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The Battle for Yemen

Yemen Crisis Escalates to Near Civil War

March 23rd 2011

Yemen Topics - Yemen Crisis

A crisis in Yemen is rapidly escalating. A standoff centered on the presidential palace is taking place between security forces in the capital city of Sanaa while embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh continues to resist stepping down, claiming that the “majority of Yemeni people” support him. While a Western-led military intervention in Libya is dominating the headlines, the crisis in Yemen and its implications for Persian Gulf stability is of greater strategic consequence. Saudi Arabia is already facing the threat of an Iranian destabilization campaign in eastern Arabia and has deployed forces to Bahrain in an effort to prevent Shiite unrest from spreading. With a second front now threatening the Saudi underbelly, the situation in Yemen is becoming one that the Saudis can no longer leave on the backburner.

The turning point in Yemen occurred March 18 after Friday prayers, when tens of thousands of protesters in the streets calling for Saleh’s ouster came under a heavy crackdown that reportedly left some 46 people dead and hundreds wounded. It is unclear whether the shootings were ordered by Saleh himself, orchestrated by a member of the Yemeni defense establishment to facilitate Saleh’s political exit or simply provoked by tensions in the streets, but it does not really matter. Scores of defections from the ruling party, the prominent Hashid tribe in the north and military old guard followed the March 18 events, both putting Saleh at risk of being removed in a coup and putting the already deeply fractious country at risk of a civil war. Read more ..

The Battle for Yemen

Yemen Crisis Heading to Boiling Point

March 21st 2011

Arab Topics - Yemeni protester

A crisis in Yemen is rapidly escalating. A standoff centered on the presidential palace is taking place between security forces in the capital city of Sanaa while embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh continues to resist stepping down, claiming that the “majority of Yemeni people” support him. While a Western-led military intervention in Libya is dominating the headlines, the crisis in Yemen and its implications for Persian Gulf stability is of greater strategic consequence. Saudi Arabia is already facing the threat of an Iranian destabilization campaign in eastern Arabia and has deployed forces to Bahrain in an effort to prevent Shiite unrest from spreading. With a second front now threatening the Saudi underbelly, the situation in Yemen is becoming one that the Saudis can no longer leave on the backburner. Read more ..

Edge on Security

GAO Confirms TSA Screening of Air Cargo Can’t be Verified

March 21st 2011

Terrorism - EWR Suspicious Package Response

The Transportation Security Administration reported last August that it met its mandate to screen 100 percent of air cargo. But the Government Accountability Office says TSA cannot verify the accuracy of the data it used, according to a recent report.

Airline industry representatives report screening data to the TSA, but the government has no way to verify the accuracy of the data. TSA cannot cross-reference its local screening logs, which have information on specific shipments, with the reports submitted by air carriers to TSA. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

The Beginning of Obama's War on Libya

March 21st 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama and Gadhafi

The Libyan war has now begun. It pits a coalition of European powers plus the United States, a handful of Arab states and rebels in Libya against the Libyan government. The long-term goal, unspoken but well understood, is regime change — displacing the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi and replacing it with a new regime built around the rebels.

The mission is clearer than the strategy, and that strategy can’t be figured out from the first moves. The strategy might be the imposition of a no-fly zone, the imposition of a no-fly zone and attacks against Libya’s command-and-control centers, or these two plus direct ground attacks on Gadhafi’s forces. These could also be combined with an invasion and occupation of Libya. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Libyan No-Fly Zone Could Cost $300 Million Each Week

March 14th 2011

Military - F-15E Refuels

Establishing and taking control of the skies over Libya could cost the Pentagon up to $300 million a week – or around $15 billion a year – under mission scenarios formulated by a top Washington defense think tank.

Lawmakers have pressed the White House to consider a no-fly zone, but Pentagon officials have been mum about specific options under consideration.

As such, the report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments shines a light on the Pentagon’s thinking.

While several lawmakers have suggested it would not be difficult to set up the no-fly zone, the report suggests it would be expensive and complicated. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Will Libya Again Become the Arsenal of Terrorism?

March 14th 2011

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

During the 1970s and 1980s, Libya served as the arsenal of terrorism. While this role may have received the most publicity when large shipments of weapons were intercepted that Libya was trying to send to the Provincial Irish Republican Army, Libyan involvement in arming terrorist groups was far more widespread. Traces conducted on the weapons used in terrorist attacks by groups such as the Abu Nidal Organization frequently showed that the weapons had come from Libya. In fact, there were specific lot numbers of Soviet-manufactured F1 hand grenades that became widely known in the counterterrorism community as signature items tied to Libyan support of terrorist groups. Read more ..

The Battle for Bahrain

Persian Gulf Oil Kingdoms Pour Billions into Beseiged Oman and Bahrain

March 7th 2011

Arab Topics - Saudi Prince in Meeting

The oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf may soon inject huge sums of aid money into Oman and Bahrain to quiet the unrest that has erupted in both countries recently. Reports of the likely funding -- which includes more than $10 billion for Bahrain alone, a nation of some 900,000 citizens -- come one week after Saudi Arabia announced a $36 billion subsidy package for its own people. Such fiscal generosity suggests that these governments are unwilling to make political concessions as they cope with the winds of change sweeping the Arab world. Read more ..

Rethinking War Strategy

Never Fight a Land War in Asia

March 7th 2011

Asia Topics - Landwar in Asia

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, speaking at West Point, said last week that “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.” In saying this, Gates was repeating a dictum laid down by Douglas MacArthur after the Korean War, who urged the United States to avoid land wars in Asia. Given that the United States has fought four major land wars in Asia since World War II — Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq — none of which had ideal outcomes, it is useful to ask three questions: First, why is fighting a land war in Asia a bad idea? Second, why does the United States seem compelled to fight these wars? And third, what is the alternative that protects U.S. interests in Asia without large-scale military land wars? Read more ..

Battle for Libya

The Strategic Geography of the Libyan Civil War

March 7th 2011

Libya Topics - Libya Map
Libya map

In the first ten days of fighting in Libya's civil war, both the regime and rebel forces have demonstrated an inability to dislodge their opponents from well-entrenched positions. Each side has been able to occupy key terrain that initially was either abandoned or unoccupied by enemy forces but unable to capture enemy-occupied ground. This scenario favors the regime of Muammar Qadhafi, which holds the all-important central position between rebel enclaves, providing the advantage of interior lines of communication, and has greater mobility through its control of air forces and air bases.

Patterns of the Conflict

From February 20 to February 27, the Qadhafi regime experienced a widespread loss of control along the coastal belt, where most of Libya's cities and economic infrastructure are located. From February 28 onward, momentum tilted back toward the regime in four key areas:

    * The regime initiated energetic security operations in Tripoli and the nearby industrial center of Zawiyah. The opposition-held town of Zawiyah -- significant for its proximity to Tripoli as well as its major oil refinery and two oil and gas export terminals -- is now surrounded by Qadhafi forces and has sustained numerous assaults since February 28, with opposition fighters narrowly maintaining their hold. When the coastal town of Sabratha was retaken by the regime on March 1, Zawiyah was cut off from Zuwarah, another opposition enclave to the west. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Jihadist Opportunities in Libya

February 28th 2011

Libya Topics - Libyans say Juden Raus!

Militant Islamists, and specifically the subset of militant Islamists we refer to as jihadists, have long sought to overthrow regimes in the Muslim world. With the sole exception of Afghanistan, they have failed, and even the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan was really more a matter of establishing a polity amid a power vacuum than the true overthrow of a coherent regime. The brief rule of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council in Somalia also occurred amid a similarly chaotic environment and a vacuum of authority.

However, even though jihadists have not been successful in overthrowing governments, they are still viewed as a threat by regimes in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. In response to this threat, these regimes have dealt quite harshly with the jihadists, and strong crackdowns combined with other programs have served to keep the jihadists largely in check. Read more ..

The Bear is Back

Arms Made in China and Russia Continue to Penetrate Latin America

February 28th 2011

Russian Topics - Chavez and Putin
Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez

Russian military sales have become so frequent in recent years that they no longer make for major headlines. However, as Washington policymakers continue to voice concern about Iran’s growing influence in Latin America, some alarmists argue that Russia’s eagerness to supply the region with weapons is likely to trigger a “soft arms race” and present itself as a threat to the United State’s historic hegemony in the Western Hemisphere. Adherents to this point of view persist in looking at Moscow through a nostalgic Cold War lens that sees Russia (and probably China) as a growing and certain threat to U.S. national security. Little, if anything, is heard of WashingtonWashington concerns about other countries (like Israel or France) selling weaponry to the region. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Revelations Seek to Link Diplomat Raymond Davis to Taliban Militants in Pakistan

February 22nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Raymond Davis

As US newspapers lifted a self-imposed gag on the CIA links of Raymond Davis, in place at the request of the US administration, according to intelligence sources, the alleged killer of two Pakistanis had close links to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist organization.

The New York Times reported on February 21 that Davis “was part of a covert, CIA-led team of operatives conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials.”

This contradicts the US claim that Davis was a member of the ‘technical and administrative staff’ of its diplomatic mission in Pakistan. Read more ..

No Plan for Oil Interruption

Saudi Arabia's Fears for Bahrain

February 21st 2011

Arab Topics - Bahrain enraged protesters

On February 16, Bahraini security forces used brute force to clear democracy protesters from Manama's Pearl Square, on orders from a regime seemingly undaunted by international media coverage and the near-instantaneous self-reporting of Twitter-generation demonstrators. Although the relatively small size of the crowds (compared to recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia) facilitated the crackdown, the action is best explained by the regime's long-held mindset regarding dissent. Specifically, the Bahraini ruling elite believe that any political challenge by the island's Shiite majority must be quickly suppressed -- a view backed by the royal family in neighboring Saudi Arabia and violently enforced in Bahrain despite significant Sunni participation in the protests. This Saudi factor, and the looming presence of Iran across the Persian Gulf, elevates the Bahrain crisis to a U.S. policy challenge on par with events in Egypt. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Civil Unrest in Pakistan and the Davis Case

February 21st 2011

PakistanTopics - Davis protest

On Februiary 13, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a statement demanding that the government of Pakistan execute U.S. government contractor Raymond Davis or turn him over to the TTP for judgment. Davis, a contract security officer for the CIA, has been in Pakistani custody since a Jan. 27 incident in which he shot two men who reportedly pointed a pistol at him in an apparent robbery attempt.

Pakistani officials have corroborated Davis’s version of events and, according to their preliminary report, Davis appears to have acted in self-defense. Read more ..

Edge of Energy Security

Energy Security Lessons of the Egypt Crisis

February 21st 2011

Egypt - map of Egypt

The political turmoil in Egypt has prompted renewed concerns about the security of oil and gas supplies from the Middle East. The country's proximity to two key chokepoints—the Suez Canal and the Bab al-Mandab Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden—is significant. Yet concerns about these routes highlight the vulnerability of an even more critical energy chokepoint: the Strait of Hormuz, the only exit from the Persian Gulf. The Egyptian crisis should serve as an opportunity to reexamine contingency plans for avoiding or limiting energy supply disruptions. Whether stemming from political upheaval, direct interference by Iran, or other factors, such disruptions could have a devastating effect on the global economy.

Gas Exports Hit by Sabotage

So far, the crisis has resulted in only one energy disruption: the February 5 sabotage of a pumping station in the Sinai Peninsula, which cut off natural gas supplies to Israel and Jordan. Both countries use this gas to generate electricity, and Jordan is particularly dependent on it. Egypt is expected to restore the flow shortly; in the meantime, Amman will have to rely on limited stocks of fuel oil and perhaps seek additional supplies from Iraq or Saudi Arabia. For its part, Israel can turn to fuel oil or coal stocks, though the incident will likely prompt early exploitation of recently discovered offshore gas reserves in the Mediterranean. Read more ..

Egypt After the Revolt

Strategic Implications for Israel and the U.S. in the Current Egyptian Crisis

February 14th 2011

Egypt - Egyptian antisemitic sign

The events in Egypt have sent shock waves through Israel. The 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel have been the bedrock of Israeli national security. In three of the four wars Israel fought before the accords, a catastrophic outcome for Israel was conceivable. In 1948, 1967 and 1973, credible scenarios existed in which the Israelis were defeated and the state of Israel ceased to exist. In 1973, it appeared for several days that one of those scenarios was unfolding.

The survival of Israel was no longer at stake after 1978. In the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the various Palestinian intifadas and the wars with Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in Gaza in 2008, Israeli interests were involved, but not survival. There is a huge difference between the two. Israel had achieved a geopolitical ideal after 1978 in which it had divided and effectively made peace with two of the four Arab states that bordered it, and neutralized one of those states. The treaty with Egypt removed the threat to the Negev and the southern coastal approaches to Tel Aviv. Read more ..

War on Terror

The US and Canada Share the Longest Undefended Border in the World—Yet Only 32 Miles are Secure

February 6th 2011

Politics - US-Canada Border station

Only 32 miles of the 4,000-mile border between the continental U.S. and Canada—5,500 miles if one adds the Alaska-Canada portion of the border—had reached an acceptable level of security last year, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

“The remaining miles were assessed at levels that Border Patrol reported are not acceptable,” GAO said. “These border miles are defined as vulnerable to exploitation due to issues related to accessibility and resource availability.” Read more ..

Egypt in Revolt

Congress Increasingly Worried Over Mideast Instability Rather than Democratization

February 6th 2011

Politics - Capitol Senate

In a week of Capitol Hill vocally supporting Egyptian pro-democracy demonstrators, lawmakers are growing increasingly concerned about the prospects of revolutionary fervor spreading to other critical countries in the Middle East.

Legislators have been clear about their desire for President Hosni Mubarak to let go of his nearly 30-year grip on power and begin the transition to democracy. But the stakes could be different for the U.S. in Jordan, where a wave of protests spooked King Abdullah to the extent that he quickly dismissed his cabinet in a surprise move on February 1. Not only is the moderate Muslim nation a key U.S. ally, but the Hashemite kingdom shows no signs that it would break its peace treaty with Israel. Read more ..

Mexico on the Edge

Romanian Weapons—Modified in the U.S.—in the Mexican Drug War

February 6th 2011

Politics - Romanian firearms in mexico

Camron Scott Galloway, 21, walked into X Caliber Guns in Phoenix, Ariz., on Jan. 30, 2008, and filled out forms for the purchase of six AK-47 rifles.

Reliable and powerful, and a bargain at about $500 each, the Romanian-made gun, a semiautomatic version of the iconic Kalashnikov assault weapon, had become popular with the drug cartels in Mexico.

Galloway, who eventually pleaded guilty to a forgery charge and became a cooperating prosecution witness in a broader case, testified that he agreed to act as the purchaser of the Romanian AKs on behalf of a co-worker’s brother, who was trafficking weapons south of the border. Just for doing the paperwork, he earned $100 per rifle. Read more ..

Egypt in Revolt

Egypt’s Security Forces are the Key to the Current Crisis

January 30th 2011

Africa Topics - Wary Egyptian Cops

The current wave of protests in Egypt has pitted thousands of demonstrators against the police and Central Security Forces (CSF). The performance of these forces is key to the outcome of the crisis. If they can contain the demonstrations without excessive violence, the protests will likely burn themselves out over time. But if the demonstrations continue or escalate into greater violence, the police and CSF could break down, either dissolving entirely or engaging in undisciplined violence that further exacerbates the situation. Such a scenario, or even the likelihood of it, would probably spur the government to deploy army personnel to support the security forces, deter further demonstrations, and, if necessary, put down the protests through force. That would be a true crisis for the government, one with an uncertain outcome. Read more ..

Crisis in Egypt

Days of Rage in Egypt and an End of Days for Hosni Mubarak

January 30th 2011

Arab Topics - Egypt Riots #2

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak remains the target of the demonstrators, who still number in the tens of thousands in downtown Cairo and in other major cities, albeit on a lesser scale.

After being overwhelmed in the January 28 Day of Rage protests, Egypt’s internal security forces — with the anti-riot paramilitaries of the Central Security Forces (CSF) at the forefront — were glaringly absent from the streets January 29. They were replaced with rows of tanks and armored personnel carriers carrying regular army soldiers. Unlike their CSF counterparts, the demonstrators demanding Mubarak’s exit from the political scene largely welcomed the soldiers. Despite Mubarak’s refusal to step down January 28, the public’s positive perception of the military, seen as the only real gateway to a post-Mubarak Egypt, remained. It is unclear how long this perception will hold, especially as Egyptians are growing frustrated with the rising level of insecurity in the country and the army’s limits in patrolling the streets. Read more ..

Sudan on Edge

Iran Influence Seen in Sudan Election

January 24th 2011

Africa Topics - Sudan demonstration

Results of a recent referendum vote on independence in Sudan are set to be announced next month. Preliminary numbers show more than 98 percent of voters in southern Sudan want independence from the north. But the country's Arab Muslim government, which is based in the north, and its Iranian ally may not let the south break away without a fight. For more than 20 years, the Sudanese government waged a ruthless jihad against the south, leading to some 2 million deaths -- many of them Christians. Now that the south is set to become an independent nation, Sudanese Dictator Omar al-Bashir is once again rallying his troops.

"The Islamist Salafist and jihadi forces who rule the elites of Khartoum are going to try to do everything they can," explained Walid Phares, Middle East expert and author of The Coming Revolution. "One -- to undermine the viability of the young southern Sudan. Two -- to make sure that no other spots in Sudan which are against the government, against the jihadi regime, will erupt as well." Read more ..

Edge on the Mideast

The Muslim Brotherhood's March to Victory

January 18th 2011

Terrorism - Hamas head

For the past five decades most funding to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations around the world – especially those involved directly in terrorist activities – has come from oil rich countries in the Middle East. However the MB Palestinian branch, Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the E.U. and U.S., seems to derive large sums of money from the EU, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and even the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
In fact, the world community facilitated Hamas' victory in the 2006 Palestinian Authority election, when it allowed Hamas to run under the name "List of Change and Reform." In June 2007, Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority (PA). Since then, despite repeated promises to cut off funds to Hamas, international aid organizations and many countries have continued funneling money to Gaza, purportedly for humanitarian aid, but more recently to fund the “Gaza Administration.” Read more ..

The Edge of Terror

2009 DHS Report Warned of “Lone Wolf” Attacks

January 18th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Janet Napolitano

Two years before the Tucson massacre, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report that right wing extremism was on the rise and could prompt “lone wolves” to launch attacks. But the agency backed away from the report amid intense criticism from Republicans, including future House Speaker John Boehner.

The report, which warned that the crippled economy and the election of the first black president were “unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment,” described the rise of “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology [as] the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

In the wake of early January’s attempted assassination of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which left six dead and 14 wounded, the report’s warning of a lone wolf attack from someone with extremist tendencies seems prescient. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Neutrality Will Not Shield Sweden from Terrorism

January 10th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new
Walid Phares

Until Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly’s explosive belt went off prematurely in Stockholm last month, Sweden was the poster child for isolationism in the war on terror. While Abdulwahab’s bomb failed to achieve his desired result, it did obliterate the myth that nations can remain neutral to global terrorism.

Abdulwahab’s failed attack typifies the jihadis’ all-out war against “infidels.” He was a doctrinaire jihadist with ties to a local militant Islamist organization, and his attack didn’t spring up out of nowhere. There had already been warning signs that terrorists were mobilizing against the Scandinavian democracy. Militants had threatened Swedish artist Lars Vilks for his satirical cartoon portrayal of the prophet Mohammad, attacking his home and attempting to murder him with an axe. Others threatened Vilks.

The Iraqi-born Abdulwahab was a member of the Facebook group “Islamic Caliphate State.” He lived in Luton in Bedfordshire, England, where four of the terrorists boarded a train and later killed 52 and injured more than 2,000 in the 7/7 train bombings.

Swedish authorities claimed that Abdulwahab had been “completely unknown” to them before the blast, and that they were trying to ascertain when he was first “radicalized.” Swedish prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said that the country’s security apparatus “was not a Stasi organization engaged in analyzing people’s Facebook pages.”

The irony is that Abdulwahab’s musings on Facebook are the only evidence of his radicalism prior to the attack. Read more ..

China Rising

China's Military Modernization is Coming Much Sooner Than Expected

January 3rd 2011

Military - Chinese DF-21d

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates prepares to go to China and President Obama prepares to host Chinese leader Hu Jintao, it is important that they recognize that the Chinese leadership has an increasingly capable military at its disposal. Worse, the factors shaping that military remain opaque.

A number of items concerning the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were in the news this past week. The most high profile was the comment by Admiral Robert Willard, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, that China’s anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) system had reached initial operational capability (IOC). This means that the Chinese DF-21D, which is believed to have been developed specifically to target U.S. carrier strike groups (CSGs), has now been distributed to at least some PLA units for actual operational use in the event of conflict.

The DF-21D is not a new program; its development has been mentioned in various official and academic publications, including this year’s Department of Defense report on China, released in August. What is striking is that the system has reached IOC much earlier than had been expected. The annual Pentagon report on Chinese military capabilities, for example, gave no indication that the system was going to reach IOC this year. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Separating the Terror from Terrorism

January 3rd 2011

Terrorism - Arab terrorist

On December 15, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent a joint bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies expressing their concern that terrorists may attack a large public gathering in a major U.S. metropolitan area during the 2010 holiday season. That concern was echoed by sources at the FBI and elsewhere who were almost certain there was going to be a terrorist attack launched against the United States over Christmas.

Certainly, attacks during the December holiday season are not unusual. There is a history of such attacks, from the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988, and the thwarted millennium attacks in December 1999 and January 2000 to the post-9/11 airliner attacks by shoe bomber Richard Reid on December 22, 2001, and by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on December 25, 2009. Some of these plots have even stemmed from the grassroots. In December 2006, Derrick Shareef was arrested while planning an attack he hoped to launch against an Illinois shopping mall on December 22. Read more ..

Iran’s Nukes

Potential Iranian Responses to NATO’s Missile Defense Shield

December 27th 2010

Iran - Iran Long-Range Missile

The new “Strategic Concept” that NATO is expected to adopt at its Lisbon summit this weekend offers the advantage of an early initial capability to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian ballistic missile threat, even though—in deference to Turkish sensibilities—NATO is not expected to identify Iran as the source of the threat. For now, the Islamic Republic is unable to reach targets in Eastern Europe, but that could change as early as 2012 if Tehran decides to commence production of the medium-range Sajjil-2 missile. And because the NATO concept hinges first on the deployment of ship-based missile systems to the eastern Mediterranean, followed later by the deployment of land-based interceptors, it entails certain vulnerabilities that Iran could exploit in the near term. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Government Disbands Dozens of Private Security Firms

December 21st 2010

Afghan Topics - Afghan weapons

The government of Afghanistan has announced its determination to shut down all private security companies operating in the country. Kabul has already disbanded 57 of them.

An Interior Ministry official overseeing the campaign, General Abdul Manan Farahi, said the targeted companies, are all Afghan, and include unregistered and illegal firms that have broken domestic laws. He said more than 3,000 individuals have seen their weapons confiscated.

Farahi said companies protecting aid and development projects and diplomatic missions would be able to continue operating but only within the premises they are guarding. He also said the headquarters of remaining companies have been moved outside the capital, Kabul. Read more ..

The Political Edge

For Obama, START is “Personal”

December 21st 2010

Russian Topics - Russian ICBMs

President Obama is making a final push to secure the votes for an arms treaty that stands not just as a political goal but a highly personal one.

The president needs nine Republican votes to win the two-thirds Senate majority to ratify the New START treat with Russia, and Obama has continued to call Republican senators to bring them on board, according to the White House.

Obama seems near another victory in what has been a surprisingly productive lame-duck session. Every Senate Democrat is expected to support ratification, and several Republican senators, most recently Scott Brown (R-Mass.), have said they will vote to approve the treaty. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Islamist Terrorists Resort to Using Children to Trigger Deadly Bombs in Afghanistan

December 13th 2010

Terrorism - Child Suicide Bomber

Taliban terrorists used a two-year-old girl as the trigger for an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, killing the child and five Afghan police officers. Afghan National Police officers near Kandahar stopped their vehicle to comfort the child who they saw sobbing by the side of the road. The Islamist insurgents had ordered the toddler not to move, in order to lure the hapless officers who were being trained by British troops at the Helmand police training center in Lashkar Gah.

The incident happened in mid-2010, according to Afghan police in training. One of the officers, and eyewitness, said “Bad people did this. They are enemies of humanity, enemies of Islam and enemies of the Koran.” This fresh horror came to light when civilian police of Britain’s Ministry of Defense observed with shock that not one of their Afghan trainees went to calm a child during a practical training session on dealing with missing children. Read more ..

Web Warfare

China Takes Steps Against “Hacktivst” Groups Even While it Steps Up Hacking of US Government Websites

December 13th 2010

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

A recent batch of WikiLeaks cables led Der Spiegel and The New York Times to print front-page stories on China’s cyber-espionage capabilities on December 4 and 5. While China’s offensive capabilities on the Internet are widely recognized, the country is discovering the other edge of the sword.

China is no doubt facing a paradox as it tries to manipulate and confront the growing capabilities of Internet users. Recent arrests of Chinese hackers and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pronouncements suggest that China fears that its own computer experts, nationalist hackers and social media could turn against the government. While the exact cause of Beijing’s new focus on network security is unclear, it comes at a time when other countries are developing their own defenses against cyber attacks and hot topics like Stuxnet and WikiLeaks are generating new concerns about Internet security. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Assassination of Nuclear Scientist Strikes at the Heart of Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

December 6th 2010

Iran - Ahmadinejad pointing

On the morning of November 29, two Iranian scientists involved in Iran’s nuclear development program were attacked. One was killed, and the other was injured. According to Iranian media, the deceased, Dr. Majid Shahriari, was heading the team responsible for developing the technology to design a nuclear reactor core, and Time magazine referred to him as the highest-ranking non-appointed individual working on the project. Official reports indicate that Shahriari was killed when assailants on motorcycles attached a “sticky bomb” to his vehicle and detonated it seconds later. However, the Time magazine report says that an explosive device concealed inside the car detonated and killed him. Shahriari’s driver and wife, both of whom were in the car at the time, were injured. Read more ..

North Korea on the Edge

North Korean Belligerence Could be Part of Leadership Succession

November 29th 2010

Korea Topics - Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un

The most frequently heard question in the wake of a North Korean attack on a South Korean island is “why?” Those who have devoted their careers to studying North Korea, one of the world’s most opaque nations, say it is difficult to get a clear answer. One theory ties the artillery attack last week to efforts to establish the son of leader Kim Jong Il as his successor.

Late November’s shelling of a community on a South Korean island was not the first time North Korea has lashed out at its neighbor since the Korean War in the 1950s. And, a number of experts on North Korea say, it will not be the last. Indeed, several say South Korea and the United States, which has 25,000 troops in the country, may have to contend with additional military actions by North Korea in the months and years ahead. Read more ..

Korea Peninsula on Edge

A Maze of Questions Follows North Korea's Unprovoked Attacks on the South

November 23rd 2010

Asia Topics - Lee Myung-bak of South Korea
S. Korean President Lee Myung-bak 

North Korea and South Korea exchanged artillery fire near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), their disputed western border in the Yellow Sea/West Sea on November 23. The incident damaged as many as 100 homes and thus far has killed two South Korean soldiers with several others, including some civilians, wounded. The South Korean government convened an emergency Cabinet meeting soon after the incident and called for the prevention of escalation. It later warned of “stern retaliation” if North Korea launches additional attacks. Pyongyang responded by threatening to launch additional strikes, and accused South Korea and the United States of planning to invade North Korea, in reference to the joint Hoguk military exercises currently under way in different locations across South Korea. The incident raises several questions, not the least of which is whether Pyongyang is attempting to move the real “red line” for conventional weapons engagements, just as it has managed to move the limit of “acceptable” behavior regarding its nuclear program. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Al-Qaida Boldly Claims It Will Strike the US Again—On the Cheap

November 22nd 2010

Arab Topics - UPS Yemeni soldiers
Yemeni soldiers guard UPS headquarters in Sa’na

The Al-Qaida terrorist organization promises to conduct attacks on a small-scale, similar to its recent attempts on two cargo planes bound for the United States. In those cases, explosive devices were sent via international mail in small packages. One of these was addressed to a Chicago-area synagogue. The November 20 on-line edition of the organization’s English-language online magazine, Inspire, likened this tactic to bleeding an enemy with a thousand small cuts. Noting that the “Operation Hemorrhage” mentioned above cost only $4,200, the Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen vowed, “To bring down America we do not need to strike big.” Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Tracking the Pakistani Origins of Naxalite Maoist Terror in India

November 22nd 2010

India Topics - Indian Naxalite Maoist

Indian Maoist militants, known as Naxalites, have been meeting with members of the outlawed Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to the director-general of police for India’s Chhattisgarh state. Based on information from a police source, state police chief Vishwa Ranjan said Nov. 11 that two LeT operatives attended a Naxalite meeting in April or May. While their presence at the meeting still needs to be corroborated, the chief said, it appears very likely that the Naxalites held the meeting to adopt a new policy and plans for increasing “armed resistance” in order to seize political power in India.

Indian authorities are using the alleged meeting between LeT operatives and Naxalites as evidence that Pakistan is trying to forge relationships with the Naxalites, which India has long suspected. India blamed the LeT for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2001 parliament attack. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Concern Grows over Influence of Islamic Terrorist Movements in Central Asia

November 15th 2010

Terrorism - Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

Tajikistan’s military continues to conduct security sweeps in the Rasht Valley in the eastern part of the country to catch roughly two dozen high-profile Islamist militants who escaped from a Dushanbe prison in August. The chairman of Tajikistan’s State National Security Committee announced November 9 that these special operations have been successful and would soon be completed. However, the Tajik military has announced it will retain its presence there, and the Defense Ministry is setting up special training centers from which to base operations into the mountainous region surrounding the Rasht Valley.

These security sweeps began just over two months ago, and there are conflicting accounts of how successful they have been in rounding up the militants. Tajik military and government spokesmen have said that most of the escapees have been either captured or killed and that roughly 80 Tajik soldiers have been killed hunting them down. However, Tajik media have given higher estimates of the number of military casualties, and sources in Central Asia have said the number of deaths and injuries in various firefights might actually be closer to a few hundred. The region’s remoteness and the sensitive nature of the security operations have made such reports difficult to verify. Read more ..

The Edge on Terrorism

Al-Qaeda Strikes Out this Time but Remains a Threat

November 8th 2010

Terrorism - Dubai mail bomb

The October 29 discovery of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) inside two packages shipped from Yemen launched a widespread search for other devices, and more than two dozen suspect packages have been tracked down so far. Some have been trailed in dramatic fashion, as when two U.S. F-15 fighter aircraft escorted an Emirates Air passenger jet Oct. 29 as it approached and landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. To date, however, no other parcels have been found to contain explosive devices. Read more ..

The Edge of Terror

The Ashburn Jihadist Signals a Greater Danger

November 8th 2010

Terrorism - Farooque Ahmed (Ashburn Jihadi)
Farooque Ahmed Credit: US Department of Justice

The FBI’s arrest of Farooque Ahmed of Ashburn, Va., for allegedly assisting al Qaeda in planning multiple bombings around the nation’s capital paints a sobering picture of the threat we still face from jihadists.

The FBI charged the 34-year-old computer engineer, husband, father of one, and naturalized U.S. citizen with “providing material support to terrorists and collecting information for a terrorist attack.” Emphasizing the gravity of the case, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride remarked that Mr. Ahmed was “accused of casing rail stations with the goal of killing as many Metro riders as possible through simultaneous bomb attacks.”

Throughout the summer and fall, U.S. authorities witnessed a significant rise in jihadist activity, using increasingly sophisticated operational strategies. According to open-source reports, between 2001 and 2008, U.S. agencies stopped one or two terror attempts a year. However, from 2009 until today, the government has been uncovering one or two cases a month, a troubling growth in jihadi activities. Read more ..

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