Showing posts with label Counter-insurgency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Counter-insurgency. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Al-Shabaab vs The Security Dialogue: Round 3 - The Hilarity Continues

Well, folks. It's that time of year when our favorite little jihadis decide to engage me on Twitter. Our contest is always one-sided and really quite funny. For a bunch of murdering, raping, degenerates they do a hell of a job of setting up a great punch line. I'll stop teasing and let you see for yourself. Ding ding!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Who's More Advanced - Syrian Rebels or DARPA?

Every revolution starts almost the same way.  Rocks are thrown, then Moltov cocktails. Rebels amass small arms.  And then they get "creative".  The same can be said of Syrian rebels who have converted just about every piece of armament they've captured into another weapon.  Take for instance, their use of cluster bombs to manufacture rockets.  Wired Magazine did a piece with video from the rebels on just how this is done.
The fuses from cluster bombs get recycled in makeshift weapons foundries for use inside Qassam-style short-range rockets. Taking a page from Hamas in Gaza, the Syrian rebels are now manufacturing their own rockets — much as they have other weaponry — even though gulf Arab states keep a weapons pipeline flowing.

Back at the foundry, the intact fuse has its benefits. The rebels remove the tail fin from the cluster bomb, leaving the main charge, and then attach a homemade rocket motor.

They've even started manufacturing tanks.  That's right. You read it correctly.  They have designed their own "tank".  It's built from a disassembled car and uses on-board cameras with an video game console controller.  Yup. The Syrian rebels may be more advanced than DARPA.

VIDEO: Outgunned and Pinned Down, Syrian Rebel's Incredible Luck Captured

As young basic trainee, I was taught a many of things in basic training - one of which was the chaos that occurs when under fire.  It takes a disciplined soldier to ignore the hysteria and danger, focus on the mission, fire back at the enemy, and get back to safety when the situation allows.  The video above demonstrates just how lucky one Syrian rebel was.  You'll see bullets hitting all around him, his attempts to fire back, and his ability to get back to his comrades unharmed.  You'll also notice just how lucky he is, though I'm sure he would say "إن شاء الله‎" (God's will).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Al-Shabaab vs The Security Dialogue: Round 2

Al-Shabaab (aka "The Lads") and I have continued our verbal contest of will and intellect.  As one might imagine, this has been quite entertaining.  My wife has told me I need a real hobby. Pfft! I told her some people have golf and I have making fun of transnational "designated terrorist organizations".  It's the simple things in life that are the most rewarding.

In case you haven't heard, al-Shabaab "nailed" the Kenyan military Twitter spokesperson who tweeted a photo of an execution which the Kenyans claimed happened in 2009.  Given the fact al-Shabaab was there when this execution took place because they were the executioners, it should come as no surprise al-Shabaab was able to note this glaring discrepancy in fact.  Massive embarrassment occurred prompting the Kenyans to apologize for the slight to al-Shabaab.  Sensing the mounting tension, I decided my commentary might be needed to mitigate this crisis.

Here's the commentary.  As you can see, this was a very entertaining series of tweets:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Arms sales: Who buys our guns?

You ever wonder who we sell our guns and other weapon systems to? Turns out the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service conducted a study to find out.  The report is below.

Here is a table from that report you might find interesting.  Notice how dramatically sales have gone down in the last seven years.  While you're at it, let me know if you find any consistent leaders:

Here's the report as promised:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Terrorist Group of the Week - The Sicarii

In a quest to learn more about terrorism and its roots, I've decided to start two new series:  Terrorist of the Week and Terrorist Group of the Week. The criteria is quite simple: I'll be showcasing different groups and individuals according to their interests to me and their significance to terrorist activities.

The first group I'm profiling is the Sicarrii, an ancient Jewish extremist group who used assassinations and kidnapping to expel Romans and other foreign entities from Judea. Many scholars point to them as the "fathers" of modern terrorism. This is not a stretch considering the methods and motives were practically unheard of prior to this. Most revolutions began once armies could be formed to engage occupiers on the battlefield. The Sicarrii did not have the time nor the resources for a conventional army so they used the unpredictability and lethality of their daggers to inflict psychological and strategic casualties on their enemy. These ideas are not foreign to any terrorist groups. Many use assassinations, kidnapping, and other means in order to achieve similar results.
Sicae - ancient dagger used by the Sicarri. Often hidden in their garments,
it was the preferred weapon due to its stealth and concealability.
What made the Sicarri unique was their use of stealth. They hid small daggers under their cloaks called sicae. As it was often difficult to their enemies alone, they often waited for them at mass gather points to strike them. Hidden in a crowd, they could operate without worry of detection before, during, and after the attack.

Who did they go after? Their targets of choice appeared to be Romans and their sympathizers. Some of their notable victims included Jonathan the High Priest, a suspected collaborator. Many were Roman soldiers and administrators. Like most terrorist groups, they struggled to gain popular support. And like most terrorist groups, they turned on the people they were liberting to get their support. At the beginning of the Jewish Revolt of 66 AD, the Sicarii, destroyed the city of Jerusalem's food supply so that the people would be forced to fight against the Roman siege instead of negotiating peace.

Mountaintop fortress and one of the most revered sites in Jewish  history .

Still haven't heard of them?  Ever hear of a place called Masada? That's right - these folks made the infamous stand at Masada along with their leader Simon Bar Giora. He and a group of followers made their way to the abandoned mountaintop fortress in 72 AD.  The standoff lasted until 73 AD when the Romans took over and discovered how deep the Sicarrii conviction was. They all committed suicide rather than surrender.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Terrorist of the week: Yasi al-Suri

In 2005, Yasin al-Suri made al-Qaeda's
"Top 30 under 30." According to Uncle Sam,
his head is worth $10  million.
Have you seen this guy?  If you have, the United States government would like to have a chat with him.  In the age of the Global on Terror, what that really means is "If you have and would be so kind to let the United States government know, they will pay you a very large reward fee for being able to put him in the crosshairs of a drone pilot."

What did he do?  According to the State Department,
Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, more commonly known as Yasin al-Suri, is a senior al-Qaida facilitator based in Iran. Al-Suri moves money and recruits from across the Middle East into Iran, and then on to Pakistan, to support al-Qaida’s senior leadership. Iranian authorities maintain a relationship with al-Suri and have permitted him to operate within Iran’s borders since 2005.

Al-Suri facilitates the movement of recruits for al-Qaida from the Gulf to Pakistan and Afghanistan via Iran. He is also an important fundraiser for al-Qaida and has collected money from donors and fundraisers throughout the Gulf. Al-Suri funnels significant funds via Iran for onward passage to al-Qaida’s leadership in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Working with the Iranian government, al-Suri arranges the release of al-Qaida personnel from Iranian prisons. When al-Qaida operatives are released, the Iranian government transfers them to al-Suri, who then facilitates their travel to Pakistan.
As you might imagine, our "friends" in Iran flat out deny any connection. According to the Iranian news agency, Fars, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, "The American government's recent unwise scenario regarding Iran's involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks and the presence of an al Qaeda member in Iran is completely baseless. The US endangers international peace and security through repeating such false claims which are raised to meet Washington's political goals."

What's amazing about the reward and Yasin is the admission that he's been a liaison between al Qaeda and Iran since 2005 when he was 23 years old.  I know of drug dealing thugs who murder people every day and don't even have a sum this high on their heads.  Yasin's bounty is only $15 million less than Ayman Zawhiri, the new chief of al Qaeda.  What does this make Yasin?  I'll tell you what it makes him a high value target.  My guess is if captured or killed, Yasin's disappearance from the global terrorism scene would be a huge victory for American intelligence agencies as well as put a dent in the number of foreign fighters who appear to be growing exponentially.  Another reason you offer this kind of cash is because you know someone out there wants this money more than they care about Yasin.

So this leads me to wonder as to what happens if the government has actionable intelligence on his whereabouts possibly in Iran.  Do we send in Joint Special Operations assets to render him? Do we send in our drones? Do we apply "diplomatic pressure" (i.e. apply another series of ineffective sanctions with a country who does business with other countries not affected by our sanctions)?  Any covert actions, once discovered, could provoke the Iranians into more overt acts of aggression against the United States.

It is highly doubtful the US government expects to actually capture or kill him in Iran.  Why put up the reward then?  Perhaps it's a message for Iran to let them know we know who Yasin is and who he works for.  Whatever their reasons, the government is taking this guy very seriously.

To leave a tip (tell them The Security Dialogue sent you), click on the link below:

Here's a link to Yasin's wanted page:

Here's the Treasury Department's Press Release in July 2011 about Yasin's network:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: Homegrown Terror Threat to Military Communities

Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who is charged with
murder in the Fort Hood shootings 

Love him or hate him - Congressman Peter King can get press coverage on homeland security better than anyone.  On December 7, 2011, he did not fail.  The committee he chairs, the House Committee on Homeland Security published a 14 page "investigative report" on the
"Homegrown Terror Threat to Military Communities".  So what did he say to land himself in the news again?  Oh, I don't know....Perhaps it was this little "gem" found in the report:

"The Committee’s Majority Staff has reason to believe that the actual number of radicalized troops is far more than publicly realized or acknowledged."

That's ironic because the FBI and the ADL have been practically shouting this for quite some time.  It appears to me either the Committee is a little behind on the counter-terrorism information or being a tad bit subjective.  Imagine - subjectivity in politics.


I love it when lawmakers make sense.....
"Focusing on the followers of one religion as the only credible threat to the nation's security is inaccurate, narrow and blocks consideration of emerging threats," said Mississippi Democratic Congressman Ben Thompson, describing how America owes its military personnel a clear understanding of "their mission and a clear definition of their enemy."
"That enemy is not a religion and their mission is not to defeat an ideology. And while some of my colleagues appear to have difficulty grasping this, I am glad that our military people understand it."

Al Shabaab vs The Security Dialogue: Let the Twitter War Begin!!

I'm not necessarily a person who goes "looking for a fight" but I do detest bullies.  Moreover, I hate it when people take something "good" and distort into something more perverse.  So when I had a chance to confront the Somali Al Qaeda franchise - Al Shabaab, I couldn't resist but to get a few good jabs in.

It all started, when I learned they had their own Twitter profile.  One could say, I went looking to start a fight:!/scrivenlking/status/144523301606260736

It would also be safe to say the boys from Al Shabaab were feeling the heat from all over the Twittersphere throughout Somalia (thanks Kenya):!/HSMPress/status/144465393409470464

It didn't help matters that I could have cared less:!/scrivenlking/status/144548956054093826

I was little worried they didn't want to continue this any longer until....!/HSMPress/status/145560239536746497

So naturally I said:!/scrivenlking/status/145581523423338496
The link I provided above is an article describing how
Al Shabaab has denied foreign aid access to Somalia's worst
hit famine areas.

I'm not sure how far I'll take my bantering with these guys.  All I know is they (the writer) is much more articulate with his English vernacular than I originally assumed.  For terrorists, they do seem to be a bit "thin-skinned".  I'm waiting for an actual tweet back from Al Shabaab.  I know they're busy waging jihad (shame it's the lesser jihad as pronounced by Muhaamad) but I'm beginning to wonder how they expect to win the propaganda war if they let something like my desire to pester them get in their way.  Stay tuned - this could get interesting.

For more on Al Shabaab, feel free to visit any of the links below:


Here are some aid groups which do work in Somalia (I HIGHLY encourage you to check them out and DONATE):

  7. Save the Children   
  8. The World Food Programme  
  9. World Vision  
  10. The International Rescue Committee

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Commentary: Internment Camps: A 20th Century Solution for a 21st Century Problem?

US Navy 080214-N-5416W-006 A member of the Navy Expeditionary Guard Battalion patrols a corridor in the Camp Delta section of the Joint Detention Group facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class William Weinert
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In my military professional endeavors, I have come across a variety of counter-terrorism theories and practices.  One which I always find myself "sitting on the fence" on is warrantless detentions or internment camps.  While I can appreciate the operational necessity to capture, detain, and thus incapacitate certain rogue individuals who are involved in ongoing terrorist operations, I grow concerned due to the lack of accountability and need for legal justification when making such detentions.

We've been down this road before in World War II and the results weren't so great.  One only has to look at The Ringle Report to find evidence of this.

Here's a film about what those camps were like:

Are we entering a world where our fear is governing our national security strategy and allowing for certain or "inalienable" rights to be stripped away?  Don't get me wrong.  I like the fact my government has assets whose sole job is to seek and take whatever legal actions are necessary to prevent the loss of life.  I am one of those sentimental people who says they sleep easier at night knowing this.  However, I cannot but wrestle with the notion we are regressing whether than growing in our current security paradigm.

I recently came across an interesting editorial on the Mercury News' site.  According to the author, S. Floyd Mori,
"A bill on the Senate floor raises the question of whether the Senate has forgotten our history. S. 1253, the National Defense Authorization Act, has a provision in it, unfortunately drafted by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., that would let any U.S. president use the military to arrest and imprison without charge or trial anyone suspected of having any relationship with a terrorist organization. Although Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and more than a dozen of her colleagues are bravely calling for a halt to a damaging bill, they face significant opposition.

The troubling provision, Section 1031, would let the military lock up both Americans and noncitizens in the 50 states. There would be no charges, no trial, no proof beyond a reasonable doubt. All that would be required would be suspicion."
I went online to further research the bill and I've attached the section of concern:
a) In General- The Armed Forces of the United States are authorized to detain covered persons captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) as unprivileged enemy belligerents pending disposition under the law of war.

(b) Covered Persons- A covered person under this section is any person, including but not limited to persons for whom detention is required under section 1032, as follows:

(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.

(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.

(c) Disposition Under Law of War- The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:

(1) Long-term detention under the law of war without trial until the end of hostilities against the nations, organizations, and persons subject to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111-84)).

(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.

(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity

(d) Constitutional Limitation on Applicability to United States Persons- The authority to detain a person under this section does not extend to the detention of citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.
Here's the lowdown on three subsections:

  1. Subsection (b) makes it a point to leave out the specifics of what particular operations would be eligible.  In other words, anyone who is not a citizen or legal resident alien suspected of participating in a terrorist action could be detained without so much as a warrant.
  2. Subsection (4) says a person could then be transferred to another foreign country or foreign entity to be detained as well.  Why would someone want to "transfer custody" of these individuals to a foreign country or entity?  In other places, they may not have the legal restraints against certain kinds of detention activities which could be useful in obtaining critical intelligence or they may have a more compelling reason for having them.
  3. The only bit I like about this bill is contained in subsection (d) which says that it does not pertain to citizens and legal alien resident who are conducting suspected activities within our borders.  However, those protections do not extend outside of them.  The only negative side effect I see here is the application of indefinite detention within the US or outside of it for activities our government could see as being terrorist related.  Given the often "shaky" nature of the definition of terrorism and who you're asking, those activities could range from financing to operating a website which post terrorist related materials.
The bill's supporters will claim Guantanamo as a success.  They will allude to the lack of attacks on US soil since its inception ten years ago.  While its detractors will allude to its failures in gathering reliable information and only detaining very few real operators and masterminds.  They will point Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the 9/11 plotter who while at Guantanamo Bay reportedly told lie after lie in an effort to mislead his interrogators.  

Like these Senators, I want to give our government more powers to act on against ongoing operations.  I sincerely believe some extreme measures would be necessary in certain circumstances such as operations which could result in a large loss of life or cause massive chaos and public unrest.  However, I'm troubled by the bill's lack of specific language or limitations.  Troops and operators on the ground hate such restraints and I can understand why.  The persistent question I ask is, "Where and when does it end?"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Unfortunately, the Boogey Man still lives under our beds

This ladies and gentleman is courtesy of Al Jazeera. It's a part of a series of articles and commentary on the 9/11 anniversary. What I find most poignant is with all our efforts to successfully target and eliminate their principle leadership, AQ is still a very viable threat to security particularly if you're in the business of mass gatherings. Their appetite for "soft targets" is almost perpetual and is core to their preferred modis operandi - the improvised explosive device. I digress. This map is a great visual tool for any security professional.

View Major al-Qaeda attacks worldwide in a larger map

Sunday, March 15, 2009

If their pirates didn't scare you, wait until you read this!

My favorite magazine in the whole-wide world, Security Management, has just posted a new article on some scary testimony given to Congress. As al-Qaeda becomes more decentralized, splinter groups, inspired by the success of squad-level attacks such as Mumbai, are seeking new members to bring into their organizations to increase their operational reach and membership size. According to the article,
"Experts and Somali community leaders yesterday told Congress that a suicide attack carried out by a Somali-American youth in Somalia could mean that a terror group based there is recruiting in the United States, raising the specter of homegrown terrorism.

Last October, Minneapolis resident Shirwa Ahmed carried out a suicide bomb attack in Somalia. He is believed to be the first American suicide bomber ever.

“We are concerned that if Somali-American youth can be motivated to engage in such activities overseas, Ahmed’s fellow travelers could return to the U.S. and engage in terrorist activities here,” Andrew Liepman, deputy director of intelligence for the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), told the Senate Homeland Security Committee yesterday.

In recent years a number of Somali-American youths and American converts to Islam have traveled to Somalia to fight with the al Shabaab militia. The Islamist insurgent group has used terror and guerilla tactics to fight the the country's weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian forces, according to intelligence officials.

Even scarier is finding out there are 150,000 to 200,000 Somalis that currently reside in the United States.

Professor Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College told lawmakers that Somalia’s 9 million people, “almost all of whom are Muslims, have endured 19 years of complete state collapse, periods of civil war, chronic insecurity, lawlessness and warlordism, massive displacement, the destruction of major cities, disruption of already fragile livelihoods, and recurring humanitarian crises, including the 1991-92 famine in which 250,000 people died.”

So why are these radical groups looking at Somalis? Because since their migration, they've failed to do what most immigrants try to do - assimilate. According to the article, ".....intelligence officials worry that Somali immigrants are more prone to radicalization and recruitment."

The question you have to ask is "Is this happening now or we talking about a vulnerability?"
Osman Ahmed, a Somali community leader in Minneapolis, alleged many of the young man that fled to Somalia were indoctrinated at the city's Abu-Bakar As-Saddique mosque.

Here's where I tell you to put down your gun and step back a minute and read the rest of the article.

Liepman said he wanted “to emphasize that we do not believe we are witnessing any form of community-wide radicalization among Somali-Americans.”

How do we solve this problem before it grows bigger? What's the government doing about it? We learned after 9/11 that "actionable intelligence" was useless if you never acted on it.

Philip Mudd, associate executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, said the agency has crafted extensive outreach programs to Muslim communities and have also initiated a pilot program in Minneapolis to help FBI field offices and the Somali community deal with young men leaving to fight in their homeland.

The DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has also organized roundtable discussions to engage Muslim community leaders, Liepman said.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The New Equalizer?

As we approach the time of the year when we'll see more terrorist attacks, I wanted to post some videos of how the threat from VBIED is truly evolving. Just take a look and let me know what you think. Remember to practice OPSEC though.

This second video is posted by a guy on his mobile phone of the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks in the UK. I love citizen journalists. They can get in where big media outlets can't.

This last video is from a dump truck filled with explosives. You can see the shock wave and the blast expansion. Perfect illustration of what VBIED's could look and feel like.

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