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The Edge of Terrorism

Taking the Edge Off a Pipe Bomb--Literally

August 20th 2012

Bomb explosion

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate's (S&T) new low-cost device for dismantling dangerous pipe bombs may look like a tinkerer's project, but that's no accident. The Semi Autonomous Pipe Bomb End-cap Remover (SAPBER) is unassuming in appearance, but sophisticated enough to preserve the forensic evidence needed to track down the perpetrator.

"From ten paces away, you might mistake the contraption for a pressure washer," says S&T Program Manager Christine Lee. "But step closer and you'll find an ingenious device bristling with four video cameras, radios, a telescoping mast, cutting wheels, a twisting wrist, an electric motor, and a chain-driven gear, all powered by a pair of 12-volt batteries."

Thousands of pipe bombs are made each year, and thousands of pipe bomb threats are called into local police and FBI authorities across the country. Many are false alarms, but those that aren't can be deadly.

Dismantling a pipe bomb is tricky and serious business, and missteps during the dismantling process can produce catastrophic results. Law enforcement authorities ideally would like to preserve all evidence related to pipe bomb attacks, but the main focus of responders is the safety of the public and current pipe bomb render-safe techniques often limit the amount of evidence that can be collected. Not so with SAPBER (say-ber). Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Rebels and al-Qaeda Alliance Becomes More Likely

August 19th 2012

al Qaeda Fighters

Syrian rebels on Thursday warned the U.S. and the European Unions they will turn to al-Qaeda if the West fails to provide aid -- including weapons -- to them, according to reports. The U.S. and other nations' hesitancy to provide meaningful aid to the Syrian rebels battling the Assad government troops in a bloodbath within nation's largest city, Aleppo, could very well cause the rebels to turn to al-Qaeda terrorists who continue to pour into Syria from Iraq, according to a counterterrorism source in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

"My colleagues overseas tell me that fighters from al-Qaeda's Iraqi faction have been sneaking into the country for at least a year in hopes of taking control of the civil war and then takeover the new government once the Syrian president and his minions are imprisoned or executed," said the veteran counterterrorist. During the Iraq War, Syria was used as a base of operations for al-Qaeda in Iraq during the most violent and destructive days of that war, according to Thomas Angeleno, who served as a police advisor under former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was contracted to help create the first stages of the Baghdad Police during the early days of the Hussein ouster. Read more ..


Afganistan on Edge

US Troops Armed at all Times in Afganistan

August 18th 2012

Army in Afghanistan

Gen. John Allen, commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has taken the drastic step of ordering all American troops to be armed at all times -- even when within U.S. or coalition bases -- as a way to protect against increasing insider attacks.

The order, according to reports by CNN, states that all U.S. personnel will carry a weapon plus a magazine of ammunition around the clock. The weapons will be carried in formerly secured areas, CNN reports, such as U.S. headquarters in Kabul and other coalition and Afghan government installations around the country.

Allen issued the order on Saturday, a day after two members of a U.S. special operations group were killed by a local recruit to the Afghan police force in Western Afghanistan. The two soldiers assigned to a U.S. special forces team assigned to train and equip local police forces in Farah province, were unarmed when they were shot and killed by Mohammad Ismail on Friday. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Rebels Step Up Efforts to Get Anti-Aircraft Missiles

August 18th 2012

Syrian Rebels

Syrian rebels are redoubling their efforts to acquire portable anti-aircraft missiles following government airstrikes on cities and towns in the north of the country. In the latest such strike, a Syrian Air Force jet bombed the rebel-held town of Azaz near the Turkish border, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100. Rebel commanders and activists say their buyers are now scouring the arms black markets in the region to get the shoulder-fired missiles that can counter the government airstrikes.

According to opposition activist “Tony” al-Taieb, who works with the rebel military council in Aleppo, representatives with cash from rich Syrian exiles are negotiating to buy the portable surface-to-air missiles, often called SAMS or MANPADS, for “Man-Portable-Air-Defense-System.”

“Don’t believe everything you hear about the Qataris and Saudis supplying us with heavier weaponry,” al-Taieb says. “We are getting hardly anything from them.” Al-Taieb said acquiring as many MANPADS missile systems as possible was now the highest priority for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the umbrella organization for many of the rebel brigades that have been trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the past 18 months. He said the government airstrikes on Aleppo, Azaz, Tel Rifat and villages such as Akhtarin and other settlements closer to the Turkish border were apparently designed to menace the rebel enclave in the region and disrupt rebel supply routes from Turkey. Military analysts say shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles can turn the tide of battle in an insurgency war like the one in Syria. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Targeting Tribal Leaders: A New Militant Tactic in Sinai

August 17th 2012

haqqani terrorists

Militants killed Egyptian tribal leader Khalaf al-Menahy and his son Aug. 13 as the two were returning from a conference in east Sinai organized and attended by tribal leaders to denounce militancy, according to Sinai security forces. The senior al-Menahy was a prominent proponent of bolstering the Sinai Peninsula's representation in Egypt's parliament and of improving security in the region. He also was a prominent sheikh in the Sawarka tribe, said to be the largest in Sinai. Following his burial Aug. 13, the tribe vowed to seek vengeance. This is the first reported case of militants attacking tribal leaders in Sinai. It comes soon after an attack on Egyptian security forces Aug. 5 and an attack on military checkpoints in northern Sinai on Aug. 8.

Although the militant tactic of targeting tribal leaders is new to Sinai, the tactic has been common in conflict zones in the Middle East and South Asia, such as in Yemen, Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Though it can offer many benefits to these militants -- including weakening the targeted tribe and possibly leading to its co-option -- these kinds of attacks tend to only succeed in zones with little government control and against tribes that cannot effectively retaliate. Examining similar instances of this tactic thus provides a helpful tool for assessing the consequences of attacks against tribal elements in the Sinai Peninsula. Read more ..


The Edge of Defense

Dissent among Republicans over Defense Spending

August 17th 2012

B-2 Bomber

Grover Norquist, influential Republican Washington lobbyist, is advising his party’s lawmakers to cut the defense budget deeply to avoid a major federal tax hike. His remarks this week were another sign of splintering views in Republican ranks about spending on national defense, that presently consumes about half of the discretionary federal budget—with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney going in one direction and some Republican lawmakers and lobbyists headed in a different direction.

Norquist, a long-time anti-tax crusader in Washington, said in a talk at the Center for The National Interest that Republicans should not be pushing for increased spending on defense when the national deficit has ballooned. Instead, he said, lawmakers should embrace the need to balance the budget and cut wasteful projects, which he said could be done without negatively impacting national security. “You need to decide what your real defense needs are,” said Norquist. “That doesn’t mean chairmen of certain committees get to build bases in their states. That’s not a defense need ... [but] a political desire.” The debate so far, he said, has been marked by a lack of “serious conversation” on the Hill. However, he predicted that many of the Republicans unwilling to cut defense spending would either retire or be replaced in the November elections. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Google and Apple Enable Hezbollah and Hamas Pro-Terrorism "Apps" on their Phones

August 17th 2012

Smart phone

Terrorism watchers have expressed concern about Hezbollah re-launching its smart phone applications, which were previously removed by Apple and Google. The Anti-Defamation League was the first to report on such apps, which first appeared on July 25 and directs users to con­tent from Al-Manar, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization’s satel­lite tele­vi­sion sta­tion that broad­casts mes­sages of hate and vio­lence. Apple and Google later removed the app.

In a statement just issued blaming ADL for the failure of its previous efforts, Al-Manar said the app has been rereleased for the Android operating system and is “back on Ipad and Iphone applications via alternative ways, following the campaign carried out by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League to deactivate Al-Manar applications on smart phones at Google Play and apple store.”

The ADL stated in a letter, “As terrorist groups adapt to new technologies and figure out ways to circumvent restrictions, it is critical for the industry to take appropriate action to ensure that their services are not exploited by terror organizations.” Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director added, “We will continue to monitor and expose how Hezbollah and other ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions use cur­rent tech­nol­ogy to spread their vio­lent mes­sages and to work with Internet service companies to see to it that terrorists don’t succeed in evading industry safeguards designed to prevent the use of these platforms to promote terrorism. Now more than ever, the stakes are too high to be complacent.” Read more ..


Israel's Looming Strike

Israel Simulates Chemical Attack Amid Increased War Speculation

August 17th 2012

Gas Mask Triage

Israeli citizens who went shopping this morning at a Nazareth mall were in for a surprise, as emergency medical and military personnel simulated their responses to a chemical attack in the country’s northern region.

An IDF lieutenant who spoke with the Ynet newspaper says that since the Second Lebanon War there has been an increased desire to prepare for missile and chemical attacks in the northern part of Israel.

“Every time they want more. Another practice, another meeting, another round table. We try to satisfy the needs,” the lieutenant said. The exercises come amid international concerns over the safety and security of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, which is believed to be the largest in the Middle East, and renewed speculation of a major confrontation with Iran. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

US Military Pilot Training Emphasizes Drone Warfare

August 16th 2012

MQ-1 Sky Warrior drone

The U.S. military is rushing to train more pilots for remotely piloted aircraft as its reliance on drones grows in places such as Afghanistan and Yemen. Holloman has long been the testing ground for cutting edge warplanes. These days, German training jets are the few manned aircraft to be seen here. 

The skies at Holloman are now ruled by remotely-piloted aircraft, or RPA's,  flown by crews that never leave the ground. Their controls are mainly screens and joysticks.  It is here that hundreds of young airmen and women are trained to conduct missions thousands of kilometers away in Afghanistan and Yemen. 

Jay, one of the trainers, said, “The thing that’s drilled into our mind from day one is that this is not a video game. This is real. Ultimately, we could be put into situations where we do use weapons to take lives of enemy combatants.”
It used to be that the operators of remotely piloted aircraft had flown manned aircraft.   Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Panetta: Iran Training Local Militias to Fight Syrian Rebels

August 16th 2012

Iran's Revolutionary Guard

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps are actively training and assisting local militias inside Syria to fight alongside government troops that are waging a civil war against rebel forces looking to oust embattled President Bashar Assad. “Iran is playing a larger role in Syria in many ways,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asserts. “There’s now an indication that they’re trying to develop … a militia within Syria to be able to fight on behalf of the [Assad] regime.”

Iranian support to a new pro-government militia in Syria mirrors the country’s efforts in Iraq. Tehran actively provided weapons and equipment to Jaysh Al-Mahdi, the insurgent militia headed by powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during the darkest days of the war. In Syria, Iran has continually sought to prop up the Assad regime, which Tehran sees as one of the country’s key regional allies, since government troops began their violent crackdown against Syrian rebels 18 months ago.

Since then, Iranian influence in the country has only grown, to the dismay of the United States and other world powers seeking a peaceful resolution to the growing crisis in the country. Earlier this month, members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured and detained 48 Iranian nationals who were traveling in the country. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Israeli Prepares for 30-Day War

August 15th 2012

Israeli Jets Parked
Israeli Jets Await Orders

Israel’s outgoing home front defense minister has told the Ma’ariv newspaper that the country is prepared for a 30 day war on numerous fronts, if Israel decides to go ahead with plans to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. “The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts,” Matan Vilnai said, adding “I can say in the most authoritative manner that the home front is ready as never before in the country’s history.”

Vilnai is stepping down and will be replaced by former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter. An attack on Israel in response to the Jewish state’s operations inside Iranian territory would cause roughly 500 Israeli deaths, according to an estimate given by Vilnai. “It could be that there will be less fatalities, but it could be there will be more, that is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts.”

The outgoing minister, who will now become Israel’s ambassador to China, did not offer his support for or opposition to an Israeli strike, however he did say that Jerusalem and Washington should be in sync on this issue. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Lawmakers Unhappy with Air Force Launch Monopoly

August 15th 2012

ULA Atlas V liftoff, June 2012
ULA Atlas V liftoff, June 2012 (credit: United Launch Alliance)

For six years, the Air Force has relied mostly on a single, high-cost rocket manufacturer to loft its reconnaissance, communications, and GPS satellites into space—and it is about expand that. In the fall of 2013, it plans to give the company a new $19 billion contract for all of the Air Force launches scheduled through 2017.

Some members of Congress are upset by the price tag, however, and key lawmakers—acting with the support of an array of upstart rocket firms—are starting to push back against the Air Force’s plan to reward its contractor with a five-year lock on all its launches. The latest salvo comes from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who complained in an August 2 letter that the Pentagon’s largest launch project “lacks domestic competition and is unable to compete internationally due to high costs.”

The Air Force satellite project is known as the Evolved Expendable Vehicle Launch (EELV) program. The firm that the Air Force favors is United Launch Alliance, a joint project formed in 2006 by the Pentagon’s top two contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The Air Force plans to award the $19 billion deal between June and October 2013. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Israel Confronts the Painful Decision to Attack Iran's Nuclear Weapon Complexes

August 14th 2012

soldiers pray at wailing wall

Israel believes its best interests will be served by an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. That is the logic apparent in a remarkable piece at Ha'aretz, an interview with a top Israeli official who is most likely Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Ari Shavit, one of Israel's top columnists, conducts the far-ranging interview, in which the official calmly describes Israel's rationale for attacking Iran in the near future. Shavit says: “A nuclear Iran is one of the gravest things that could happen to Israel,” the decision maker begins. “If Iran goes nuclear, everything here will be different. Everything. We will shift into a different state of existence. If Iran goes nuclear, down the road Israel will face a threat of existential magnitude. The first aspect of the issue doesn’t only concern us but the international community and the regional alignment. I’m talking about the spread of nuclearization. Up to now the world has found a way to live with two recalcitrant countries: Pakistan and North Korea. If Iran goes nuclear, the world will just lose it. It won’t have any control over the nuclear demon.

"We know this as a virtual certainty because we’ve heard it straight from the horses’ mouths. If Iran detonates a nuclear device, Saudi Arabia will be nuclear. Within a few years Turkey will go nuclear. The new Egypt will acquire nuclear capability within less than a decade. People ask, what’s our rush? We’re not rushing at all. We waited for years. If Iran’s nuclearization is not halted now, before long we’ll find ourselves in a Middle East that has all gone nuclear.” Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Possible War with Iran and Regional Instability Worry Israel’s Investors

August 14th 2012

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

Israel’s stock prices and its currency, the shekel, dropped sharply Monday amid a  media campaign against a possible Israeli preemptive strike on Iran, and it seemed investors were also worried about a generally unstable regional security situation., including  upheavals in Egypt, Syria and Jordan. “The TASE  (Tel Aviv Stock Exchange) fell hard across the board today, despite a mixed session in European markets,” reported the local financial newspaper, Gobes, citing “new talk of a possible strike on Iran.”

There was no panic selling but, economic observers spoke of “jitters” among investors brought on by several regional developments, including the New Egyptian government’s shake-up of senior army officials yesterday, sending tanks, planes  and large forces into Sinai for the first time since the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in order to fight several terror groups, and the continued bloodshed in Syria that threatens to destabilize  the border regions of Israel, Turkey and Jordan with an ever-surging flow of refugees. The air of uncertainty has also been fed by an campaign led by media opponents of the Israeli government and its consideration of a possible preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Hezbollah Terrorist Network

August 14th 2012

Hezbollah Troops

Secretary Timothy Geithner and his Treasury Department ordered the imposition of financial sanctions on the Lebanon-based, Iran-supported terrorist group Hezbollah on Friday, according the a government report.

The U.S. government sanctions are being imposed due to Hezbollah providing material support to the government of Syria, according the Treasury Department press statement.

In a press statement, the Treasury Department accused Hezbollah of providing training, advisors and "extensive logistical support" to the Syrian military and police in the regime's quest to destroy its opposition as a result of the uprising that started more than a year ago.

"Hezbollah [is] directly [training] Syrian government personnel inside Syria and has facilitated the training of Syrian forces by Iran's terrorist arm, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Qods Force (IRGC-QF)," said the Treasury Department statement. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

U.S. Would Provide 'Air Umbrella' For Israel In Event Of A Strike On Iran

August 13th 2012

KC-135, A-10s, and F-16s

As talk of an imminent Israeli strike on the Iranian nuclear program intensifies, American diplomatic sources have reportedly said that the U.S. will provide logistical support for Israel in the event of such an attack, as well as an "air umbrella" to help cope with possible retaliation. The Israeli daily Maariv reported these developments on Monday, and apparently emphasized the role played by electoral considerations.

"Such an intervention," writes the Times of Israel: "would all but guarantee Obama a second term in office. If he chose not to act, the president would likely be handing the office over to the Republicans, [sources] said." It appears that American involvement in an Iran strike would be solely defensive in nature, however, and the White House has no plans to take part in the attack itself. This would fit with the electoral concerns of both President Obama and Mitt Romney. While aiding Israel would likely be quite popular in the U.S., actual American involvement would likely be equally unpopular with an already war-weary electorate.


Argentina on Edge

Argentine Physicians on Strike to Demand Improved Security

August 12th 2012

justice for jennifer graffiti argentina

Doctors, nurses and other staff members went on strike at thirty-three public hospitals in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on August 9-10 for 24-hours to voice their demand for better protection from crime and violence, according to the head of the physicians' association.

The walkout was the result of a violent incident in which family members of a patient who had died stormed the hospital and attacked doctors and other medical staff. The departed, an unidentified young pregnant patient, Jennifer Farias, died three days after giving birth at Santojanni Hospital in Buenos Aires on July 18.

Several of the deceased patient's relatives and friends then attacked and beat hospital staff members, directors and top administrators. The attackers also alleged destroyed expensive equipment and medical facilities. Read more ..


Broken Government

Can’t Stop the Abrams

August 12th 2012

M1A1 Abrams main battle tank
M1A1 Abrams main battle tank

The M1 Abrams tank has survived the Cold War, two conflicts in Iraq and a decade of war in Afghanistan. No wonder—it weighs as much as nine elephants and is fitted with a cannon capable of turning a building to rubble from two and a half miles away.

But now the machine finds itself a target in an unusual battle between the Defense Department and lawmakers who are the beneficiaries of large donations by its manufacturer. The Pentagon, facing smaller budgets and looking towards a new global strategy, has decided it wants to save as much as $3 billion by freezing refurbishment of the M1 from 2014 to 2017, so it can redesign it from top to bottom.

Its proposal would idle a large factory in Lima, Ohio as well as halt work at dozens of subcontractors in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other states. Opposing the Pentagon’s plans is Abrams manufacturer General Dynamics, a nationwide employer that has pumped millions of dollars into congressional elections over the last decade. The tank’s supporters on Capitol Hill say they are desperate to save jobs in their districts and concerned about undermining America’s military capabilities. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Life Sentence for Home-grown Muslim-American Terrorist

August 12th 2012

Click to select Image

A U.S. soldier and Muslim-American, who went AWOL and was plotting to kill other American soldiers near Fort Hood, Texas, will serve the rest of his life in federal prison, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Friday.

Friday morning in Waco, Texas, former U.S. Army Spc. Naser Jason Abdo faced United States District Judge Walter S. Smith as he sentenced Abdo to two consecutive life prison terms for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and for possession of a weapon in order to commit a violent crime.

In addition, Judge Smith also sentenced the 22-year-old dishonorably discharged Abdo to a total mandatory consecutive 60 years’ imprisonment for one count of attempted murder of officers or employees of the United States, two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a federal crime of violence, and one count of possession of a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence, according to Justice Department officials. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Senators Suggest New Penalties in Chinese Helicopter Probe

August 11th 2012

Chinese wz-10 attack helo
WZ-10 Attack Helicopter

Two senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on August 6 called for the Defense Department to consider suspending or blocking its ties to a major weapons contractor that admitted illegally helping China develop a new attack helicopter. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee chairman, and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), its senior Republican member, asserted in a letterto Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that a series of export violations by the Canadian branch of helicopter engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney and its parent company United Technologies “may have caused significant harm to our national security.”

Although Pratt, United Technologies and another firm agreed to pay a total of $75 million in fines when they publicly admitting wrongdoing in June, Levin and McCain complained that “no individual manager or employee has been held personally accountable.” The senators said that although the State Department has restricted some licensing privileges for Pratt’s Canadian branch, “we believe that the Defense Department should itself evaluate this case for the appropriateness of contract suspension or debarment.” Read more ..


UAE on Edge

UAE Arrests Highlight Challenges to U.S. Middle East Policy

August 10th 2012

Al Dhafri Military Base

Over the past few months, more than fifty Islamists have been arrested across the United Arab Emirates, a major oil producer and U.S. ally. The country's attorney-general stated this week that the detainees, all thought to be UAE citizens, had "revealed plans to jeopardize the security of the state" and were linked to "suspicious foreign parties and organizations." Put another way, they were arrested for demanding political reforms and receiving support from Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the chief of police in Dubai, the country's commercial hub, was more explicit about the issue last month, describing the "large number of Muslim Brothers in the Gulf states" and warning that "we have to be alert and on guard...for trouble."

Washington has so far been silent on the detentions. Even so, the UAE has been surprised by the international media reaction and apparently irritated that the Islamists -- described as members of a group called "al-Islah," meaning "reform" -- are being depicted as democracy activists. The UAE government regards itself as progressive even though it lacks a parliament (the Federal National Council, an advisory body, is chosen by 129,000 carefully vetted voters). It is also proud of its openness to foreigners, who make up an estimated 80 percent of the population of more than five million.

Read more ..

Broken Borders

Of Horses and Narco-Kingdoms

August 10th 2012

Horses

Following a two-year investigation, federal prosecutors have submitted a mindboggling 30,000 pages of documentation and 2,000 recorded phone calls that paint an extensive picture of how one of Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking organizations raises, moves and eventually washes its illicit funds.

The indictment, issued by the Northern District of Texas, charges fifteen people with laundering millions of dollars in drug profits on a sleepy Oklahoma ranch on behalf of the Los Zetas cartel, the most powerful syndicate in Mexico today. In a trial scheduled for October in Austin, Texas, the IRS and other federal authorities will present findings based on thousands of financial records and recorded conversations and dozens of witness interviews that provide information on how the Zetas conduct their business.

The case became public in June when federal agents carried out a sweep of seven locations in several states and seized 200 boxes of evidence. Eight suspects have been arrested, and an additional seven remain at large. It is widely believed that some of the defendants will take plea bargains after providing federal authorities with intelligence. The most notable figure incarcerated is Jose Trevino Morales, the brother of two high-ranking Zetas, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales. Read more ..


Central Asia on Edge

Militarism in Central Asia Reflects More than Religious Extremism

August 10th 2012

Uzbekistan mosque

Since 2010, Central Asia has become increasingly volatile, a trend many have attributed to a rise in militant Islamism. Militancy has indeed risen since 2010, but the notion that militant Islamists primarily are responsible for Central Asia's volatility is shortsighted because it ignores other political and economic dynamics at play in the region.

But if these dynamics, not jihadist designs, inspired much of the region's recent militant activity, the impending U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 could put Central Asia at greater risk for militant Islamism in the future. Combined with upcoming leadership changes in several Central Asian states, the withdrawal could complicate an already complex militant landscape in the region.

Regional Militancy: Late 1990s and Early 2000s

Central Asia was an important region for Islamist militancy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The region is predominantly Muslim, though like all religious practices, Islam was suppressed during the Soviet era. Given the region's secularization under Soviet rule, many religious groups and figures either went underground or practiced openly to the extent that the Soviets would allow.

These groups and individuals were concentrated in the Fergana Valley, the demographic core of Central Asia that encompasses parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Islamists were particularly prevalent in Uzbekistan, which is home to several important religious and cultural cites in areas such as Samarkand and Bukhara. Read more ..


Border Wars

Bold Brazil Thumps its Chest with Military Operations on Southern Borders

August 10th 2012

Brazilian firebase

On August 7-8, Brazil began reinforcing its southern borders with about 9,000 more military troops as the fifth part of its war on criminal gangs, according to a U.S. security official who monitors South American organized crime. The security source told the Law Enforcement Examiner that the border reinforcements are part of Operation Agatha 5, which the Brazilian government initiated on July 6 on their country's borders with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The deployment of troops is aimed at actively assisting Brazil's border security officers who are outgunned and out-manned by the crime groups that include drug cartels, the source said.

Also involved in what's expected to be a month-long operation are the Brazilian Air Force and Navy, who will use attack helicopters, jet fighters, patrol boats and high-tech equipment, he added. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Homeland Security Proposes 'Expanded Border' with Mexico

August 10th 2012

Truncated border fence
Truncated U.S/Mexico border fence

In an era when border travel has become increasingly problematic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now proposing to expand the geographic area Mexican nationals can travel within the state of New Mexico. Invoking its rule-making authority, the DHS proposed August 9 an expansion of the geographic limit in New Mexico for holders of a Border Crossing Card, or other proper documentation besides a CBP Form 1-94, from the current 25 miles north of the border to 55 miles. “This change is intended to promote commerce and tourism in southern New Mexico while still ensuring that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent illegal entry to the U.S.,” the DHS stated in its notice of proposed rule-making.

Dating back to a system first put in place in 1953, the modern-day Border Crossing Card allows Mexican nationals to travel within certain geographic boundaries for up to 30 days. In 1999, the old Immigration and Naturalization Service expanded the geographic limit to 75 miles in Arizona but kept the 25 mile-limit for New Mexico, Texas and California. Currently, Mexican nationals can travel to Tucson for shopping and other purposes. According to the DHS, applicants for the Border Crossing Card and other appropriate travel documents are vetted by the department's personnel and/or staff from the Department of State. Read more ..


Broken Borders

New Border Rules Cost Millions

August 10th 2012

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Wednesday unveiled the Obama Administration's proposed rulemaking which would extend the border zone up to 55 miles, from the current 25 mile restriction, for Border Crossing Card (BCC) holders in the state of New Mexico. This proposed change would allow BCC holders to travel to the towns of Deming, Lordsburg and Las Cruces, N.M., stimulating commerce, trade and tourism activity in the area.

“The proposed extension of the border zone in New Mexico, when finalized, will provide significant economic benefits to many of the smaller communities along the border while maintaining ample safeguards to prevent illegal entry into the United States,” said Secretary Napolitano.

However, no mention was made about yet another example of ineptitude on the part of Napolitano and her staff. Border security experts are pointing to the loss of more that $225 million spent on a nuclear and radiological detection system boondoggle that failed to operate as advertised, a police source said. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Qaeda Affiliate - Jaish al-Islam - Receives Formal Sanctuary in Hamas-Ruled Gaza

August 9th 2012

Jaish al Islam

Except for Fatah, the other Palestinian terror organizations in Gaza enjoy full freedom of movement under Hamas rule. Offshoots of al-Qaeda in Gaza include Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam), the Army of the Umma, and Fatah al-Islam. Following a series of violent clashes, Hamas and Jaish al-Islam established a joint committee to regulate relations between the groups and to solve disputes between them. In essence, Hamas recognized Jaish al-Islam as a legitimate armed movement inside the area under Hamas jurisdiction.

In a previous agreement between the two groups, Hamas had given Jaish al-Islam $5 million and more than a million Kalashnikov bullets in compensation for its freeing of BBC journalist Alan Johnston. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas warned about the emerging trend, telling Al-Hayat on February 26, 2008: “I believe that al-Qaeda is present in the Palestinian territory of Gaza. It is the Hamas movement that brought al-Qaeda in and it abets the entry and exit [of militants]….I believe that they are allies.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Saudi National al-Qaeda Trainer

August 9th 2012

al-Qaeda

The U.S. Department of State on Tuesday identified Azzam Abdullah Zureik Al-Maulid Al-Subhi as an international terrorist and added his name to the State Department's specially designated global terrorist list. According to State Department officials, the Saudi citizen is an active trainer for al-Qaeda and a top member of that group of deadly radical Islamists.

The State Department's action will freeze all of Al-Subhi money and valuables under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. companies and citizens from doing business with him. Officials said Al-Subhi, a/k/a Mansur al-Harbi, is currently wanted by the Saudi Kingdom for participating in terrorist activities and for his work with other senior leaders of al-Qaeda including Abdel Aziz Migrin and Sayf al-Adl. The International Police (INTERPOL) also issued a "Red Notice" due to his membership in al-Qaeda and his role in training and commanding terrorists, State Department officials said in a statement. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Rebels Say Captured Iranians are Revolutionary Guards as Post-Assad Plans Are Proffered

August 8th 2012

Syrian Rebels

Iran's Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, says some of the 48 Iranians kidnapped by Syrian rebels are retired members of the Revolutionary Guards and the army and were in Damascus on a religious pilgrimage. The rebel Free Syrian Army describes those kidnapped Saturday as Revolutionary Guards on a "reconnaissance mission." But Iran's ISNA news agency quoted Salehi Wednesday, as denying that the Iranians have any current military connection. Salehi's comments were published after he visited Turkey Tuesday to ask for help in securing the hostages' release. Iranian officials have reached out to both Turkey and Qatar for help in freeing those kidnapped. Both nations support the Syrian opposition, while Iran backs the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could try to create a stronghold for his minority Alawite sect if he is unable to keep control of the entire country. In an interview with CBS, the king said such an event would create major problems for the nation's neighbors. "That would be, I think for us, the worst case scenario because that means then the breakup of greater Syria," said King Abdullah. "And that means that everybody starts land grabbing, which makes no sense to me. If Syria then implodes on itself that would create problems that would take us decades to come back from." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Egypt Bombs Sinai Terrorist Checkpoints As Gaza Blockade Intensifies

August 8th 2012

Apache Helicopters

Egyptian security officials say the military has carried out an assault on suspected Palestinian Gaza terrorists in the Sinai peninsula following new attacks against checkpoints. Officials say the airstrikes Wednesday killed 20 militants. The strikes came hours after an attack against checkpoints in the city of El-Arish, about 50 kilometers from the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian military and President Mohamed Mursi had vowed to assert more control over the border area following an attack Sunday that killed 16 Egyptian border guards. Egypt said Gaza terrorists involved in the attack were trying to cross into Israel.

Egyptian security officials say they used army attack helicopters to fire missiles at suspected Islamic terrorists in Sinai following simultaneous attacks by armed men on three security checkpoints. It was the first time Egypt's army has fired missiles in the area since the 1973 war with Israel to recapture the Sinai Peninsula. The missile strikes came hours after the militant attacks near northern Sinai's main city of Al-Arish, about 50 kilometers from the Gaza-Israel border. Officials say a military officer, two soldiers, two police and a civilian were injured by the militants early on August 8. State media quote Egyptian military sources who say 20 militants were killed by the air strikes. Read more ..


The Weapon’s Edge

Counter-IED Efforts Still Beset by Poor Oversight and Duplication

August 8th 2012

IED 1; Humvee 0

The Pentagon has pumped billions of dollars into programs to counter the dangers of improvised explosive devices over the last decade but still lacks a way to track whether its initiatives are meeting their goals—a circumstance that a government watchdog warns could lead to overlap and wasted taxpayer funds. Poor recordkeeping has hindered the Defense Department’s ability to monitor more than 1,300 individual anti-IED projects, complicating any effort by outsiders to assess whether the funds have been well spent, an August report by the Government Accountability Office said.

“DOD has not determined, and does not have a ready means for determining,” just how many anti-IED projects it is currently funding, the report said. Although GAO accounted for $4.8 billion in Pentagon spending, it called that estimate “understated,” because many anti-IED initiatives weren’t properly recorded. “DOD has funded hundreds of C-IED initiatives but has not developed a comprehensive database of these initiatives or the organizations conducting them,” the report stated. The report is a follow up to a February 2012 GAO study that concluded DOD does not have “full visibility” over its anti-IED projects. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Govt. Report: More than 16,500 IED Bomb Incidents in 2011

August 7th 2012

IED - Improvised explosive device

More than 16,500 improvised explosive devices were detonated -- or discovered before detonation -- against U.S. military personnel deployed in Afghanistan in 2011 proving that the improvised explosive device (IED) is the current terrorists' and insurgents' weapon of choice, according to a government report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police's Explosives and Incendiary Devices Study Group on Monday.

According to officials at the Department of Defense, IEDs will most probably be encountered in present and future conflicts due to being relatively inexpensive to develop while their effectiveness is proven by the number of military deaths and casualties, as well as the destruction of military vehicles and other assets. And that doesn't include those IEDs developed by domestic terrorists on the U.S. mainland that will be encountered by police bomb squads. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Demands Better Pentagon Auditing

August 7th 2012

KC-135, A-10s, and F-16s

A bill proposed by a bipartisan group of senators at the beginning of August would punish Pentagon agencies for failing to meet a series of deadlines for conducting proper internal audits, marking a major ratcheting up of congressional pressure about a good-government goal first set in legislation enacted 18 years ago. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a member of a subcommittee on federal financial management, is leading the effort to provide new incentives to the military services, which have moved slowly to comply with a target of completing successful audits of their expenditures by 2017. He was joined this week by five other Republicans and two Democrats.

Under their bill, military branches that don’t meet the 2017 deadline would see the development of weapons systems blocked before reaching the production and deployment stage.The bill would also reward agencies for meeting deadlines by conferring more control over their own budgets, including the ability to shift between $30 million and $60 million annually between accounts to pay for more weapons procurement, operations and maintenance, research or personnel, all without congressional approval. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Is Turkey Losing to the PKK?

August 7th 2012

Turkish Military

On the evening of August 4, Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] fighters attacked three military outposts in southeastern Turkey, killing six soldiers. The attack culminates a series of successful PKK operations. The Turkish military, its morale low after years of having its officers targeted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allies and its conscripts targeted by Kurdish insurgents, has been unable to prevent attacks. Turkish claims that the PKK attacks are simply the storm before the calm and that the PKK is on the verge of disbanding itself are risible.

The United States, European Union, and Turkey also consider the PKK to be a terrorist group. Erdoğan’s embrace of Hamas, however, raises questions about whether the PKK designation should stand. After all, Hamas is a far more violent terrorist group, as likely to target civilians as soldiers. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

King Accuses White House of Leaking to Aid Syrian Rebels

August 7th 2012

Syrian Rebels

Information regarding President Barack Obama signing a supposedly secret order to provide American support to Syrian rebels was leaked to “enhance” Obama’s reputation, according to Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, during an interview Sunday on Fox News Channel.

King is alleging the source of recent news reports on a plan that should have remained secret is the Obama White House. “The administration’s leaks must stop before they further endanger the lives of men and women sent into harm’s way on our nation’s behalf,” stated Rep. King.

“To me, all the evidence points towards the White House, and that compromises us because there were two other major allies involved with us in that, and there are tremendous hard feelings and a sense of betrayal from them,” King said on Fox News. News reports appeared in newspapers and aired in broadcast news stories on Thursday and Friday saying the President gave the go-ahead to provide Syrian rebels with "non-lethal" aid. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Cairo Tightens Egypt's Blockade of Gaza After Sinai Terrorist Attack

August 7th 2012

Egypt Blockade of Gaza

An angry Egypt has tightened its five-year land, sea, and air blockade of Gaza following the spectacular weekend attack on an Egyptian border installation by Islamic terrorists traced to Gaza.

After a recent encouraging meeting in Cairo between newly installed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Hamas strong man Ismail Haniya, reports suggested that Cairo would keep the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Sinai open for a full 12 hours a day, until 9 pm nightly, The 4-hour increase was expected to allow as many as 1,500 Gazans to cross daily. The Egyptian crossing and checkpoint was Gaza’s transit point to the rest of the world. But the Egyptian government publicly rescinded all such assurances and slammed shut all access points, including tunnels. Moreover, Morsi’s government declared the ramped up blockade strictures were “indefinite.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Major Terrorist Attack Thwarted in Southern Israel

August 6th 2012

IDF Soldiers

IDF Air Force and Special Forces thwarted an attempt to execute a massive terrorist attack on Israel's southern border with Egypt.  At about two in the afternoon on Sunday, July 6, terrorists, presumed to be members of the Global Jihad movement, infiltrated an Egyptian outpost on the Egyptian – Israeli border. After a prolonged battle, during which sixteen Egyptian soldiers were killed and seven were wounded, the terrorists overtook the base. The terrorists then stole two BRDM armored vehicles and began to drive towards the Israeli border. One vehicle was destroyed on the Egyptian side. At about eight o'clock at night the second vehicle made it across the border and was met by the Israeli Air Force, tanks and Special Forces who destroyed the second vehicle.

The terrorists, who were carrying assault weapons, were also wearing explosive charges. There were initial concerns that some of the terrorists managed to infiltrate Israeli territory, and that an Israeli citizen may have been abducted. Israeli citizens in the vicinity were subsequently ordered to enter their shelters. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Can Kurds Create Safe Havens in Syria?

August 5th 2012

Machine Gun Bunker

As the civil war intensifies in Syria, officials and experts in the region are increasingly concerned the fighting could lead to redefining the nation’s political boundaries, possibly including autonomous regions or safe havens for Alawite and Kurdish factions.

Those concerns have increased in recent days as the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army on an urban corridor in the west and Kurdish rebels in the north have scored one success after another against President Bashar al-Assad’s army and his Alawite followers.

Aram Nerguizian, a Syria expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says the concerns are not ill-founded. He says if the safety and the interests of Syria’s Alawi and Kurds are not addressed, “they will opt at least for the effort to produce some kind of autonomy and if not, a territorially contiguous space where they feel they have command and control.” Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

The Role of Iranian Security Forces in the Syrian Bloodshed

August 5th 2012

Riot Gear Police

Amid the intensifying crisis in Syria, which in recent weeks has seen massacres of the civilian population in various parts of the country, Iranian military, propaganda, and economic assistance keeps flowing in, and its aim is to help President Bashar al-Assad survive. Iran aided Assad in withstanding the waves of protest as soon as they erupted, and it is now backing him and advising him on how to overcome an existential crisis that put to the test the two countries’ strategic alliance. 

Iran, which has invested great military, economic, and political resources in Syria – a main pillar of the anti-Israel “resistance camp” and the gateway to aiding Hizbullah – now views Syria, amid the rapid changes in the Middle East, as a key battleground to confront the West. How this conflict unfolds will determine the new landscape that is being shaped in the region.

Syria as a Battlefield

The present state of affairs is highly reminiscent of what transpired after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005. Iran backed Hizbullah while Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, and Western states, supported the Lebanese freedom forces. The eventual outcome was Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon at the height of President Bush’s democratization campaign after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi elections of January 2005. Iran then viewed Lebanon as the first line of confrontation with the West, which was trying, unsuccessfully, to impose a rapid democratization there, too, and disarm Hizbullah. At present, Hizbullah weapons are serving as part of Assad’s apparatus of violent repression – under Iran’s command. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran Claims to Have Launched New Short-Range Missile

August 4th 2012

Iran Missiles

Iran's defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, says that Tehran has tested a new version of its Fateh 110 short-range missile. He claims the newer missile can hit "enemy" targets in neighboring countries, and targets at sea in the Persian Gulf. Lebanon's Hezbollah reportedly has stockpiles of an earlier version of the missile.

The reported test of the Iranian short-range missile with a new guidance system was announced on government TV Saturday, accompanied by video of rockets being launched. It was impossible to verify if the rocket launch video is recent or from archives.

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi described the upgraded missiles at a press conference, lauding his country's technological prowess. He stresses that the specificity of this missile is its ability to hit targets with precision. He also praises Iran's talented scientists and home-grown defense industry. Read more ..



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