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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 ..

Edge of Terrorism

The Impact of the Death of Osama bin Laden on Global Jihadism

May 3rd 2011

Terrorism - Osama bin Laden in mufti

U.S. President Barack Obama appeared in a hastily arranged televised address the night of May 1, 2011, to inform the world that U.S. counterterrorism forces had located and killed Osama bin Laden. The operation, which reportedly happened in the early hours of May 2 local time, targeted a compound in Abbottabad, a city located some 31 miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. The nighttime raid resulted in a brief firefight that left bin Laden and several others dead.

A U.S. helicopter reportedly was damaged in the raid and later destroyed by U.S. forces. Obama reported that no U.S. personnel were lost in the operation. After a brief search of the compound, the U.S. forces left with bin Laden’s body and presumably anything else that appeared to have intelligence value. From Obama’s carefully scripted speech, it would appear that the U.S. conducted the operation unilaterally with no Pakistani assistance — or even knowledge. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Abduction of Prominent Russian's Son Illustrates Failings of Intelligence Tools

May 2nd 2011

Russian Topics - Ivan Kapersky
Ivan Kapersky

On April 24, officers from the anti-kidnapping unit of Moscow’s Criminal Investigation Department and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) rescued 20-year-old Ivan Kaspersky from a dacha in Sergiev Posad, a small town about 40 miles northeast of Moscow. Kaspersky, the son of Russian computer software services billionaire Eugene Kaspersky (founder of Kaspersky Lab), was kidnapped on April 19 as he was walking to work from his Moscow apartment. A fourth-year computer student at Moscow State University, Kaspersky was working as an intern at a software company located near Moscow’s Strogino metro station.

Following the abduction, Kaspersky was reportedly forced to call his father and relay his captors’ demands for a ransom of 3 million euros ($4.4 million). After receiving the ransom call, the elder Kaspersky turned to Russian law enforcement for assistance. On April 21, news of the abduction hit the Russian and international press, placing pressure on the kidnappers and potentially placing Kaspersky’s life in jeopardy. In order to defuse the situation, disinformation was leaked to the press that a ransom had been paid, that Kaspersky had been released unharmed and that the family did not want the authorities involved. Read more ..

Battle for Libya

War in Libya That Drags on Favors Muammar Qadhafi

April 25th 2011

Libya Topics - Muammar Qaddafi

Despite appearances, the current state of the Libyan civil war is not a stalemate. Muammar Qaddafi's forces have adapted somewhat to NATO's control of the air and have continued offensive operations. And although rebel forces in the east are slowly improving their organizational, communications, and combat capabilities, they are far from being able to gain and hold ground against even depleted regime forces. NATO operations have been sufficient to prevent the opposition's defeat, degrading Qaddafi's ability to command and sustain his forces or employ heavy weapons against rebels and civilians. But allied forces have not broken the regime's willingness or ability to continue the fight, and NATO is reluctant to take the military steps needed to turn the tide rapidly.

Both the rebels and NATO will suffer a major setback if the western stronghold of Misurata succumbs to regime attacks. Yet, unless the West acts with more determination and assumes more operational risk, the city will likely fall, perhaps soon.

Two-Front War

Two clear theaters of war have emerged in Libya: an eastern front that has essentially stabilized near Ajdabiya, and a western theater with several compartments. In the east, the pattern of advance and retreat by both sides has now settled into indecisive skirmishing around Ajdabiya, with neither side able to obtain a clear advantage. Regime units are at the end of a long supply line, NATO continues to strike at their heavy weapons and logistical support, and their resort to light forces, while complicating NATO targeting, has not enabled them to advance further against solidifying resistance backed by critical NATO support. For their part, rebel forces still lack the ability to plan and conduct serious offensives and are hard pressed to hold the ground they have gained, even with foreign assistance.

The Battle for Yemen

Islamist Militancy: Before and After the Fall of Saleh

April 25th 2011

Yemen Topics - Yemen Crisis

Nearly three months have passed since the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, first saw mass demonstrations against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but an exit from the current stalemate is still nowhere in sight. Saleh retains enough support to continue dictating the terms of his eventual political departure to an emboldened yet frustrated opposition. At the same time, the writ of his authority beyond the capital is dwindling, which is increasing the level of chaos and allowing various rebel groups to collect arms, recruit fighters and operate under dangerously few constraints.

The prospect of Saleh’s political struggle providing a boon to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is understandably producing anxiety in Washington, where U.S. officials have spent the past few months trying to envision what a post-Saleh Yemen would mean for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the Arabian Peninsula. Read more ..

Border War

How to Perceive the Bomb Threat South of the Border

April 18th 2011

Mexican Topics - Juarez car bomb

On April 5, Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that a row of concrete Jersey barriers was being emplaced in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico. The story indicated that the wall was put in to block visibility of the facility, but being only about 107 centimeters (42 inches) high, such barriers do little to block visibility. Instead, this modular concrete wall is clearly being used to block one lane of traffic in front of the consulate in an effort to provide the facility with some additional standoff distance from the avenue that passes in front of it.

Due to the location and design of the current consulate building in Monterrey, there is only a narrow sidewalk separating the building’s front wall from the street and very little distance between the front wall and the building. This lack of standoff has been long noted, and it was an important factor in the decision to build a new consulate in Monterrey (construction began in June 2010 and is scheduled to be completed in January 2013). Read more ..

Palestinian Terror

Will "Iron Dome" Negate the Need for Israeli Military Operations Against Hamas in Gaza?

April 18th 2011

Terrorism - Iron Dome
The Iron Dome Missile Defense System

Will the Iron Dome Missile Defense System negates the need for Israel to engage in military operations against Hamas in Gaza?

The escalation in rocket barrages from terrorists in Gaza against southern Israel in 2011 has forced the Israeli government to rush deployment of the "Iron Dome" missile defense system to protect its citizens who live within rocket range. In the beginning of April, two Iron Dome batteries were placed outside of Beersheva and Ashkelon and immediately proved their value by intercepting several GRAD rockets aimed at civilian areas in Israel. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Pentagon Probing Nuclear-capable F-35 Delays

April 11th 2011

Military - F-35b

The Defense Department is examining how long a variant of the F-35 fighter that is nuclear-capable will be delayed, military officials told lawmakers this week. The Pentagon has launched a “technical baseline review” to determine how an expected two-year delay for the entire program will impact the delivery schedule, according to Air Force Maj. Gen. William Chambers, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration.

That study “will give us a new time line” for how far behind schedule the broader schedule slip will place the nuclear F-35, Chambers told the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee this week. To bridge the gap to the date when the nuclear-armed F-35s arrive in the service’s fleet, officials plan to keep more of existing F-15 and F-16 fighters flying longer than initially planned, Chambers said. Read more ..

The Metal's Edge

Pentagon Balks on Report about Rare Earths Reliance on China

April 11th 2011

China Topics - China rare earth mine

Rare earth metals, a variety of elements that are difficult and costly to extract, are vital for technology and the military. Tiny amounts of the metals and their alloys are used in a plethora of everyday devices, like cell phones, computer memory, and fluorescent lighting. But they are also vital components in many weapon systems, laser devices, and telescopes.

The United States used to be the top producer in the rare earth industry, but it is now almost entirely dependent on Chinese exports, which have been increasingly reduced. Read more ..

The Battle for Yemen

Regime Change in Yemen Signals Emboldened Al-Qaeda Presence in the Arabian Peninsula

April 11th 2011

Arab Topics - Yemeni protester

While the world’s attention is focused on the combat transpiring in Libya and the events in Egypt and Bahrain, Yemen has also descended into crisis. The country is deeply split over its support for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and this profound divide has also extended to the most powerful institutions in the country — the military and the tribes — with some factions calling for Saleh to relinquish power and others supporting him. The tense standoff in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa has served to divert attention (and security forces) from other parts of the country.

On March 28, an explosion at a munitions factory in southern Yemen killed at least 110 people. The factory, which reportedly produced AK rifles and ammunition, was located in the town of Jaar in Abyan province. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

The Uncertain Aftermath of Waging a Humanitarian War in Libya

April 8th 2011

Africa Topics - Dead African mercenaries in Libya
Teenaged Gadhafi supporters killed by rebels

There are wars in pursuit of interest. In these wars, nations pursue economic or strategic ends to protect the nation or expand its power. There are also wars of ideology, designed to spread some idea of “the good,” whether this good is religious or secular. The two obviously can be intertwined, such that a war designed to spread an ideology also strengthens the interests of the nation spreading the ideology.

Since World War II, a new class of war has emerged that we might call humanitarian wars — wars in which the combatants claim to be fighting neither for their national interest nor to impose any ideology, but rather to prevent inordinate human suffering. In Kosovo and now in Libya, this has been defined as stopping a government from committing mass murder. But it is not confined to that. In the 1990s, the U.S. intervention in Somalia was intended to alleviate a famine while the invasion of Haiti was designed to remove a corrupt and oppressive regime causing grievous suffering. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Al-Qaeda Operatives Recruit Members and Plan Attacks in Brazil

April 6th 2011

Latin American Topics - Mosque in Brazil
Brazilian mosque

According to Brazil's Veja news magazine, members of the Islamic terrorist groups Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas are operating in Brazil, where they hide, raise money, recruit new members and plan attacks. The April 3 report alleged that at least 20 high-ranking members of the three groups operate in the region where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina converge, the weekly magazine said, citing Brazilian Federal Police and U.S. government reports.

Brazil has long rejected U.S. charges that the triple border region harbors terrorists, but has acknowledged that Brazil’s large Muslim community sends a significant amount of remittances to the Middle East. Khaled Hussein Ali, a 41-year-old Lebanese Muslim who has a Brazilian-born daughter, who has lived legally in Sao Paulo since 1998, has coordinated Al Qaeda’s operations in 17 countries from Brazil, Veja said. Read more ..

Border war

Texas Republican: Put Mexican Cartels on Foreign Terrorist List

April 4th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexican Drug Police2

Six Mexican drug cartels would be labeled as terrorist groups under legislation introduced Thursday by a Texas Republican. Rep. Michael McCaul’s bill would add the six cartels to the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which also includes al Qaeda, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Shining Path and the Real IRA. McCaul said his legislation is necessary because violence on the Mexican border is increasing even as the U.S. is focused on foreign wars. “The last time I visited the El Paso Intelligence Center and requested to go across the border to Juarez, the State Department told me they could not guarantee my safety,” the lawmaker said at a hearing Thursday on border violence. Read more ..

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