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The Edge of Terrorism

Taliban Strike Deep In Kabul

September 13th 2011

Afghan Topics - Kabul attacks map 2011-09-13

A team of as many as 10 Afghan Taliban militants armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades mounted an assault September 13 in a high-security zone in the capital Kabul against the U.S. Embassy among other targets. At least four of the attackers were likely suicide bombers and detonated themselves during the attack. The attack began at 1:30 p.m. local time and has been underway for close to two hours. The militants took over a building in an area near Abdul Haq Chowk Square, a location in close proximity to Afghan government and Western security installations, including NATO headquarters. Read more ..


Inside the Mideast

Iran, Israel, and the New Middle East Reality

September 12th 2011

Iran - Iran Iraq Syria

In recent years, Israeli strategists have identified an Iran-led regional alliance as representing the main strategic challenge to the Jewish state. This alliance looks to be emerging as one of the net losers of the Arab upheavals of 2011. This, however, should be cause for neither satisfaction nor complacency for Israel. The forces moving in to replace or compete with Iran and its allies are largely no less hostile.

The Iran-led regional alliance, sometimes called the muqawama (“resistance”) bloc, consisted of a coalition of states and movements led by Tehran and committed to altering the US-led dispensation that pertained since the end of the cold war.

It included, in addition to Iran itself, the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, the Sadrist movement and other Shia Islamist currents in Iraq, Syria’s Assad regime, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organisation. It appeared in recent years also to be absorbing Hamas. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Laser Technology to Deflect Heat-Seeking Missiles from Military Helicopters

September 2nd 2011

Military - Blackhawk helo

Protecting helicopters in combat from heat-seeking missiles is the goal of new laser technology created at the University of Michigan and Omni Sciences, Inc., which is a U-M spin-off company.

"Battlefield terrain in places like Afghanistan and Iraq can be so rough that our troops have often had to rely on helicopters, and they can be easy targets for enemies with shoulder-launched missiles," said Mohammed Islam, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

"Our lasers give off a signal that's like throwing sand in the eyes of the missile."

Using inexpensive, off-the-shelf telecommunications fiber optics, Islam is developing sturdy and portable "mid-infrared supercontinuum lasers" that could blind heat-seeking weapons from a distance of 1.8 miles away. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Has The Obama Administration’s Outreach Affected Muslim Attitudes toward Terrorism and Terrorists?

August 30th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Arab Street Obama Cairo

Prominent U.S. officials have claimed that only dwindling numbers of isolated extremists support terrorists engaged in violent attacks against Americans. Survey research on Muslim publics’ attitudes reveals a different picture, one that undermines this interpretation. Evidence from key Arab states and some other important Muslim states (Pakistan, Nigeria) is reviewed. Markedly hostile views toward the security interests of the United States and its allies are shown to exist, despite efforts of the Obama administration. Since anti-U.S. terrorism retains the support of significant minorities, recruitment of much smaller numbers of actual terrorists should be expected to continue.

Introduction

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the national security of the United States and its allies continues to be threatened by mass casualty terrorism arising from non-state actors, militants inspired by their particularly extreme reading of the tenets of Islam. Recruitment to this cause is a global phenomenon not localized to the several venues in which U.S. armed forces currently are engaged in combat operations. Thus, improving cooperation with U.S. objectives has become a high priority in relations with Muslims in general, as well as with Muslim populations in key foreign states. How effective have recent steps taken by the United States been? Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

America's Warriors to Get Boost from Antennae in Clothing

August 23rd 2011

Military - Soldiers In Afghanistan

To make communications devices more reliable, Ohio State University researchers are finding ways to incorporate radio antennas directly into clothing, using plastic film and metallic thread. In the current issue of the journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, they report a new antenna design with a range four times larger than that of a conventional antenna worn on the body – one that is used by American soldiers today.

"Our primary goal is to improve communications reliability and the mobility of the soldiers," said Chi-Chih Chen, a research associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State. "But the same technology could work for police officers, fire fighters, astronauts – anybody who needs to keep their hands free for important work." Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Libyan Rebels Approach in End-Game and Advance to Tripoli

August 21st 2011

Libya - Libyan rebels

Reports of explosions and heavy gunfire in Tripoli on Aug. 20 indicate that rebel fighters may be beginning an attempt to lay siege on the Libyan capital with the aim of removing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Based on the limited information available so far and the immense complications entailed in trying to seize a metropolis like Tripoli, however, it does not appear that the rebels are in a position to wage a final assault against Gadhafi.

Rebel fighters based of out of Libya’s Nafusa Mountains appear to have made considerable progress over the past week in advancing toward Tripoli. After several days of fighting, the rebels seem to have gained the upper hand in the town of Zawiya west of Tripoli — a key point along Gadhafi’s supply line and the possession of which could enable the rebels to choke off supplies to Tripoli — and now seem poised to begin an assault on the Libyan capital. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Unrest Continues to Grow Unabated

August 10th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syria protests Apr 2011

The Assad regime’s brutal assault on the town of Hama should serve to dispel any notion that the struggle in Syria is nearing its end, or that the Assad regime has accepted its fate.The general direction of the revolts in the Arab world now suggests that the region’s worst dictators have an even chance of survival, on condition that they have no qualms about going to war against their own people. Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to have internalized the lesson.

Military theorists today are divided regarding the role of the main battle tank in the battlefield of the future. Assad over the past 48 hours has demonstrated that whatever the outcome of this debate, the role of the tank as an instrument of war against civilians remains highly relevant in the Middle East. The Syrian President’s elite 4th Armored Division would be unlikely to last long against the IDF’s 7th Brigade on the Golan Heights. Read more ..


The Battle for Iraq

Iraq's Hybrid Insurgents -- The JRTN

August 10th 2011

Iraq - Terror -- Insurgents

The stabilization of Iraq has become wedged on a plateau, beyond which further improvement will be a slow process. According to incident metrics compiled by Olive Group, the average monthly number of insurgent attacks between January and June 2011 was 380. The incident count in January was 376, indicating that incident levels remained roughly stable in the first half of 2011. One reason behind this stability is the ongoing virulence of northern and central Iraqi insurgents operating within Sunni Arab communities. Five predominately Sunni provinces and western Baghdad were responsible for an average of 68.5% of national incidents each month in 2011. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran's Ambiguous Nuke Policies Complicate Matters

August 10th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad at Iranian nuclear plant

Unless the United States reverses the current dynamic, Iran could reap the perceived benefits of being a nuclear power even without building a bomb.

In recent weeks, the Iranian government has made a number of statements regarding its nuclear intentions: that it will move production of more highly enriched uranium to an underground facility near Qom by year's end; that although it has forsworn nuclear weapons, if it did go for the bomb, no one could stop it; and that it has deployed Shahab missiles in hardened underground silos. Taken together, these statements add new wrinkles to Tehran's policy of nuclear ambiguity. The regime's goal is to confound efforts to halt the nuclear program while creating the impression that it is a de facto nuclear power, thereby enhancing its regional influence. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

What Should the bin Laden Files Tell Us?

August 9th 2011

Terrorism - Osama bin-Laden preaching

The free world has waited patiently for ten to twenty years to learn the master plan of international jihadism’s “al-Za’im,” (English: “the leader”) Osama bin Laden.

Because Seal Team Six dropped in on the al-Qaida leader’s Abbottabad domicile unannounced, he was unable to marshal a defense or dispose of the stockpile of strategic documentation he had preserved on digital storage media and in paper files. It is safe to assume that the information he had accumulated over a period of years is in the U.S. being thoroughly scrutinized by members of the intelligence community. U.S. officials characterized the files seized from bin Laden’s vault as a veritable cornucopia of actionable intelligence that should keep analysts and Arab language translators busy for a very long time.Analysts, who have monitored Osama’s activities since the mid-1990s, have had to rely on sometimes-obfuscated statements he has made in his speeches in their intelligence estimates. Now they have a mountain of hard data to excavate. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Nano Detector for Deadly Anthrax

August 4th 2011

Science - anthrax

An automatic and portable detector that takes just fifteen minutes to analyze a sample suspected of contamination with anthrax is being developed by US researchers. The technology amplifies any anthrax DNA present in the sample and can reveal the presence of just 40 microscopic cells of the deadly bacteria Bacillus anthracis.

B. anthracis, commonly known as anthrax, is a potentially lethal microbe that might be used intentionally to infect victims through contamination of food and water supplies, aerosolized particles, or even dried powders, such as those used in bioterrorist attacks in the USA. Detection is crucial to preventing widespread fatalities in the event of an anthrax attack.

However, the complexity of the microbe's biology have so far made it difficult to build a portable system that can be employed quickly in the field. That said, there are several systems available that use PCR to amplify a particular component of the genetic material present in anthrax and then to flag this amplified signal. These systems are fast and sensitive but do not integrate sample preparation and so are not as convenient as a single detector unit would be. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

Ordinary Citizens Are First Defense Against Terrorism

August 4th 2011

Terrorism - DanielPatrickBoyd
Danial Patrick Boyd

In the wake of the  July 22 Oslo attacks, as I have talked with people in the United States and Europe, I have noticed two themes in the conversations. The first is the claim that the attacks came from an unexpected source and were therefore impossible to stop. The second theme is that detecting such attacks is the sole province of dedicated counterterrorism authorities.

Even in so-called “unexpected” attacks there are specific operational tasks that must be executed in order to conduct an operation. Such tasks can be detected, and unexpected attacks emanating from lone wolf actors can indeed be thwarted if such indicators are being looked for. Alleged Oslo attack perpetrator Anders Breivik reportedly conducted several actions that would have made him vulnerable to detection had the authorities been vigilant and focused on those possible actions.

This is why it is critical to look at the mechanics of attacks in order to identify the steps that must be undertaken to complete them and then focus on identifying people taking such steps. Focusing on the “how” rather than the “who” is an effective way for authorities to get on the proactive side of the action/reaction continuum.

Considering this concept of focusing on the how, one quickly reaches a convergence with the second theme, which involves the role and capabilities of dedicated counterterrorism resources. The primary agency tasked with counterterrorism in most countries tends to have limited resources that are stretched thin trying to cover known or suspected threats. These agencies simply do not have the manpower to look for attack-planning indicators — especially in a world where militant actors are increasingly adopting the leaderless-resistance model, which is designed to avoid detection by counterterrorism forces. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

Europe's Challenges and Vulnerabilities Following the Attack by Norway's Lone Wolf

July 28th 2011

Terrorism - Norwegian terrorism victim

On the afternoon of July 22, a powerful explosion ripped through the streets of Oslo, Norway, as a large improvised explosive device (IED) in a rented van detonated between the government building housing the prime minister’s office and Norway’s Oil and Energy Department building. According to the diary of Anders Breivik, the man arrested in the case who has confessed to fabricating and placing the device, the van had been filled with 950 kilograms (about 2,100 pounds) of homemade ammonium nitrate-based explosives.

After lighting the fuse on his IED, Breivik left the scene in a rented car and traveled to the island of Utoya, located about 32 kilometers (20 miles) outside of Oslo. The island was the site of a youth campout organized by Norway’s ruling Labor Party. Before taking a boat to the island, Breivik donned body armor and tactical gear bearing police insignia (intended to afford him the element of tactical surprise). Read more ..


Paraguay on Edge

Paraguay Faces a Challenge as Insurgents Mount Unsettling Kidnappings and Attacks

July 26th 2011

Latin American Topics - Paraguay president Lugo
President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay

The Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo (Paraguayan People’s Army, or EPP) has now become a household name in Paraguay as well as among security agencies in neighboring countries. For the moment, it has focused its field of operations on kidnapping wealthy Paraguayans, only occasionally attacking Paraguay’s security forces. One of the most prominent victims of the EPP has been Fidel Zavala, who was held captive for 94 days until he was finally freed on January 17, 2010. Unfortunately, as the history of insurgent movements in general seems indicate, there is ample room for “growth” when it comes to their possible future operations. From kidnappings to murder, along with armed raids and other major attacks, this group also has been accused of kidnapping and subsequently brutally murdering Cecilia Cubas, the daughter of former Paraguayan president Raúl Cubas. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

The Consequences of Terrorist Attacks in Norway

July 22nd 2011

Terrorism - Oslo bombing

At least 17 people have died and more have been injured in an explosion in downtown Oslo and a shooting at a Labor Party youth camp outside the Norwegian capital. Norwegian police arrested the shooter at the camp and believe he is connected with the explosion, though others could be involved.

The significance of the events in Norway for the rest of Europe will depend largely on who is responsible, and the identity of the culprits is still unclear. However,one can extrapolate the possible consequences of the attacks based on several scenarios. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iran's Incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan Signals Escalation in the Coming Weeks

July 21st 2011

Iran - Iranian military on parade

A border dispute between Iran and the Kurdish region of Iraq underwent a significant escalation this week, as Iranian Revolutionary Guards crossed the border to engage with guerrillas of the PJAK (Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan) organization. The incursions began on Saturday night. Fighting continued throughout most of Sunday. By late Sunday afternoon, a tense quiet had returned to the border area.

Reports differ regarding the number of casualties, and the areas of engagement. The official Iranian news agency (IRNA) said that five PJAK members and one Revolutionary Guardsman had been killed in fighting in the area of Sardasht, a Kurdish town close to the border. The Iranians also claimed to have captured a wounded PJAK member. A Colonel of the Revolutionary Guards, Delavar Ranjbarzadeh, told IRNA that PJAK had suffered a ‘heavy and historic defeat.’ Read more ..


Edge on Iran

The U.S.-Saudi Dilemma: Iran Reshaping Persian Gulf Politics

July 19th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad-Abdullah buddies

Something extraordinary, albeit not unexpected, is happening in the Persian Gulf region. The United States, lacking a coherent strategy to deal with Iran and too distracted to develop one, is struggling to navigate Iraq’s fractious political landscape in search of a deal that would allow Washington to keep a meaningful military presence in the country beyond the end-of-2011 deadline stipulated by the current Status of Forces Agreement. At the same time, Saudi Arabia, dubious of U.S. capabilities and intentions toward Iran, appears to be inching reluctantly toward an accommodation with its Persian adversary.

Iran clearly stands to gain from this dynamic in the short term as it seeks to reshape the balance of power in the world’s most active energy arteries. But Iranian power is neither deep nor absolute. Instead, Tehran finds itself racing against a timetable that hinges not only on the U.S. ability to shift its attention from its ongoing wars in the Middle East but also on Turkey’s ability to grow into its historic regional role. Read more ..


Military on Edge

House Offers Budget Boost to Troubled Pentagon Agency Fighting Roadside Bombs

July 17th 2011

Military - Unexploded IED in Iraq
An Unexploded Roadside IED

Despite unprecedented budgetary pressures, a recently passed House appropriations bill would both increase the overall defense budget and boost funds for a controversial Pentagon organization set up to combat roadside bombs.

That agency, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) has since 2006 been given more than $21 billion dollars to spend on combatting improvised explosive devices and now employs 1,800 people. But it has not managed to substantially reduce IED-related casualties among U.S. troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

IED attacks kill or maim hundreds of American soldiers each year. As of May, the most recent month for which IED figures were available, a total of 2,894 U.S. service members have been killed and another 27,502 injured by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more ..


The Weapons Edge

Czech Republic Opts Out of US Ballistic Missile System for Europe

July 12th 2011

Military - Standard Missile 3

The Czech Republic has decided not to participate in the U.S. ballistic missile system for Europe. The United States’ plan for a ballistic missile defense system in Europe has gone through several changes over the past few years. The original Bush administration proposal called for deploying 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic. That project addressed Iran’s long-range ballistic missile threat.

But the Obama administration took a different view. U.S. officials said the threat comes from Iran’s short and medium-range weapons. And so in September 2009, President Barack Obama cancelled the Bush plan, opting for what experts describe as a more adaptable approach.

The new proposal involves putting SM-3 ground-based interceptors in Poland by 2015 and in Romania by 2018. These are still being developed. Analysts say SM-3 missiles are already aboard U.S. navy ships, giving the Obama plan a flexibility the Bush proposal did not have. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

US Suspends $800 Million in Military Aid to Pakistan

July 12th 2011

PakistanTopics - Pakistani military brass

A top White House official says the United States is suspending some $800 million in military aid to Pakistan, a move some analysts say is being made to pressure the Pakistani military to step up cooperation. The decision comes as ties between the two countries are under intense strain in the wake of the U.S. raid on a compound in Pakistan that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

White House Chief of Staff William Daley says that while the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is difficult and complex, it must be made to work over time. Read more ..


Military on Edge

Boeing Pocketed Millions by Overcharging the Army, IG Report Charges

July 5th 2011

Military - Chinook and Apache
Chinook and Apache (credit: SSG M.J. Quarterman)

Boeing Co. overcharged the U.S. Army by about $13 million for Apache and Chinook helicopter parts, according to a Pentagon inspector general report obtained by the Project on Government Oversight .

The report also found that the Army could fulfill more than $200 million worth of current and future Boeing orders with its own inventory, but that there are no Pentagon policies compelling the use of inventory rather than making outside purchases.

Boeing, the second largest Pentagon contractor in fiscal year 2010, overcharged the Corpus Christi Army Depot for 18 different parts, including $3,369.48 for a plain stud available from Army inventory for $190, a 1,673 percent markup over the Army price. A roller assembly available for $7.71 from another Army inventory was billed at $1,626.49 by the Chicago-based aerospace company. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Canada Faces Expensive Choices over F-35 Lightning II Fighter-Bomber

July 4th 2011

Military - F-35 Military Plane

Will the F-35 Lightning II cost the Canadian tax-payers $29.3 billion or $14.7 billion for 65 aircraft? The controversy remains between the PBO and the DND. The F-35 is designed for the U.S. Air Force to meet their needs and goals. Its main function is a “day one stealth” bomber. Experts contend that Canada does not require the aircraft.

During the 2011 Canadian federal election, there was an intense focus on Conservative party Prime Minister Stephan Harper’s decision to purchase 65 new F-35 Lightning II fighter planes. The story around the F-35 is filled with controversy over the cost and appropriateness of the aircraft.

Both the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP) promised to halt the purchase of the aircraft and re-examine its suitability in relation to the military’s budget. The F-35 contract is a key cornerstone of the Conservatives’ plan to revitalize the Canadian armed forces. One of the crucial issues has been the disagreement over the already high price of the F-35, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) and the Department of National Defense (DND) calculated two different figures. The PBO estimated the total cost of the F-35 is $29.3 billion or $148 million per unit, while the DND assessed the total program would cost $14.7 billion or $75 million per unit. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

The Growing Al-Qaeda Crescent in Strategic Yemen

June 29th 2011

Yemen Topics - Yemen sheik your mamy

The key battle with al-Qaeda in Yemen is in the countryside, where the U.S. government is paying too little attention.

The June 22 jailbreak of dozens of al-Qaeda-linked prisoners in southern Yemen's Hadramawt province is the latest evidence that the main battle with the group has been taking place in the countryside. Although conflicts in the capital -- such as the ongoing faceoff between supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and members of the Hashid tribal confederation -- will affect Yemen's future course as a nation, efforts to control the provinces more directly affect U.S. national security interests. Read more ..


Military Edge

Pentagon Spends Billions on Incentive Pay—but Doesn’t Measure What Works

June 29th 2011

Military - Army in Afghanistan

The Pentagon spent $5.6 billion in 2010 on special pay incentives for active-duty service members, including $1.2 billion for enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses. But the Pentagon has no way of measuring whether it is setting bonus amounts wisely.

DOD allows military branches to offer a bonus to any occupation they have difficulty recruiting or retaining. From 2006 to 2010, the services spent a total of $11 billion for bonuses—52 percent went to the Army, 24 percent to the Navy, 16 percent to the Marine Corps, and 9 percent to the Air Force.

About $4.5 billion of the $11 billion was used for enlistment bonuses and $6.6 billion for re-enlistment bonuses. During this same period, all branches met their enlistment goals and quality, with the exception of the Army in 2006 through 2008. Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

GPS Stations can Detect Clandestine Nuclear Weapons Tests

June 19th 2011

Korea Topics - North Korea nukes

At the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) meeting last week, American researchers are unveiling a new tool for detecting illegal nuclear explosions: the Earth’s global positioning system (GPS). Even underground nuclear tests leave their mark on the part of the upper atmosphere known as the ionosphere, the researchers discovered, when they examined GPS data recorded the same day as a North Korean nuclear test in 2009. Within minutes on that day, GPS stations in nearby countries registered a change in ionospheric electron density, as a bubble of disturbed particles spread out from the test site and across the planet.

“Its as if the shockwave from the underground explosion caused the earth to ‘punch up’ into the atmosphere, creating another shockwave that pushed the air away from ground zero,” said Ralph von Frese, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and senior author on the study. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

In the Shadows: Iran's Enriched Uranium Production Continues to Increase

June 15th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad Nuclear

On May 24, 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a further safeguards update. This update shows that Western efforts to impede Iran’s centrifuge enrichment program continue to be ineffective. Iran has increased its enriched uranium production rate to about 105 kilograms of 3.5 percent enriched uranium per month. This is a 17 percent increase since the last IAEA report in February 2011 and it occurred despite repeated press reports of cyber attacks in 2009 having slowed Iran’s enrichment efforts, Iran’s current production rate of 3.5 percent enriched uranium has actually increased 84 percent over Iran’s 2009 production rate. Iran is also maintaining a steady production rate of about 2.7 kilograms per month of 19.7 percent enriched uranium.

As of May 14, 2011, Iran had produced 2,775 kilograms of 3.5 percent enriched uranium (in the form of 4,105 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride). With this quantity of 3.5 percent enriched uranium, Iran could produce more than the 20 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) needed for a nuclear weapon by batch recycling at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz. With Iran’s current number of operating centrifuges, the batch recycling would take about two months once Iran decided to initiate the process. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Ahmed Ressam Disclosed Valuable Details about al-Qaida—without Harsh Interrogation

June 13th 2011

Terrorism - Ahmed Ressam (cr Montreal PD)
Ahmed Ressam (credit: Montreal PD)

Osama bin Laden’s death has renewed the debate over harsh interrogation techniques, and defenders say rough treatment is the only way to get hard-core terrorists to talk. But in the months before 9/11, one high-profile terrorist was voluntarily divulging all he knew about his time with al-Qaida.

Ahmed Ressam—mastermind of the foiled LAX boming plot—was arguably the FBI’s most valuable informant when terrorists struck U.S. targets with deadly precision on Sept. 11, 2001. Trained at two al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan, Ressam became the leader of a plot to massacre holiday travelers at the Los Angeles International Airport at the end of 1999. The plot was foiled when alert Customs officers at a ferry checkpoint in Port Angeles, Wash., popped open Ressam’s trunk and discovered explosives.

By the time of the 9/11 attacks, Ressam had already spent months naming names and revealing details about al-Qaida’s recruiting, training and plotting. Intelligence from those sessions was included in the infamous presidential briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” The 9/11 Commission concluded that Ressam even had information that—recognized and acted on sooner—may have derailed the attacks. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

Latest Al-Qaeda Video May Be an Admission of Defeat

June 10th 2011

Terrorism - Zawahiri video capture

A new video from al Qaeda’s media arm, As-Sahab, became available on the Internet on June 2. The video was 100 minutes long, distributed in two parts and titled “Responsible Only for Yourself.” As the name suggests, this video was the al Qaeda core’s latest attempt to encourage grassroots jihadists to undertake lone-wolf operations in the West, a recurrent theme in jihadist messages since late 2009.

The video, which was well-produced and contained a number of graphics and special effects, features historical footage of a number of militant Islamist personalities, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abdullah Azzam and Abu Yahya al-Libi. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Taking Ahmadinejad's Nuclear Threats Seriously

June 6th 2011

Iran - Chavez and Ahmanijad

In the last several days, it has been reported that Iran is planning to place medium-range missiles in Venezuela. Such information seems to confirm last November's article published by the German daily Die Welt. The newspaper reported that an agreement was signed last October between the two countries—a fact that has remained mostly unknown to the public.

Indeed, Venezuela and Iran have mutual interests in doing this. Iran which has come under international sanctions initiated by the United States is constantly seeking ways to avoid them. But most importantly, Iran also seeks the ability to deter the U.S. Certainly, the missiles positioned on Venezuelan soil could become not just mere assistance to Venezuela but also a direct threat to the U.S. This is especially the case should the U.S or Israel take military action against Iran's nuclear facility or any other act perceived by the Iranians as hostile.

On the other hand, there is also a Venezuelan agenda that makes this type of action a perfect match between the two countries.

Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez has aggressively tried to influence the different countries of the region and pretends to be the regional leader that will put an end to American influence in the region. He has systematically allied himself with U.S enemies as is the case with Iran and has taken hostile, mostly indirect, action against U.S friends such as Colombia. Colombia is an obsession in Chavez's eyes. Read more ..


The Drug Wars

A Billion Dollars for Anti-narco Programs—and No Central Tracking

June 5th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexico marijuana seizure

The Department of State, which received more $1 billion for international counter-narcotics programs last year, doesn’t have a central database to track its anti-drug programs.

Most of State’s $1 billion supports programs in Mexico, Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is responsible for programs that ran the gamut from eradication of illegal crops, drug interdiction and reducing drug demand.

Instead of a centralized inventory of contracts, State separates its contract data between information from the Narcotics Affairs Sections at overseas posts and the government-wide Federal Procurement Data System. The INL has begun the process of developing its own database of counter-narcotics contracts. Read more ..


Border War

Lessons to Be Learned from Armed Assaults on the Violent Roads of Mexico

June 4th 2011

Mexican Topics - Dead Zetas in Nayarit Mexico

On the afternoon of May 27, a convoy transporting a large number of heavily armed gunmen was ambushed on Mexican Highway 15 near Ruiz, Nayarit state, on Mexico’s Pacific coast. When authorities responded they found 28 dead gunmen and another four wounded, one of whom would later die, bringing the death toll to 29. This is a significant number of dead for one incident, even in Mexico.

According to Nayarit state Attorney General Oscar Herrera Lopez, the gunmen ambushed were members of Los Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel. Herrera noted that most of the victims were from Mexico’s Gulf coast, but there were also some Guatemalans mixed into the group, including one of the wounded survivors. While Los Zetas are predominately based on the Gulf coast, they have been working to provide armed support to allied groups, such as the Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS), a faction of the former Beltran Leyva Organization that is currently battling the Sinaloa Federation and other cartels for control of the lucrative smuggling routes along the Pacific coast. In much the same way, Sinaloa is working with the Gulf cartel to go after Los Zetas in Mexico’s northeast while protecting and expanding its home turf. If the victims in the Ruiz ambush were Zetas, then the Sinaloa Federation was likely the organization that planned and executed this very successful ambush. Read more ..


Edge on Latin America

Return of Zelaya to Tegucigalpa Augurs Honduras' Return to the OAS

May 31st 2011

Latin American Topics - Zelaya returns to Honduras

On May 22nd, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo and former President Manuel Zelaya signed an accord in Cartagena, Colombia providing a path for Zelaya’s return to Honduras from exile, as well as the readmission of Honduras to the Organization of American States (OAS). A May 2nd ruling by the Honduran Supreme Court annulled the criminal charges against Zelaya, thus permitting him to safely return to his country. His main advisor, Rasel Tomé, announced that Zelaya is likely to arrive on the weekend of May 28th. Zelaya’s return to Honduras is the principal requirement for Honduras’ readmission to the OAS. Accordingly, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza has announced that Honduras has already met the necessary conditions for its reentry into the organization. Read more ..


After bin Laden

The Bin Laden Operation: Tapping Human Intelligence

May 30th 2011

Terrorism - Osama bin-Laden preaching

Since May 2, when U.S. special operations forces crossed the Afghan-Pakistani border and killed Osama bin Laden, international media have covered the raid from virtually every angle. The United States and Pakistan have also squared off over the U.S. violation of Pakistan’s sovereign territory and Pakistan’s possible complicity in hiding the al Qaeda leader. All this surface-level discussion, however, largely ignores almost 10 years of intelligence development in the hunt for bin Laden.

While the cross-border nighttime raid deep into Pakistan was a daring and daunting operation, the work to find the target—one person out of 180 million in a country full of insurgent groups and a population hostile to American activities on its soil—was a far greater challenge. For the other side, the challenge of hiding the world’s most wanted man from the world’s most funded intelligence apparatus created a clandestine shell game that probably involved current or former Pakistani intelligence officers as well as competing intelligence services. The details of this struggle will likely remain classified for decades. Read more ..


Iraq After the US

Iraq: A Province of Iran?

May 18th 2011

Iran - Iran Iraq Syria

After American forces leave Iraq at the end of 2011, Tehran will try to turn its neighbor into a satrapy, i.e., a satellite state, to the great detriment of Western, moderate Arab, and Israeli interests.

Intense Iranian efforts are already underway, with Tehran sponsoring militias in Iraq and sending its own forces into Iraqi border areas. Baghdad responds with weakness, with its chief of staff proposing a regional pact with Iran and top politicians ordering attacks on the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident organization with 3,400 members resident in Camp Ashraf, 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. The MeK issue reveals Iraqi subservience to Iran with special clarity. Note some recent developments: Read more ..


Europe on Edge

Visegrad: Europe's New Military Force

May 18th 2011

Europe Topics - Four heads of Visegrad

With the Palestinians demonstrating and the International Monetary Fund in turmoil, it would seem odd to focus this week on something called the Visegrad Group. But this is not a frivolous choice. What the Visegrad Group decided to do last week will likely resonate for years, long after the alleged attempted rape by Dominique Strauss-Kahn is forgotten and long before the Israeli-Palestinian issue is resolved. The obscurity of the decision to most people outside the region should not be allowed to obscure its importance.

The region is Europe — more precisely, the states that had been dominated by the Soviet Union. The Visegrad Group, or V4, consists of four countries — Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary — and is named after two 14th century meetings held in Visegrad Castle in present-day Hungary of leaders of the medieval kingdoms of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia. Read more ..


After bin Laden

A More Efficient Way To Reveal Osama and al Qaeda’s Secrets

May 18th 2011

Terrorism - Osama bin Laden in mufti
The Late Osama bin Laden

Talking on the CBS show “60 Minutes,” President Obama noted: “It’s going to take some time for us to exploit the intelligence that we were able to gather on site” during the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed. This information, according to Mr. Obama, gives the U.S. a chance “to…really deliver a fatal blow [to Al Qaeda], if we follow through aggressively in the months to come.”

The United States intelligence agencies reliance on labor-intensive, time-consuming and inefficient methods to decipher the captured electronic devices and paper documents. The delay has allowed al Qaeda operatives and many of its budding affiliates to relocate, change their identity and communication methods, diminishing the U.S. ability to act upon the intelligence contain in the trove, The window of opportunity to destroy the organization and its global metastasizes, has significantly shrunk. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

An American Double-Standard for Terrorists

May 18th 2011

Cuba Topics - Orlando Bosch Avila
Orlando Bosch

The recent deaths of two terrorists – one famous, one not so much – provides an illuminating examination of how America continues to conduct its controversial war on terror. Making headlines across the United States and called a defining moment in Barack Obama’s presidency, the dramatic raid into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden is one side of the equation. The quiet passing of Orlando Bosch in Miami that elicited scant attention outside the confines of the South Florida community, is the other.

While it would be hard to find an American who hasn’t heard of Bin Laden, the converse is true of Bosch, unless you happen to live in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. This despite Bosch’s much more protracted career of violence, stretching back to the early 1960s. His terrorism, however, was directed at the Cuban people who have, for the most part, supported the regime that came to power following the Revolution in 1959 and that has been designated an official enemy of the United States. Bosch’s actions were rarely, if ever, recognized as terrorism in the mainstream media, which generally kept silent when it came to describing the consequences of his use of violent methods to oppose the Castro regime.

Born in 1926 in a small town East of Havana, Bosch is most infamously linked as one of the masterminds of the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 on October 6, 1976, killing all 73 on board. It remains the second worst act of air terrorism in the Americas. The first is Bin Laden’s orchestrated destruction on September 11. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Al-Qaeda's Source of Funding from Drugs and Extortion Little Affected by bin Laden's Death

May 9th 2011

Terrorism - WTC on Fire (credit: Macten)

Al Qaeda Inc. might suffer some initial setbacks from Osama bin Laden's death, but so did Apple Inc. when shares dropped over rumors of Steve Jobs' illness. But it did not take long to realize that Jobs has established a highly functional corporation, and the shares bounced back.

The same can be expected for al Qaeda Inc. The jihadist organization has changed since its establishment in Afghanistan in 1988 by bin Laden and Palestinian sheikh Abdallah Yusuf Azzam. Al Qaeda Central has developed several branches and inspired many other radical Islamic organizations, each with its own independent resources. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

John Kerry Suspects Pakistan in bin Laden Hideout

May 9th 2011

Politics - John Kerry

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Sunday that he still had his suspicions about just how much the government of Pakistan knew about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden before the terrorist leader was killed by U.S. troops.

Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that while he doubted that high-ranking political or military leaders in Pakistan knew about bin Laden's location before last Sunday's U.S. assault against his compound in Abbottabad, he also found it hard to believe that no one knew about it.

"I think it's very, very hard to believe that at some level there wasn't somebody or some group in Pakistan who wasn't aware of this," Kerry said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said Sunday that the Obama administration had no evidence that the government of Pakistan knew of bin Laden's whereabouts. Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. similarly denied any such intelligence on Sunday. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Pentagon’s Failure to Share Biometric Data Prevents DHS, FBI from Identifying Terrorists

May 9th 2011

Military - Soldier with biometric device and Arab

The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Pentagon all rely on biometric data—face, fingerprint, iris, palm and fingerprint records—to identify criminals, terrorists and national security threats. But the Pentagon’s failure to adopt uniform standards for information sharing means that data on criminals and terrorists could fail to reach agencies that could prevent them from getting into the United States.

Biometric systems are used by the military in both Iraq and Afghanistan to screen non-U.S. people to protect U.S. soldiers. In 2007, DOD said it would begin sharing its unclassified biometric information with departments that have counter-terrorism missions. To do so, DOD adopted standards for its biometric data collection to facilitate information sharing with other agencies. Read more ..



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