US Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization, told reporters in October that there was “a sense of urgency” in equipping US troops with anti-drone technology.

New countermeasures have been implemented, including Battelle’s Drone Defender, a hand-held directed-energy device that can knock drones out of the sky at a distance of 400 metres. The device has already been deployed with US troops in Iraq.

Saadi, meanwhile, says that his soldiers are usually able to disable ISIL’s drones by using sniper rifles or machine guns.

“We don’t think that it is very dangerous. ISIL collects information about our forces, and we destroy the drones before they come to us,” he said.

Although ISIL’s drone fleet so far appears relatively basic, it could be developed further in the months ahead. Researchers from the UK-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) group documented an ISIL “drone workshop” in Ramadi last February, where fighters had been attempting to build larger drones with potent explosive payloads crafted from the warheads of anti-aircraft missiles.

This suggests that commercially available drones are not fitting ISIL’s tactical needs, said CAR’s managing director, Marcus Wilson.

“The other models they’re trying to build are predominantly fixed-wing craft, which might allow for increased range or provide the ability to add a payload rather than just surveillance abilities, which is what we’ve observed in [our] report,” Wilson told Al Jazeera.

He said that further development seems likely, especially given ISIL’s history of designing complex components for weapons such as improvised explosive devices and producing them on an industrial scale.

“If they continue along this path, then we should be worried, because they still have a strong research and development capacity, have advanced their production abilities in the past, and still have the workshops capable of building sophisticated devices,” Wilson said.

Still, even with further development, ISIL would likely be unable to produce more than what Singer describes as “small aerial IEDs” – unlikely to cause mass casualties or alter the balance of power.

Source: ISIL ramps up fight with weaponised drones

Groundbreaking UFO Video Just Released By Chilean Navy

 

The video depicts two connected white circular lights or hot spots, giving off much heat (left). This image was part of an analysis by astrophysicist Luis Barrera. “Envoltura” means “envelope.”

An exceptional nine-minute Navy video of a UFO displaying highly unusual behavior, studied by Chilean authorities for the last two years, is now being released to the public. The CEFAA – the Chilean government agency which investigates UFOs, or UAP (unidentified aerial phenomena), has been in charge of the investigation. Located within the DGAC, the equivalent of our FAA but under the jurisdiction of the Chilean Air Force, CEFAA has committees of military experts, technicians and academics from many disciplines. None of them have been able to explain the strange flying object captured by two experienced Navy officers from a helicopter.

The Chilean government agency always makes its cases public when an investigation is complete, and acknowledges the existence of UAP when a case merits such a conclusion.

General Ricardo Bermúdez, Director of CEFAA during the investigation, told me that “We do not know what it was, but we do know what it was not.” And “what it is not” comprises a long list of conventional explanations. Here is what happened:

On November 11, 2014, a Chilean Navy helicopter (Airbus Cougar AS-532) was on a routine daytime patrol mission flying north along the coast, west of Santiago. On board were the pilot, a Navy Captain with many years of flying experience, and a Navy technician who was testing a WESCAM’s MX-15 HD Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) camera, used most often for “medium-altitude covert intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” according to the product website. The aircraft was flying at an altitude of approximately 4,500 feet on a clear afternoon with unlimited horizontal visibility, and the air temperature at that height was 50 degrees F (10 C). There was a cloud base above at 10,000 feet, and a layer of stratuscumulos clouds below. The helicopter was flying at about 132 knots, or 152 mph.

At 1:52 pm, while filming the terrain, the technician observed a strange object flying to the left over the ocean. Soon both men observed it with the naked eye. They noticed that the velocity and the altitude of the object appeared to be about the same as the helicopter, and estimated that the object was approximately 35 to 40 miles (55-65 km) away. It was traveling W/NW, according to the Captain. The technician aimed the camera at the object immediately and zoomed in with the infra red (IR) for better clarity.

Shortly thereafter, the pilot contacted two radar stations – one close by on the coast, and the other the main DGAC Control system (Ground Primary Radar) in Santiago – to report the unknown traffic. Neither station could detect it on radar, although both easily picked up the helicopter. (The object was well within the range of radar detection.) Air traffic controllers confirmed that no traffic, either civilian or military, had been reported in the area, and that no aircraft had been authorized to fly in the controlled air space where the object was located. The on-board radar was also unable to detect the object and the camera’s radar could not lock onto it.

The pilot tried several times to communicate with the UAP, using the multi-national, civilian bandwidth designed for this purpose. He received no reply.

The technician filmed the object for nine minutes and twelve seconds, mainly in IR. This sensor produces a black and white video in which the black, white and grey tones are directly related to temperature. IR detects heat, and the hotter the material being filmed, the darker it appears on the image. The officers stopped the camera when they had to return to the base and the object disappeared behind the clouds.

The Navy immediately turned over the footage to the CEFAA, and General Bermúdez, accompanied by nuclear chemist Mario Avila, a CEFAA scientific committee member, conducted interviews with the two officers at their Navy base. “I was very impressed by these witnesses,” Avila told me. “They were highly trained professionals with many years experience, and they were absolutely certain that they could not explain what they saw.” Both offiicers also provided written reports at the base, as is required, and for CEFAA.

The Navy Captain stated that the object was a “flat, elongated structure” with “two thermal spotlights like discharges that did not coincide with the axel of motion.” The technician described it as as “white with a semi-oval shape on the horizontal axis.”

The UN’s peacekeeping nightmare in Africa – BBC News

One of the key issues facing Antonio Guterres, the UN’s newly installed secretary-general, will be to address critical failures in African peacekeeping operations.

With this is mind, he will surely be asking himself whether the vast organisation he is now leading needs to chart a different course.

The UN spends close to $8bn (£6.5bn) every year on peacekeeping around the world, with the bulk going to missions in Africa.A new report by the Geneva-based research group Small Arms Survey has accused the UN’s mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) of lacking neutrality by giving arms to rebels in the town of Bentiu in 2013.

It blames Unmiss for underreporting arms confiscated from fleeing soldiers and handing over the weapons to soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) on more than one occasion.

The report also claims that shortly after this transfer of arms, the rebels went on to carry out a massacre of civilians.Failure to protectThe operations of the UN’s mission in South Sudan came into sharp focus after embarrassing revelations that its troops failed to protect civilians following clashes between government forces and former rebels in July 2016.A damning internal investigation found that its peacekeeping mission in the capital, Juba had failed to achieve one of its core mandates, namely “to protect civilians under threat of physical violence […] with specific protection for women and children”.

It described the troops’ response as chaotic and ineffective.

Eyewitnesses said women and girls were raped near UN compounds with no action from peacekeepers.

Not far away, foreign aid workers suffered similar sexual violence at their residence. Their case gained much international condemnation, but it is dwarfed by the scale of the atrocities South Sudanese civilians have long experienced.

In a recent report to the Security Council, the outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered little hope.

“There is a very real risk of mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan,” he said.

“[…] The secretariat will continue to make every effort to implement the mandated task of protecting civilians through the use of ‘all necessary means’.

“[But] it must be clearly understood that United Nations peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate reach, manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities,” his statement said.

In February, gunmen killed 30 internally displaced people and wounded more than 120 others within one of the UN’s designated Protection of Civilian compounds in the north-western South Sudanese town of Malakal.

The peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast is held up by UN figures as an example of success AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The irony of the facility failing to live up to its name was not lost on the mission’s critics.

The UN later accepted responsibility for its failure to prevent the bloodbath.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), the UN mission (Minusca) has also been accused of inaction when, for example, more than 75 people including civilians were killed in the north during an outbreak of violence in September 2016.

The rights group, Amnesty International, reflected on this case, saying Minusca was poorly trained and “lacks the resources it needs to adequately protect civilians.”

Jean-Serge Bokassa, the Interior Minister of CAR, accused the peacekeepers of colluding with armed militias.

“What is the role of the Pakistani contingent in Kaga-Bandoro?” he asked. “Their collusion with armed groups has gone too long.”

A week later, four people died in the capital Bangui during anti-UN protests.

In the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, similar disdain for the UN and its peacekeeping mission Monusco (which replaced the dysfunctional Monuc), has led to violent demonstrations and attacks by civilians in the past.

Most of the anti-UN protests have taken place in the eastern region of Kivu, where armed groups continue to commit massacres, especially in the Beni region.

Peacekeepers have often been referred to as tourists because they are associated with helicopters and 4×4 vehicles.

Charles Bambara, the spokesman for Monusco, says the task of the mission is so enormous that it’s easy to underestimate progress being made.

“This country was divided into three: one armed group was controlling Goma area, another one controlling Kisangani and another one controlling the capital city and the west of the country,” he says.

“So the aim when this mission was established was to reunite the country. This has now been done, with the support of the DRC armed forces. We need the support of the international community.

“This is a very difficult mission. There are probably 40 or 50 armed groups present in this country, which is as big as Western Europe, so we cannot be everywhere and that’s why we’re targeting these groups one after the other.”

One notorious and repeated blight on the UN peacekeeping scorecard has been that of the discipline – or the lack of it – of troops.

A UN inquiry has named 41 peacekeepers in relation to alleged sexual abuse and exploitation in the Central African Republic between 2014 and 2015.

Women and even minors were reportedly abused in exchange for food and clothing. The UN has taken very little action against the individual soldiers.

Prosecutors in Paris said this week that charges would not be brought against six French peacekeepers following a criminal investigation into similar allegations.

Each country is responsible for charging its implicated troops but guilty verdicts might not be in a nation’s best interests as that would taint its reputation in peacekeeping – although these track records are not officially considered when selecting which countries contribute to the missions.

The UN undersecretary for peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, recently denied there was a crisis in UN peacekeeping.

“Some operations are working very well. For instance, we are a few months away from an end to the operations in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia. Their success enables us to withdraw,” he said.

“However, some operations are working less well, frequently because of factors linked to the local political situation and local players, rather than to the shortcomings of our operations themselves.”

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The take of an ex-UN insider

Keep reding at: The UN’s peacekeeping nightmare in Africa – BBC News

RADICALISATION: IS THIS THE RIGHT PATH TO BE FOLLOWED OR SHOULD WE DO MORE?  France’s challenges for working out a coherent strategy against violent radicalization and terrorism. A broad (and incomplete) outline. | sicherheitspolitik-blog.de

by Milena Uhlmann

Terrorism isn’t new to the country; in its history, France has experienced a significant number of attacks. In 1995, the GIA-affiliated terrorist network of which Khaled Kelkal was part conducted several attacks, as did the Al Qaida-affiliated gang de Roubaix one year later; but until Mohammed Merah’s murders in 2012 in Toulouse and Montauban, terrorist attacks were treated as political violence in the context of anti-colonial struggles or connected to other kinds of violent conflicts abroad, such as the Bosnian War, rather than as religiously inspired or connected to social, societal and/or political issues within the country, or as some sort of atypical pathology.

Terrorist perpetrators, their networks and milieus were met with repressive instruments – a wider angle of analysis which would have allowed to tackle the threat from a more holistic perspective had not been incorporated in a counter-terrorism policy design.

FIRST STEPS – THE “ACTION PLAN AGAINST TERRORIST NETWORKS AND VIOLENT RADICALIZATION“ (2014) AND THE FIRST STRUCTURED EFFORT TO PROVIDE STATE ASSISTANCE IN THE CONTEXT OF RADICALIZATION.

With some vague kind of sense of urgency developing after an increasing number of young French men and some women started to leave for Syria to join jihadist groups there in 2012/13, the French government put together the “Plan de lutte contre les filières terroristes et la radicalisation violente“ (Action Plan against Terrorist Networks and Violent Radicalization), comprised of 22 measures. This plan dating from April 2014 put priorities on impeding travel to Syria, preventing online jihadist propaganda, the hesitant start of diffusion of so called „counter narratives“, strengthening judicial instruments against jihadist networks and implementing prevention and reintegration strategies.In April the same year, the government created a national hotline (“numéro vert“) as part of a new structure called „Centre national d’assistance et de prévention de la radicalisation“ (National Assistance and Radicalization Prevention Center, CNAPR). Persons believed to be wanting to leave to the region, or to have radicalized / be on the path to radicalization, can since be reported to the CNAPR. The calls are taken by police officers from the “Unité de coordination de la lutte antiterroriste” (Coordination Unit for the Fight Against Terrorism, UCLAT), who are assisted by a psychologist. It receives on average between 60 and 80 calls every day. From the end of April 2014 until end of September 2016, 12.265 alerts had been processed either by the CNAPR or the Security Staff in the prefectures (4.015 of them had been signaled until March 2015, 8.250 until January 2016). In total, 15.000 persons have been signaled through UCLAT, the prefectures or different intelligence services; 80 percent of them are adults, 70 percent of those are males, whilst females make up for the biggest part of the minors. 36 percent are converts. Seven percent of those signaled left to the SYRAQ region, and 20 per cent of them died there. Of the total number of persons, UCLAT is monitoring about 2.000 which are deemed potentially dangerous.

The information gathered and analyzed is forwarded to the prefecture responsible for the region the signaled person lives in as well as to the internal intelligence service (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure, DGSI). The prefect then notifies the relevant public prosecutor. If the reported case concerns a minor, the prosecutor can then strive for the implementation of educational assistance measures with regard to the family concerned. With the prosecutor’s consent, the prefect also notifies the mayor of the municipality the person concerned lives in. In conjunction with the prosecutor, the prefect orders stings the relevant local follow-up unit into action, which each département (county) was ordered to create in February 2015. Critics argue that this system relies too heavily on state and security services, which is partially keeping people from calling the hotline and working together with the units.

These units consist of state institutions (such as the police, the justice sector and the employment agency), regional and local authorities (such as social services) and local associative networks. Through these different actors, the units are meant to aim at providing tailored measures to assist the families of the individual in question as well as the individual him/herself. A social worker is supposed to be assigned to each case to keep track of the process. Whilst the prefect initiates this action, the role of the mayor is to assure comprehensive and coherent action taking into account the individual situation of the individual in question. Local and intercommunal councils on security and crime prevention (Conseils locaux et intercommunaux de sécurité et de prévention de la délinquance, CLISPD) should be implicated as well. Via the CLISPD, the prefect can entrust a deputy prefect with the mission to take up preventive measures and to create fallow-up units in the counties.

Apart from the fact that CLISPD are only created for municipalities with a population of more than 10.000 inhabitants and consequently this instrument cannot be used in certain rural areas, other structural problems persist: the division of tasks is not always clear, and the phenomenon of radicalization is complex. There is thus some confusion about who can or should do what, and those who find themselves confronted with the phenomenon all too often lack specific knowledge and expertise, as has amongst others been pointed out to by the Association of the Mayors of France (Association des maires de France, AMF).

Furthermore, it is proving difficult to find trained specialists who are capable of working with radicalized persons, and some families are not willing to cooperate with the follow-up unit designed for changing the path of one of their kin. This is stated by the Inter-ministerial Guide for Prevention of Radicalization dating from March 2016, provided by the Inter-ministerial Committee for Prevention of Crime and Radicalization (Comité interministériel de prévention de la délinquance et la radicalisation, CIPDR), the institution in charge of the non-repressive pillar of the French prevention efforts which is also responsible for the monitoring and quality assurance of the work of the follow-up units. In its report to the parliament for the year 2015, the CIPDR is stating that the follow-up units are not being handled coherently, with confusion over the the roles of the different partners, affecting the efficiency of the work of the units.

This is aggravated by the large and steadily growing number of those being followed-up upon with the goal of disengaging them from violence, posing a problem to proper monitoring in general: by 13th October 2016, 2.240 persons had been directed into programs monitored by local units, as well as 972 families (1.600 persons / 800 families in May 2016). Furthermore, a large number of the individuals concerned are at the same time being followed-up upon by the police, implying a heightened level of radicalization of these individuals.

THE FIRST NON-STATE PARTNER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE FIGHT AGAINST RADICALIZATION – THE “CENTER FOR THE PREVENTION OF SECTARIAN ABERRATIONS LINKED TO ISLAM“ (CPDSI)

The first actor that had been commissioned with the work of disengagement simultaneously to the creation of the national hotline in April 2014 was the Center for the Prevention of Sectarian Aberrations Linked to Islam (Centre de prévention des dérives sectaires liées à l’Islam, CPDSI). … …  

… KEEP READING AT 

France’s challenges for working out a coherent strategy against violent radicalization and terrorism. A broad (and incomplete) outline. | sicherheitspolitik-blog.de

 

Milena Uhlmann is Associate Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) in London and the author of various publications on conversion to Islam in Western Europe, radicalization processes and deradicalization approaches. (Latest publication: “Radicalisation et déradicalisation”, co-authored chapter with Asiem El Difraoui in his recent book “Le djihadisme”, Presses Universitaires de France, 2016) Since the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher attacks until after the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015, she has mainly worked in France on issues related to these phenomena. The views expressed are solely those of the author.

Did the U.S. Army Just Build 117,000 ‘Super’ Guns? (Source: The National Interest Blog)

The US Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull and a slightly heavier barrel.The US Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said.

The service’s so-called M4 Product Improvement Program, or PIP, is a far-reaching initiative to upgrade the Army’s entire current inventory of M4 rifles into higher-tech, durable and more lethal M4A1 weapons, Army spokesman Pete Rowland, spokesman for PM Soldier Weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire.

New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control,” an Army statement said. To date, the Army has completed more than 117,000 M4A1 upgrades on the way to the eventual transformation of more than 480,000 M4 rifles. The service recently marked a milestone of having completed one-fourth of its intended upgrades to benefit Soldiers in combat.

“The Army is planning to convert all currently fielded M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines; approximately 483,000,” Rowland said. “Most of the enhancements resulted from Soldier surveys conducted over time.”

Rowland explained that the PIP involves a two-pronged effort; one part involves depot work to quickly transform existing M4s into M4A1s alongside a commensurate effort to acquire new M4A1 weapons from FN Herstal and Colt. Army developers explain that conversions to the M4A1 represents the latest iteration in a long-standing service effort to improve the weapon.

“We continuously perform market research and maintain communications with the user for continuous improvements and to meet emerging requirements,” Army statements said. The Army has already made more than 90 performance “Engineering Change Proposals” to the M4 Carbine since its introduction, an Army document describes.

“Improvements have been made to the trigger assembly, extractor spring, recoil buffer, barrel chamber, magazine and bolt, as well as ergonomic changes to allow Soldiers to tailor the system to meet their needs,” and Army statement said. Today’s M4 is quite different “under the hood” than its predecessors and tomorrow’s M4A1 will be even further refined to provide Soldiers with an even more effective and reliable weapon system, Army statements said.

The M4A1 is also engineered to fire the emerging M885A1 Enhanced Performance Round, .556 ammunition designed with new, better penetrating and more lethal contours to exact more damage upon enemy targets. “The M4A1 has improvements which take advantage of the M885A1.

The round is better performing and is effective against light armor,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

Prior to the emergence of the M4A1 program, the Army had planned to acquire a new M4; numerous tests, industry demonstrations and requirements development exercises informed this effort, including a “shoot off” among potential suppliers.

Before its conversion into the M4A1, the M4 –  while a battle tested weapon and known for many success – had become controversial due to combat Soldier complaints, such as reports of the weapon “jamming.”

Future M4 Rifle Improvements?:

While Army officials are not yet discussing any additional improvements to the M1A4 or planning to launch a new program of any kind, service officials do acknowledge ongoing conceptual discussion regarding ways to further integrate emerging technology into the weapon.

Within the last few years, the Army did conduct a “market survey” with which to explore a host of additional upgrades to the M4A1; These previous considerations, called the M4A1+ effort, analyzed by Army developers and then shelved. Among the options explored by the Army and industry included the use of a “flash suppressor,” camoflauge, removable iron sights and a single-stage trigger, according to numerous news reports and a formal government solicitation.
The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.
“One of the upgrades is an improved extended forward rail that will ‘provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel’ for improved accuracy. The improved rail will also have to include a low-profile gas block that could spell the end of the M16/M4 design’s traditional gas block and triangular fixed front sight,” the report says.
Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in effort to identify and integrate emerging technologies into the rifle as they become available. As a result, it is entirely conceivable that the Army will explore new requirements and technologies for the M4A1 as time goes on.
Kris Osborn became the Managing Editor of Scout Warrior in August of 2015. His role with Scout.com includes managing content on the Scout Warrior site and generating independently sourced original material. Scout Warrior is aimed at providing engaging, substantial military-specific content covering a range of key areas such as weapons, emerging or next-generation technologies and issues of relevance to the military. Just prior to coming to Scout Warrior, Osborn served as an Associate Editor at the Military.com. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at CNN and CNN Headline News. This story originally appeared in Scout Warrior. 

Source: Did the U.S. Army Just Build 117,000 ‘Super’ Guns? | The National Interest Blog

A new wild card in Afghanistan war: Russia – CSMonitor.com

An Afghan soldier inspects the site of a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul in September. Russia has reportedly reached out to the Taliban to stem the spread of ISIS in Afghanistan.

Russia is worried that terrorists could be fleeing from Syria to Afghanistan and is moving to counter. It has many of the same goals as the US in Afghanistan, but different motivations.

Next month, Donald Trump will inherit the nation’s longest war – the war in Afghanistan. More than 8,000 United States troops remain there, 15 years on, primarily to support Afghan forces in their battle against the Taliban, while the Islamic State, or ISIS, has also gained a foothold.

For a president-elect who abhors nation-building – and castigated President Obama for prematurely pulling out of Iraq – Afghanistan presents few good options.

Peace talks with the Taliban, hosted by Pakistan, have gone nowhere. Afghan troops are more effective, but still reliant on US air power. The Taliban’s territorial control is at its greatest extent since it lost power in 2001.

One wild card is Russia. This week Russia hosted talks on Afghanistan’s security with Pakistani and Chinese envoys, the third such meeting and a sign, say analysts, of rising Russian concern over instability and Islamic extremism on the borders of its sphere of influence.

Could Moscow be a useful partner in Afghanistan? Or will it only add to the regional rivalries that perpetuate the conflict?

On one hand, Afghanistan is not Syria. There, Russia supports a regime that the US opposes. In Afghanistan, both powers want to see the Kabul government deny sanctuary to ISIS and Al Qaeda. That could present a common agenda.

“The Russians have been content to see the US tied down in Afghanistan and watch from afar. Now ISIS is making inroads in Afghanistan … I think Russia is starting to get worried,” says Lisa Curtis, an expert on South Asia at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

But Russia, which still bears the memory of the disastrous 1979 Soviet invasion, has a narrower agenda than the US has had in Afghanistan.

“Russia’s interests are not so much in Afghanistan itself but in preventing any instability spilling over into Central Asia,” says Paul Stronksi, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Russia’s pursuit of that agenda has made its role hard to pin down. For instance, Russia has warned that ISIS fighters from Syria are flowing into Afghanistan, giving them a rear base to attack Russia. In response, it is deepening its ties to the Taliban, seeking to root out ISIS from its Afghan sanctuaries, say analysts.

That could be useful for brokering political talks with Kabul – a US goal. But any material support for the Taliban would undermine US efforts to build Afghan forces capable of defeating all militants. Russia has denied helping the Taliban and said its goal is to promote peace talks.

“What we see from Moscow is a short-term tactical approach that could backfire on them,” says Ms. Curtis, a former US diplomat and adviser to the State Department.

Russia’s diplomacy has also raised hackles in Kabul. The Afghan government complained this week that it had been excluded from the Moscow talks. In a joint statement, China, Pakistan, and Russia said they would invite Afghanistan to the next meeting.

They also said that China and Russia would work with the United Nations to promote peace talks by removing Afghans from sanctions lists, a reference to Taliban leaders who are barred from international travel.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump gave few clues about his views on Afghanistan, a war that had largely fallen from public view. Given his claims that Mr. Obama “founded” ISIS because he yanked US troops from Iraq, US military deployment in Afghanistan is unlikely to end anytime soon, say analysts.

Trump might want to step up the pace of counterterrorism missions, in addition to the training and support for Afghan troops, says Curtis. “It’s safe to assume we’ll remain engaged in Afghanistan.”

One difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, says Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, is that political leaders in Afghanistan want US troops there, unlike former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Mr. Korb says he expects Trump to continue a policy of trying to nudge the warring parties toward negotiations while supporting Afghan military and civilian forces – roughly in line with Obama’s current policy.

“We’re in a situation where the costs are relatively low. We may not be winning but we’re not losing dramatically, and the hope is that we could get some sort of settlement,” he says.

By Simon Montlake

Source: A new wild card in Afghanistan war: Russia – CSMonitor.com

The world has become obsessed with elites ( The Economist)

AN ACADEMIC, a politician, a journalist, a film star, a nobleman and a banker walk into a bar. They order different drinks, and sit at separate tables each doing their own thing. There is no punch line; these people do not belong together in any sensible way. Yet members of these groups and others are regularly given the same label: “elites”. Careful writers should avoid this word; it is becoming a junk-bin concept used by different people to mean wildly different things.It is easy to understand why people reach for “elites”. If pundits can agree on anything about 2016, it is surely that it has been bad for elites. Populist wave after populist wave has broken over Western politics, with a vote for Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and Italy’s loss of a popular young prime minister over a constitutional referendum that he called—and lost. The masses are out for blood, and the elites are quaking.

But if you can picture those masses in your mind—pitchforks, torches, perhaps overalls—what do the elites look like? For Mr Trump, the hated elites comprise the Washington political establishment and the press. But for his own opponents, the very idea of a billionaire who lives in a golden tower swanning in and winning himself the presidency just goes to show what elite status can get you.

Campaigners for Brexit railed against liberal elites—the economists, academics and journalists who warned of its consequences. But the face of the Leave campaign was Boris Johnson, an Eton- and Oxford-educated toff. Michael Gove, another Leaver, said that folks were tired of “experts”. But Mr Gove, like Mr Johnson, is a former president of Oxford’s leading debating society, the Oxford Union, and one of politics’ pointier heads. In other words, no matter who you are or what you’re campaigning for, bashing elites seems a safe bet, while admitting to being a member of anelite is an absolute no-go.

The obsession with elites is relatively recent: the oldest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) dates back to 1823. It was only a singular noun, from a past participle in French, meaning “chosen”; from the same root as “to elect”. (Its very Frenchness may make elite such a delicious word for some Anglophones to hurl as an insult.) The OED says the English noun is “The choice part or flower (of society, or of any body or class of persons)”.

This entry has not yet been updated to include its more recent sense, the pejorative version, often plural, which can be glossed as “people with unearned privileges who keep honest folks from getting a fair shake”. Data from Google Books show the plural word “elites” beginning to be used in about 1940, with the obviously pejorative “elitist” rising from about 1960. The anti-authority cultural changes of the 1960s, it seems, brought with them a rising concern with elites and their apologists.

Data from the New York Times show an even sharper spike in mentions of elites since about 2010, as article after article has tried to diagnose anger at elites. Populist anger is hardly surprising: elite financiers tanked the global economy, elite economists failed to foresee it and political elites failed to respond effectively enough. Those elites in the crosshairs had to find other elites to blame, and they did so. Elite scientists and Hollywood liberals whining about climate change cost coalminers their jobs. Elite London journalists noshing on sushi ignore the problems that hard-working northern Brits suffer as a result of immigration. Cultural elites police what can be said about minorities. And so on.

But the rush to blame elites has nearly everyone in the crosshairs: Sketch Engine, a digital tool for lexicographers, finds among the common modifiers for elite not just obvious ones like “ruling”, “wealthy”, “monied”, but also “secular”, “cultural”, “educated”, “metropolitan” and “bureaucratic”. Elites are no longer “the choice part or flower” of a group, but merely anyone in a position of influence someone else thinks they do not deserve.

Words aimed more precisely serve their purpose better. Elites are an abstraction. If people are angry at bankers or at climate scientists, they should say so specifically. Those seeking to diagnose the causes of the current wave of populism need to understand what populist voters are truly angry about. Those who are angry at elites generally, but can’t say more specifically who they are angry at or why, should think twice before voting for a populist who promises to find and punish those elites, whoever they are.

Johnson: the meaning of “elites”

Source: The world has become obsessed with elites | The Economist

Why the Resilience of Islamist Militants Will Threaten Security Across Africa in 2017

The violence of ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliates threatens to spread far beyond Nigeria and Somalia.

On December 23 the Nigerian army achieved a significant milestone in its long war against Boko Haram, capturing what was described as the Islamist militant group’s last stronghold in the remote Sambisa Forest in the country’s northeast near the border with Cameroon. On Christmas Eve, President Muhammadu Buhari triumphantly tweeted that it was the “final crushing of the Boko Haram terrorists” who were “on the run and no longer have a place to hide.” The remarkable turnaround of the conflict in less than two years deserves to be applauded, but the latest victory is unlikely to put an end to terrorist attacks in Africa’s most populous country, much less extinguish the flame of militancy and violence that presents one of the biggest obstacles to the otherwise the buoyant economic prospects for the continent, with 2016’s moderate average growth expected to accelerate to 4.5 percent in 2017. Nigeria’s struggle against Boko Haram illustrates both the resilience of the threat and what might be done to counter it.

After years of ceding ground to Boko Haram, so much so that by 2014 the group had consolidated its hold over a territory larger than Belgium and proclaimed a self-styled “emirate,” the Nigerian armed forces adopted a new strategy and began fighting back. While the counterattack began in the waning days of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, things began to change after Buhari, a retired major-general, won a historic (and decisive) election victory over the incumbent in March 2015, in part by promising to defeat the militants.

Cashiering his predecessor’s military chiefs shortly after taking office, Buhari installed new commanders, including a chief of army staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, who is a native of Borno, the epicenter of the insurgency. He also moved command headquarters close to the fighting. Since then, in concert with a multinational force from neighboring countries, the Nigerian military has pursued an aggressive strategy, combining an intensive air campaign with a surge of troops on the ground, gradually pushing Boko Haram out of the towns it occupied and, increasingly, in remote hideouts like “Camp Zero,” the base that fell on December 23.

Along the way, as I had the opportunity to witness firsthand in November when I toured the battlefront, the Nigerian army also took on the task of not only providing security to the populations it liberated, but also, until aid groups and development organizations returned, providing humanitarian relief, medical assistance, and even education and livelihood training. For example, the civil-military operations carried out by the battalion I spent time with in Pulka, just a few kilometers from what were at the time Boko Haram positions in the Sambisa Forest, were critical to the wellbeing of the community and served to rally the population to support the government’s push against the militant group.

Notwithstanding the success of the military operations, Boko Haram remains a force to be reckoned with. In response to defeats, the militants shifted tactics, expanding their use of suicide bombings, most of which have targeted the civilian population. Just days before the capture of its forest bastion, Boko Haram staged a pair of attacks on a busy market in the town of Madagali that left 56 people dead and more than 120 wounded. Nor does its most recent setback seem to be having much effect on the terrorists’ operational tempo: two suicide bombers struck in northern Cameroon on Christmas Day and another attacked a busy cattle market in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, the next day. Moreover, Boko Haram’s elusive longtime leader Abubakar Shekau surfaced this week in a new video in which he claimed that he and his followers were “safe” and would continue their fight “to establish an Islamic Caliphate” separate from Nigeria. Alongside the strengths of Boko Haram, the Nigerian military faced its own frustration in its attempts to purchase aircraft and other military platforms from the United States; it recently turned to Russia and Pakistan to obtain warplanes after a proposal to buy American-made A-29 Super Tucano attack planes stalled.

Meanwhile, the schism within Boko Haram may be contributing to the intensification, rather than diminution, of violence as both factions try to outdo each other in staging attacks. In early 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and formally rebranded itself as the “Islamic State West Africa Province;” however, the group split between those loyal to Shekau and those now following Abu Musab al-Barnawi, whom ISIS appointed as the new “governor” (wali) of its “province” in August. Even if the group was weakened in Nigeria, militants still spilled into neighboring countries, causing Cameroon and Niger, for example, to rise in the 2016 edition of the Global Terrorism Index to 13th place and 16th place, respectively.

Resilience is a characteristic shared not only by ISIS-aligned groups in Africa like Boko Haram, but also al-Qaeda affiliates such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Despite being mauled by the French-led intervention in Mali in 2013, AQIM has bounced back to stage a series of deadly attacks in 2016, including hits on luxury hotels in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, countries that had not previously not been hit by terrorism.

In Somalia, despite punishing U.S. airstrikes, al-Shabab appears far from finished. Notwithstanding the presence of a 20,000-strong African Union force in the country to prop up the weak but internationally backed government, al-Shabab continues to be able to regularly seize control of towns like Mahadaay, a strategic crossroads the militants took over on December 19 after driving out regime soldiers. This came just days after the militants briefly overran El Wak, a town near the border with Kenya, a country that has repeatedly suffered attacks by al-Shabab in the last year.

The continuing threat posed by these varied militant groups is the result of their exploitation of local conflicts and social, economic, and political marginalization, as well as the fragile condition of many of the states affected. This weakness often manifests in a low capacity to resist militants overall and a tendency towards ham-fisted responses that aggravate grievances. In some cases, defeat spurs the extremists to adapt new strategies that result in renewed vigor—an example is the fragmentation of AQIM’s organization in the Sahel in the wake of the Mali intervention. The multiplication of factions along ethnic lines facilitated both the members’ blending into local populations and their making inroads among them; one splinter group, the ethnic-Fulani jihadist Macina Liberation Front, freed 93 suspected militants in a jailbreak in early December.

In other instances, the manifest failure to achieve political settlements propels the resurgence of otherwise weakened militant groups—in Somalia, the utter fiasco of the process for selecting a new government in Somalia, including the sale of electoral seats for up to $1.3 million and the recent postponement for the fourth time of the presidential vote, serves as an example. New instability, such as the crisis now underway in the Democratic Republic of the Congo thanks to President Joseph Kabila’s decision to hold on to power despite his term of office expiring on December 19, presents armed movements with additional opportunities, underscored by the recent massacre of civilians in the country’s east.

Even where they do not pose an existential threat to the states affected, the various militant jihadists currently active across Africa can have a disproportionate impact on their fortunes. Counterinsurgency campaigns are expensive affairs that divert resources from the investments in infrastructure, education, and health, which Africa’s emerging economies need to make if they are position themselves to take advantage of the current growth opportunities. Ivory Coast may be Africa’s new economic powerhouse, with a diversified economy and growth in 2016 expected to hit 8.5 percent, the second-highest in the world, but more attacks such as the one in March by AQIM can still scare off foreign investors who are just beginning to discover its potential. The stakes are even higher for country like Nigeria: Africa’s biggest economy slipped into recession this year and continued insecurity—not just from Boko Haram, but also militant groups in the oil-producing southeast such as the Niger Delta Avengers —doesn’t help.

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Why the Resilience of Islamist Militants Will Threaten Security Across Africa in 2017

The US Army is configuring Abrams tanks to be able to control attack drones – Business Insider

The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.

Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.

Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.

Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that.

There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar. Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.

Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.

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The US Army is configuring Abrams tanks to be able to control attack drones – Business Insider