Options for U.S. Naval Force Posture in East Africa

Matt Hein is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer currently studying for his Masters in Security Studies at Georgetown University.  He can be found on Twitter @Matt_TB_Hein.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Low intensity maritime conflict and engagement in Eastern Africa.

Date Originally Written:  February 11, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 21, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article addresses U.S. naval force posture options in East Africa and the implications for a resource-constrained force.

Background:  Demands for counter-piracy operations, countering maritime human smuggling, countering the growth of violent extremism in Sub-Saharan African countries, and partner nation capacity building require the constant presence of U.S. naval forces in East African littoral zones.  Friction arises when high-end combatants such as aircraft carriers and destroyers divert from their East African littoral mission to the nearby Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea to conduct other missions.

Significance:  U.S. naval presence in East Africa has improved maritime security and facilitated operations on land.  Coalition efforts reduced piracy incidents from 237 attempted hijackings in 2011 to only three such attempts in 2017[1].  Joint exercises, such as Cutlass Express, have developed partner nation maritime law enforcement capacity[2].  Intelligence gathering from sea based platforms has enabled multiple U.S. military missions ashore[3].  Increasing demand for high-end combatants in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea leaves the East African littoral mission vulnerable to having its gains reversed and questions the utility of those ships for low intensity missions.  Enhanced naval presence from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the region, most notably the establishment of a port facility in Djibouti, further complicates force posture decision-making.   Despite the incredible gains realized for maritime security in the region, there is a demand signal for deliberate planning to match appropriate naval assets with a growing range of regional needs.

Option #1:  The U.S. maintains its current naval force posture for the East Africa littoral mission.

Risk:  Current naval force posture rotates multiple Expeditionary Strike Groups and Carrier Strike Groups through the region annually, in addition to several independent deployers dispatched for counter-piracy operations[4].  The opportunity cost of these deployments is enormous.  These ships were designed for much more complex operating environments and can often be better utilized in those environments.  Using multi-billion dollar warships for low intensity engagement not only limits the utility of these ship’s advanced combat systems but also inflates the likelihood they will be diverted to other specialized missions such as ballistic missile defense or integrated air defense.

Gain:  The existing force posture is responsible for enhanced maritime security already realized in the region.  While expanding threats may challenge the ability to maintain these gains, this hasn’t happened to the extent that a dramatic rise in piracy or a drop in partner nation capacity has occurred.  Further, the historical integration and corporate knowledge of U.S. ships deploying to the theater gives them an inherent advantage for conducting these types of operations.

Option #2:  The U.S. forward deploys two Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to Djibouti Naval Base.

Risk:  Forward-deploying the LCS is expensive and would require a large logistics and maintenance footprint in Djibouti.  Maintenance issues have plagued the LCS and will be exacerbated by a remote maintenance infrastructure with little experience.  Maintenance issues are compounded by difficult crew rotation schedules that have already hampered a similar forward deployment of LCS to Singapore[5].  The probability that forward deployed LCS will provide a persistent capability for the East Africa littoral mission is limited significantly by these LCS-wide problems.

Gain:  The LCS surface warfare mission package is uniquely suited for the East Africa littoral mission.  The LCS uses a combination of high speeds and shallow draft to operate aviation facilities, dedicated boarding teams, and anti-surface capabilities in littoral environments[6].  These attributes make the LCS ideal for intelligence gathering, capacity building, and counter-piracy missions.  Additionally, the use of LCS allows the multi-billion dollar warships currently conducting these missions to operate in more contested environments and across a broader swath of missions in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.   Option #2 also builds on the surge of LCS in similar mission sets from counter-drug operations in the Caribbean to fisheries patrols and bilateral engagements in Southeast Asia.

Option #3:  The U.S. decreases its naval presence in East Africa.

Risk:  The construction of the PRC naval base in Djibouti means the gap in activity from the U.S. Navy would likely be filled, at least in part, by a PRC presence.  The construction of a military docking facility, capable of berthing most People’s Liberation Army (Navy) ships, means previous PRC task forces deployed to the region could become a permanent fixture[7].  As foreign investment pours into East Africa, a reduced naval presence could cause countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, and Somalia to turn elsewhere for maritime security support of their burgeoning economies.  Option #3 could further challenge the efficacy of counter-extremist efforts on land that require logistical and intelligence support from offshore assets.

Gain:  Decreasing U.S. naval presence does not mean disavowing the East Africa littoral mission entirely.  A P-3 squadron forward-deployed to Djibouti naval base combined with transiting strike groups still leaves intermittent capacity in the region to continue to support the East Africa littoral mission.  Option #3 also eliminates the requirements of keeping ships off the coast of Djibouti.  Not having to keep ships off Djibouti would allow a refocus towards heightened Iranian tensions, threats from Houthi rebels in Yemen, or even relocation to the Pacific fleet operating area in support of growing requirements.

Other Comments:  The Surface Navy Strategic Readiness Review, released in December 2017, stated that increasing readiness “require(s) a variety of naval assets and capabilities tailored to best achieve desired results[8].”  Shifting from a “demand” to “supply” model for naval surface forces means capabilities must be optimized against the mission with which they are tasked.  The options presented in this paper are three examples, of many, for shifting to a supply-based model for naval assets without sacrificing the East Africa littoral mission.

Recommendation:   None.


Endnotes:

[1] Sow, M. (2017, April 12). Figures of the week: Piracy and Illegal Fishing in Somalia. Africa in Focus.Retrieved February 9, 2018. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2017/04/12/figures-of-the-week-piracy-and-illegal-fishing-in-somalia/

[2] Williams, F. (2018, February 7), Exercise Cutlass Express 2018 Closes. Retrieved February 10, 2018. http://www.c6f.navy.mil/news/exercise-cutlass-express-2018-closes

[3] Eckstein, M. (2017, July 5).Textron’s Aerosonde Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Eligible for Navy Sea-Based ISR. United States Naval Institute News. Retrieved February 10, 2018. https://news.usni.org/2017/07/05/textrons-aerosonde-small-unmanned-aerial-vehicle-eligible-navy-sea-based-isr

[4] Defense Media Activity for U.S. Navy Office of Information. Navy Versus Piracy  #PresenceMatters. Retrieved February 10, 2018 from http://www.navy.mil/ah_online/antipiracy/index.html

[5] Lartner, D. (2017, February 20) LCS crew marooned in Singapore on open-ended
deployment. Navy Times. Retrieved February 9, 2018 from https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2017/02/20/lcs-crew-marooned-in-singapore-on-an-open-ended-deployment/

[6] United States Navy Chief of Information. Fact File: Littoral Combat Ships – Surface Warfare Mission Package. Retrieved February 10, 2018 from http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=2100&tid=437&ct=2.

[7] Chan, M (2017, September 17) China plans to build Djibouti facility to allow naval flotilla to dock at first overseas base. South China Morning Post. Retrieved February 9, 2018 from http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2112926/china-plans-build-djibouti-facility-allow-naval

[8] Bayer, M. Roughead, G. (2017, December 4) United States Navy Strategic Readiness
Review. Pg.20. Retrieved February 11, 2018 from http://s3.amazonaws.com/CHINFO/
SRR+Final+12112017.pdf

Africa China (People's Republic of China) Djibouti East Africa Horn of Africa Maritime Matt Hein Option Papers United States

Assessment of Opération Turquoise: The Paradoxical French-led Humanitarian Military Intervention During the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Ross Conroy is a researcher and program designer for Komaza Kenya, a social enterprise focused on poverty reduction through sustainable timber production.  Ross also serves as Public Relations advisor for Sudan Facts, a start-up which intends to build investigative journalistic capacity in Sudan.  Ross studied Political Science at the University of New Hampshire, and wrote his capstone on the French military intervention during the Rwandan Genocide.  He spent most of his senior year in Rwanda doing field and archival research to supplement this study.  Ross later attained his Master’s degree in African Studies from Stanford University, where he focused on politics in Central Africa and continued his research on French involvement during the 1994 Genocide.  Ross can be found on Twitter @rossconroy or at rconroy7@outlook.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Opération Turquoise: The Paradoxical French-led Humanitarian Military Intervention During the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Date Originally Written:  February 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 14, 2018.

Summary:   In response to escalating genocidal violence in Rwanda in April 1994, France launched Opération Turquoise for ostensibly humanitarian purposes.  However, much evidence has implicated this mission, and France, in the genocide and subsequent violence.  By examining archives, interviewing genocide survivors, and compiling testimonies of French soldiers, a more clear, and far more sinister, picture of Opération Turquoise emerges.

Text:  The French-led Opération Turquoise, mobilized by the United Nations (UN) Security Council through Resolution 929, was controversial from its genesis.  The debate leading up to the final vote on the resolution was riddled with arguments about France’s true intentions.  Having been the main sponsors of the Hutu regime that was now organizing and perpetrating genocide against the Tutsi minority, an abrupt change in France’s policy was viewed with suspicion.  Publicly, France argued that violence in Rwanda had escalated to the point that it necessitated international intervention on humanitarian grounds.  The wording of the resolution seemed to confirm this, stating that the mission was “aimed at contributing, in an impartial way, to the security and protection of displaced persons, refugees and civilians at risk in Rwanda[1].”  However, due to concerns over France’s intentions, and the proposed departure from the Chapter VI mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) and UNAMIR II, five countries abstained from the final vote[2].  Rather than supplying and funding the existing UNAMIR mission, France wanted a Chapter VII mandate over which they had near complete jurisdiction.  When the mission was eventually condoned by the Security Council, France mobilized their force and, as some countries had feared, used it to promote their interests.  Rather than protecting Tutsis from the genocidal regime, Opération Turquoise was co-opted to allow the perpetrators to continue their campaign of violence and eventually escape the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) advance by fleeing into neighboring Zaire[3].  The results of this would prove disastrous.

The origins of Opération Turquoise were rooted in the close ties between then French President François Mitterrand and his Rwandan counterpart Juvénal Habyarimana.  The Technical Military Assistance Agreement signed between the two countries after Habyarimana came to power in the 1970s solidified this relationship by formally incorporating Rwanda into the linguistic and cultural sphere of la francophonie and promising economic aid and military protection[4].  Following this agreement, military aid was passed for decades to the Rwandan army and its militias directly through the Quai D’Orsay, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  These same weapons were later put to use exterminating the Tutsi minority.

In October 1990, Rwanda was invaded by Rwandese rebels from Uganda who wanted a return to their country of origin.  Due to xenophobic policies of the Rwandan regime, these Rwandese rebels had long been denied this opportunity.  The French, fearing an incursion from what they saw as ‘the anglophone bloc,’ rushed to the aid of their francophone ally.  The rhetoric of French politicians at the time indicated that the Fashoda Syndrome, the inherent French fear of francophone influence being supplanted by anglophone influence, motivated France to support the Rwandan regime, and solidified ties between the two countries further[5].

After the assassination of President Habyarimana in April 1994, it quickly became clear that the violence engulfing Rwanda was of an unspeakable magnitude; a genocide was unfolding.  Despite this, France declined to act, not wishing to aid the RPF in the fight against their erstwhile ally, the Rwandan regime.  As it became clear that the Rwandan government was failing in its fight against the RPF, France chose to intervene under the guise of a much-needed humanitarian mission.  The UN had little choice, given the dearth of alternatives, and accepted the French offer of assistance.

The French originally conceived the mission as a means to halt the advance of the RPF militarily and assist the government of Rwanda in retaking the capital, Kigali[6].  However, it soon became evident that this position was untenable as the evidence of genocide mounted.  The goal of Opération Turquoise was thus altered to aid the Rwandan government forces in fleeing the country to Zaire, with the intention to preserve the government and its hierarchy intact to pursue future power-sharing agreements[7].  It was a final, frantic attempt to avoid losing influence in the region, and one that would have devastating consequences.

In the process of assisting the genocidal regime, France often neglected to protect the Tutsi whom they were charged with safeguarding.  There is irrefutable evidence that the French demonstrated gross negligence of their mandate by abandoning thousands to die in various locations around the country, most notably at Bisesero[8][9].  Indeed, numerous reports cite French soldiers trading sexual favors for food and medical supplies, raping, and even killing Rwandan citizens[10].  The French further neglected to disarm Rwandan troops and militias whom they escorted to Zaire, and in some cases supplied them with food, weapons, and vehicles[11].  These same Rwandan forces would later profiteer in the Zairean refugee camps, syphoning humanitarian aid intended for victims of genocide.  As the refugee camps were often not the internationally required 50 miles from the border of Rwanda, the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces and militias were able to use the camps as bases and launch a devastating and deadly insurgency back into Rwanda, killing thousands[12].  In response to the insurgency, and renewed killings of Tutsi in Zaire, the new RPF-led Rwandan government invaded Zaire, setting in motion the Congo Wars, the most deadly series of conflicts worldwide since the two World Wars.  Years of suffering, disease, and death can be traced back to the decision made by the French to escort the génocidaires to Zaire and continue to supply and support them in a vain attempt to cling to their influence in the region.

Ultimately, Opération Turquoise failed on two fronts: It failed to maintain the integrity and legitimacy of the former Rwandan regime and also failed to uphold its mandate to protect victims of genocide.  Although it is impossible to establish a direct causal relationship between violence in the Great Lakes Region following Opération Turquoise and the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, there is ample evidence that Opération Turquoise exacerbated the humanitarian situation.  Opération Turquoise, conceived as a humanitarian mission, thus paradoxically contributed to one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern history in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Endnotes:

Note: Some names have been changed to protect the identities of interview subjects. 

[1] United Nations Security Council (SC), Resolution 929. (1994, June 22). Opération Turquoise. Retrieved April 22, 2016 from https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N94/260/27/PDF/N9426027.pdf?OpenElement

[2] Schweigman, D. (2001). The Authority of the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter: Legal Limits and the Role of the International Court of Justice. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.

[3] Twenty Years after Genocide France and Rwanda Give Different Versions of History. (2014, April 11) Retrieved February 28, 2016 from http://www.english.rfi.fr/africa/20140410-twenty-years-after-genocide-france-and-rwanda-give-different-versions-history

[4] Totten, S, and Sherman, M. (2005). Genocide at the Millennium. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

[5] Simon, M. (1998) Operation Assurance: The Greatest Intervention That Never Happened. The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance. Retrieved April 12, 2016 from http://sites.tufts.edu/jha/archives/123.

[6] Melvern, L. (2009). A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide. London: Zed.

[7] Mukasarasi, J. (2016, April 17). Personal Interview.

[8] Assemblée Nationale. (1998, December 15). Rapport d’information de MM. Pierre Brana et Bernard Cazeneuve, déposé en application de l’article 145 du Règlement par la mission d’information de la commission de la Défense, sur les opérations militaires menées par la France, d’autres pays et l’ONU au Rwanda entre 1990 et 1994. Paris: French National Assembly.

[9] De Vulpian, L & Prungnaud, T. Silence Turquoise. Paris: France. Don Quichotte.

[10] Mvuyekure, A. (2016, April 16). Personal Interview.

[11] Des Forges, A. (1999). Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda. New York: Human Rights Watch.

[12] Gribbin, R. (2005). In the Aftermath of Genocide: The U.S. Role in Rwanda. Lincoln, NE: IUniverse.

Assessment Papers France Mass Killings Ross Conroy Rwanda United Nations

Options to Address Terrorism Financing in Australia

Ryan McWhirter has a master’s degree of Terrorism and Security Studies at Charles Sturt University.  He can be found on twitter at ryanmc__89.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The enforcement of terrorism financing for terror organisations such as the Islamic State (IS) within Australia.

Date Originally Written:  January 30, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 7, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of challenging the symbolism of investigating all terrorism financing with the effect of better employment of limited investigatory resources based upon an impact assessment of action or inaction.

Background:  Most terrorist organisations require vast amounts of external support to fund their operations.  At the height of its power, the Islamic State were vastly different in the way they funded their group, with an estimated valuation at $2 billion US dollars.  The group was almost entirely self-sufficient, relying on natural resources within their controlled territory, taxes and extortion[1].

Whilst the group is most certainly winding down due to being militarily defeated in the terrain they controlled, it is not unsound to assess that other groups will try to emulate them.  During their peak, only 5% of the group’s finances were obtained through foreign donation[2].

Significance:  The enforcement of all things terrorism has become a political hot point within Australia.  Governments profess to the public that they are doing all in their power to suppress the threat groups such as IS pose.  The financing of the group is no exception to this rule and many investigations have been squarely aimed at individuals funding terrorism.

However, when 95% of a groups finances come from internal resources, is the enforcement of external donations a cost-effective measure, particularly in a small nation such as Australia?  Whilst it is unknown the exact amount Australians contributed to IS at its peak, it can safely be measured to be a small amount of the 5% the group reaps from donations.

This situation is purely economic.  Counter terrorism operations are not cheap.  It would not be out of the realm of possibilities to estimate an operation may cost between $100,000 to $150,000 a day, given the amount of staff, resources and other intangibles required to thoroughly investigate.  If an operation runs for three months, the cost is $ 9 million.

Can these resources be put to better use?  A case in point occurred in 2016 when a young male and female were arrested in Sydney, Australia for sending $5,000 to IS[3].  This operation didn’t occur over night.  If for example it ran for two months, intelligence and security agencies spent an estimated $6 million dollars to investigate $5,000 going overseas.  The two offenders were refused bail and remanded in custody, with the male being sent to a supermax prison.  Is sending a young male to supermax for terror financing going to change his views or intensify them?

The key question is, for an almost entirely self-sufficient group, is enforcing this small amount of finance an efficient and productive measure?

Option #1:  The Australian government continues with total enforcement of laws regarding terror finance.

Risk:  This option maintains the status quo.  The continuation of the total enforcement of these offences may lead to effected communities feeling targeted and vilified by authorities.

A risk this option poses is that the resources and finances used in these investigations are not being used in more serious matters.  Whilst intelligence and security agencies are busy investigating small time terror financers, other serious offences are going unchecked, these offences include human trafficking, large-scale drug importations and actual terrorist activity being directed at citizens.

Gain:  This option allows political capital to be garnered, particularly with a government obsessed with giving the appearance of being tough on terror.  It also sets an example to other individuals who may be contemplating financing terror groups that their actions are unacceptable and will be investigated and prosecuted.

Option #2:  The Australian government conducts a cost and benefit analysis before investigating the financing of groups such as IS.

Risk:  The risks in this option are profound.  Individuals may use this loophole to contribute to their group of choice by only donating small amounts, knowing they won’t be investigated if the amount is small enough.  This small donation activity may be seen as a gateway to conducting further terrorist related activities and a key step in the radicalization process.

Politically, this option is problematic.  If this option became policy, it would be seized upon by the government’s opposition to imply they are soft on terrorism.

Gain:  Australian government terrorism-related resources and finances are diverted into more serious criminal offences and social programs.  Deradicalization programs in schools and community centers could be better funded, perhaps stopping individuals wanting to finance a terror group, or even help stop a terrorist attack before it happens.  The government could make the case that by saving resources in this area they are in fact showing a genuine attempt to stop terrorism before it happens, reducing the need to be tough on it.

Other Comments:  It should be noted that in cases of financing terror groups such as Al-Qa’ida who have a greater reliance on outside donation, option two would not be feasible.  As such, these incidents would be investigated as usual.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Centre for the analysis of terrorism. (2015). ISIS Financing

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Olding, Rachel. (2016) Texts between schoolgirl terror suspect and co-accused Milad Atai released in court. Sydney Morning Herald.

Australia Economic Factors Islamic State Variants Option Papers Ryan McWhirter

Episode 0003: Military Planning Constructs (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

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In this episode of The Smell of Victory Podcast Bob Hein, Steve Leonard, and Phil Walter tackle the phases of military operations and the new Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning.  The trio discusses the historic role of the phased planning construct and why the Joint Staff felt a need to change.  They also spend a lot of time examining war termination and the implications of not planning adequately for the transition to peace, using Operation Iraqi Freedom as the primary example while also exploring World War 2 and Operation Desert Storm.  Also mentioned on the podcast, and able to be downloaded here, is a July 2013 memo from U.S. Army General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E. Dempsey to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee that discusses military options in Syria.

You can listen via Sticher by clicking here, or iTunes by clicking here.  You can also listen on our website by clicking play below or download The Smell of Victory to your favorite podcatcher via our RSS feed below.

Option Papers The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

Call for Papers: Alternative Futures

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Alternative Futures.  We define an Alternative Future as a theory about the character of the future national security environment that is grounded in knowledge of current trends and emerging threats.  For more information regarding Alternative Futures here is a DuckDuckGo search that may be of value.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by June 16th, 2018.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Call For Papers

Assessment of the Security Implications of Environmental Crime in Africa

Zachary Lubelfeld is pursuing a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations at Syracuse University.  He is currently in Maputo, Mozambique on a Boren Fellowship studying Portuguese and the extractive sector in Mozambique.  All opinions in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official positions of Syracuse University or the National Security Education Program.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Security Implications of Environmental Crime in Africa

Date Originally Written:  January 22, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 30, 2018.

Summary:  Environmental crime is a growing component of transnational crime, as well as an increasingly lucrative one. Organized crime, militia groups, and terrorist organizations all profit off the illicit sale of everything from minerals to animals. This criminal activity poses a significant threat, not just to the communities in which it occurs or where these entities commit violence, but to the health and safety of people around the world.

Text:  As globalization continues apace, and the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the benefits, like greater access to goods and information, are matched by the costs, such as the increased space for transnational criminal activity. One of the least discussed aspects of this is environmental crime. Global environmental crime is a burgeoning market, worth an estimated $213 billion annually[1]. This environmental crime includes a wide range of illicit activities, such as illegal logging in rainforests, illegal mining of mineral resources, and poaching elephants and rhinoceroses for their ivory.  The lack of focus on environmental crime allows criminal organizations to wreak havoc with relative impunity, and nowhere is this truer than in Africa. The pernicious effects of wildlife exploitation are felt across all of Africa, the security implications of which are myriad. Regional stability, armed conflict and terrorism, and global health are all impacted by wildlife exploitation in Africa, with potentially dangerous results not just for Africans, but for people worldwide.

Environmental crime is an important driver of violence and conflict across Africa, as it provides integral revenue streams for many violent militia groups and terrorist organizations. Perhaps the most well-known example of this are conflict minerals, which refers to minerals that are sold to fund violence. Diamonds have long been a driver of conflict in Africa, a recent example of which is the ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic[2]. Violent militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) profit from the sales of minerals like cassiterite, a tin ore worth about $500/kg that is used in products such as phones, laptops, and cars[3]. The value of the illicit mineral trade in East, Central, and West Africa is valued at $2.4 billion to $9 billion per year, which rivals the value of the global heroin and cocaine markets combined[4].

Another key component of environmental crime is poaching, both for bush meat and for ivory. Armed militia groups as well as military units in Africa rely on poaching for food – for example, one adult elephant can feed an average army regiment. Ivory is the more lucrative reason for poaching, however. Elephant tusks sell for an estimated $680/kg[5], while rhinoceros horn is worth upwards of $65,000/kg. Ivory can be sold, or traded for supplies and weapons, and is a major funding source across Africa, from the Lord’s Resistance Army in eastern Africa to transnational criminal networks operating in Mozambique; there is even evidence that the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabaab profits from ivory smuggling. The illicit sale of ivory is also an important revenue source for armed militias in the DRC[6] and groups like the Janjaweed, the notorious Sudanese militias responsible for the genocide in Darfur[7].

Lesser known examples of environmental crime are essential to funding the operations of terrorist organizations across Africa, such as illegal logging. One of the primary uses of illegal logging is the production and taxation of charcoal, which is a fuel source for Africans who don’t have access to electricity. Al-Shabab had earned an estimated $56 billion from illicit charcoal by 2014, making it the primary source of funding for their operations.  Additionally, there are reports that the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram derives funding from the trade[8]. Furthermore, profits from the illegal timber trade are used to facilitate arms smuggling in Africa, arming terrorists, as well as rebel groups such as in Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire[9].

As concerning as it is that terrorist organizations and militia groups derive significant benefit from environmental crime, a potentially even greater danger is the consequences it could have on global health. A variety of animals are trafficked internationally, from rare birds and reptiles to gorillas, as well animal parts like pelts and tusks. This contact between animals and humans increases the risk of transmission of dangerous zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are transmitted from animals to humans. One example is the Ebola virus, which is thought to come from bats and primates, the latter of which may have spread the disease while being trafficked through cities is western Africa[10].

Increased transport of wildlife internationally increased the chances of the spread of dangerous pathogens, especially in the case of illicit trafficking. Pathogens that may otherwise have been contained in one location are sent around the world, increasing the risk of pandemic. While customs procedures designed to screen for these pathogens exist, wildlife traffickers bypass these to avoid detection, so infected animals are not discovered and put in quarantine. Therefore, wildlife trafficking could lead to the international transmission of a disease like Ebola, anthrax, or Yersinia pestis, otherwise known as the bubonic plague.

It is clear that environmental crime is as lucrative for criminals as it is dangerous to everyone else, and therefore shows no signs of slowing down. Given the potential harm that it could cause, by funding groups who seek to bring violence and chaos wherever they go, as well as by increasing the probability of devastating pandemic, environmental crime will certainly continue if it is not addressed by law enforcement and policy makers.


Endnotes:

[1] Vira, V., Ewing, T., & Miller, J. (2014, August). Out of Africa: Mapping the Global Trade in Illicit Elephant Ivory. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from C4ADS: https://c4ads.org/reports/

[2] A Game of Stones: smuggling diamonds in the Central African Republic. (2017, June 22). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/central-african-republic-car/game-of-stones/#chapter-1/section-3

[3] Morrison, S. (2015, May 16). ‘Conflict minerals’ funding deadly violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo as EU plans laws to clean up trade. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/conflict-minerals-bringing-death-to-the-democratic-republic-of-congo-as-eu-plans-laws-to-clean-up-10255483.html

[4] Environmental Crime. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.stimson.org/enviro-crime/

[5] Chen, A. (2016, November 07). Poaching is on the rise – most illegal ivory comes from recently killed elephants. Retrieved January 20, 2018, from https://www.theverge.com/2016/11/7/13527858/illegal-ivory-elephant-radiocarbon-dating-poaching-stockpile

[6] Toeka Kakala, Taylor. “Soldiers Trade in Illegal Ivory” InterPress Service News Agency. 25 July 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/soldiers-trade-in-illegal-ivory

[7] Christina M. Russo, “What Happened to the Elephants of Bouba Ndjida?” MongaBay, March 7, 2013. Available at http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0307-russo-elephants-bouba-njida.html

[8] Ibid.

[9] ILLEGAL LOGGING & THE EU: AN ANALYSIS OF THE EU EXPORT & IMPORT MARKET OF ILLEGAL WOOD AND RELATED PRODUCTS(Rep.). (2008, April). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from World Wildlife Foundation website: http://assets.wnf.nl/downloads/eu_illegal_logging_april_2008.pdf

[10] Bouley, T. (2014, October 06). Trafficking wildlife and transmitting disease: Bold threats in an era of Ebola. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from http://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/trafficking-wildlife-and-transmitting-disease-bold-threats-era-ebola

Africa Assessment Papers Criminal Activities Environmental Factors Illicit Trafficking Activities Zachary Lubelfeld

Options for Decentralized Local Defence Forces in Iraq & Afghanistan

Patrick Blannin (@PatrickBlannin) is a PhD Candidate, teaching fellow and research assistant at Bond University, Queensland, Australia.  The authors doctoral research focuses on the role and scope of defence diplomacy in contemporary counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.  The author has published a research monograph titled Defence Diplomacy in the Long War (Brill) as well as peer-reviewed journal articles on topics related to transnational terrorism (organisations, funding sources and counter measures).  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  Can decentralized Local Defence Forces (LDF) reliably fill the security void in the Long War (Iraq and Afghanistan)?  Will LDFs such as the Tribal Mobilization Forces and the Afghan Local Police generate or maintain stability until the capability of state forces improves?  Or should such entities remain as a state sanctioned, locally drawn, semi-autonomous component of a formal security apparatus[1]?

Date Originally Written:  January 29, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 23, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  From an academic perspective, the author analyses national security issues, and the responses to them, through the lens of a whole-of-government approach.  This approach ensures all the U.S.’ tools of statecraft (DIMEFIL) are utilized pursuant of its national security strategic objectives[2].

Background:  In a perfect world, when the long-arm of the state is unable or unwilling to extend through the entirety of its sovereign territory, effectively filling the security vacuum by calling for a grass-roots approach to security and policing would represent a “compelling argument[2].”  However, the Long War theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan are far from perfect, and for over a decade numerous iterations of so-called Local Defence Forces (LDF, or Local Police Forces, Community Defence Units, Public Protection Force, etc.) have been stood up.  Results are mixed, with often short-term benefits yielding mid-term pain.  For example, the highly vaulted Sons of Iraq (’Sahawa al-Anbar’, the Sunni Awakening) constituted a number of strategically aligned LDFs which combined to facilitate the routing of Al Qa’ida from Western Iraq (primarily Anbar Province)[3].  At the time however, with stories of its recent successes reported around the world, some analysts were guarded in their praise, identifying the short-term security gains in at least some areas, while recognizing “[T]here is little guarantee that these gains will persist, and there is some chance that the strategy will backfire in the medium term[4].”  Similar conversations, and associated apprehension, regarding Afghanistan were occurring before, during and after the 2009 ‘Surge[5].’  The intoxicating aroma of tactical victory soon fades and is replaced by the lingering odour of arms races and power grabs between tribally aligned militias, and the often undermining influence and/or actions of the state.

Significance:  Over the past 16 years, the U.S. and its Coalition partners have encouraged the Iraq and Afghan governments, such as they were, to incorporate LDFs into their national security strategy.  LDFs are designed to contribute to clearing or holding missions as well as local law enforcement in broader stabilization efforts.  Although each theatre offers innumerable differences and associated challenges, one constant remains, that short-term tactical successes are followed by mid-term strategic losses.  A legacy of its Long War experience, U.S. and Coalition civilian and military decision-makers have a ‘better’ understanding of the social/cultural anthropology in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Although lessons have been learned and mistakes addressed, repeating the same flawed approach remains a primary strategic choice, and our expectations continually failed to be met[6].

Option #1:  Firstly, limit the size of LDFs.  Secondly, ensure U.S. and Coalition personnel play a role, clandestinely wherever possible, in the vetting and training process which would allow the U.S. and its partners to identify recruits and influence the operating culture of the LDF.  Additional constraints could include the amount, and type of weaponry supplied, limit or equalize the political influence/politicization of all LDF leadership as well as introducing an enforceable set of operating parameters[7].

Risk:  Attempts to constrain LDFs by limiting their size, political influence, or access to weapons risks undermining the capacity of the LDF to fulfill their objective.  Moreover, a constrained and disempowered force can leverage traditional community relations to operate a shadow or parallel security apparatus which effectively monopolizes the use of violence within their respective area of operations which would undermine broader stabilization efforts[8].

Gain:  Limiting the size and capability of the LDF makes it more able to be managed by the government.  Additionally, introducing a personnel cap in conjunction with more rigorous vetting would create a more effective and perhaps malleable security force.  Standing up an effective LDF may mitigate the role/presence/agenda of existing militias affording tribal leadership the ability to pursue legitimate, non-violent, political activities[9].

Option #2:  Firstly, acknowledge, accept and plan for the inherent challenges and limitations of LDFs[10].  Secondly, increase the tempo of the current, centrally controlled train, advise, assist, accompany, and enable and police force capacity building programs, leveraging the arrival of the nascent U.S. Army Security Force Assistance Brigades and private sector trainers/advisors.  Centrally controlled, locally drawn LDFs can be generated through the existing security, stabilization and capacity building framework[11].

Risk:  Convincing/guaranteeing local militia and populations that their acquiescence to a degree of central government control and/or oversight will not prove detrimental to their local security objectives will be a challenge.  Lack of progress in establishing security creates a security vacuum which nefarious actors will exploit rendering the situation worse than prior to implementing this option.

Gain:  Using the existing capacity building framework expedites implementation of this option.  Moreover, generating requisite personnel should not represent a barrier, with existing militiae and a willing local population providing significant pool to draw from.

Other Comments:  For many, a situation in which locals (including LDFs) governed locals would significantly reduce tensions.  However, this local-for-local governance does not equate with the preferred central government model.  Both options are based on realities on the ground rather than a theoretical construct, thus LDFs such as the Tribal Mobilization Forces and the Afghan Local Police represent a rare triptych.  This triptych is an opportunity to empower in situ populations, reduce the anxiety of the central government, and achieve the stabilization objectives of the U.S./Coalition Long War strategy.  The objectives and concerns of all stakeholders are legitimate, yet they are diverse and need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.  LDFs do deliver short-term tactical benefits and can positively contribute to the strategic objective of sustainable stabilization in Iraq and Afghanistan[12].

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes: 

[1] Clark, K. (2017). ‘Update on Afghan Local Police: Making Sure they are armed, trained, paid and exist’, Afghan Analysts Network at https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/update-on-the-afghan-local-police-making-sure-they-are-armed-trained-paid-and-exist/; Gaston, E. (2017). ‘Sunni Tribal Forces’, Global Public Policy Institute Report at http://www.gppi.net/publications/sunni-tribal-forces/ ; For a comprehensive list of Article about the Afghan Local Police from Afghan War News see: http://www.afghanwarnews.info/police/ALPnews.htm

[2] Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, defines the “instruments of national power” as Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic, normally referred to as the DIME.  The DIMEFIL acronym encapsulates: Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economic, Financial, Intelligence & Law Enforcement. DIMEFIL is an extension of the DIME construct that can be found in the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (NSCT-2003) and the National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism (NMSP-WOT). The NMSP-WOT defines DIMEFIL as the means, or the resources, used for the War on Terrorism (2006: 5) at http://archive.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2006-01-25-Strategic-Plan.pdf; For a brief overview of DIMEFIL see: Smith, A.K. (2007), Turning on a DIME: Diplomacy’s Role in National Security, Carlisle, VA: Strategic Studies Institute, pp. 1-17 at https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB801.pdf

[3] Arraf, J. (2014). ‘A New Anbar Awakening’, Foreign Policy at http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/01/08/a-new-anbar-awakening/; Jones, S. G. (2011). ‘Security from the Bottom Up’, Time at ; Theros, M & Kaldor, (2007) M. ‘Building Afghan Peace from the Ground Up’, A Century Foundation Report, New York: The Century Foundation, pp. 1-60 at http://www.operationspaix.net/DATA/DOCUMENT/4311~v~Building_Afghan_Peace_from_the_Ground_Up.pdf

[4] Hamilton, B. (2017). ‘Illusions of Victory: The Anbar Awakening and the Rise of the Islamic State’, US Army; Kagan, E, (2007). ‘The Anbar Awakening: Displacing al Qaeda from its Stronghold in Western Iraq’, Iraq Report, The Institute for the Study of War & the Weekly Standard, pp. 1-18 at http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/reports/IraqReport03.pdf

[5] Long, A. 2008). ‘The Anbar Awakening’, Survival’, Vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 67-94 at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00396330802034283?needAccess=true

[6] Human Rights Watch. (2012). Impunity, Militias, and the “Afghan Local Police”, pp.  1-100 at https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/09/12/just-dont-call-it-militia/impunity-militias-and-afghan-local-police ; Long, A., Pezard, S., Loidolt, B & Helmus, T. C. (2012). Locals Rule: Historic Lessons for Creating Local Defence Forces for Afghanistan and Beyond, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, pp. 1-232 at https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/09/12/just-dont-call-it-militia/impunity-militias-and-afghan-local-police

[7] Dearing, M. P. (2011). ‘Formalizing the Informal: Historical Lessons on Local Defense in Counterinsurgency’, Small Wars Journal at http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/formalizing-the-informal-historical-lessons-on-local-defense-in-counterinsurgency .

[8] Mansour, R & Jabar, F. A. (2017). ‘The Popular Mobilization Forces and Iraq’s Future’, Carnegie Middle East Center at http://carnegie-mec.org/2017/04/28/popular-mobilization-forces-and-iraq-s-future-pub-68810 ;  Gharizi, O & Al-Ibrahimi, H. (2018). ‘Baghdad Must Seize the Chance to Work with Iraq’s Tribes’, War on the Rocks at https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/baghdad-must-seize-chance-work-iraqs-tribes/

[9] Gibbs, D. 1986). ‘The Peasant as Counter Revolutionary: The Rural Origins of the Afghan’, International Development, Vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 37–45 at http://dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu/sites/dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu/files/peasant.pdf

[10] El-Hameed, R. (2017). ‘The Challenges of Mobilizing Sunni Tribes in Iraq’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/59401; n/a. (2016). Militias in Iraq: The hidden face of terrorism, Geneva International Center for Justice at http://www.gicj.org/GICJ_REPORTS/GICJ_report_on_militias_September_2016.pdf

[11] Cox, M. (2017). ‘Army Stands Up 6 Brigades to Advise Foreign Militaries’, Military.com; Cooper, N. B. (2017). ‘Will the Army’s New Advisory Brigades get Manning and Intel Right?’, War on the Rocks at https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/will-the-armys-new-advisory-brigades-get-manning-and-intel-right/ ; Gutowski, A. (2017). ‘Newly created ‘teaching’ brigade prepares to deploy to Afghanistan, FDD Long War Journal at https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/01/sfab.php ; Keller, J. (2018). ‘The 1st SFAB’s Afghan Deployment Is A Moment Of Truth For The Global War On Terror’, Task & Purpose at  https://taskandpurpose.com/sfab-train-advise-assist-afghanistan/  Strandquist, J. (2015). ‘Local defence forces and counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: learning from the CIA’s Village Defense Program in South Vietnam’, Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 90–113 at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09592318.2014.959772?needAccess=true ; Green, D. (2017). In the Warlord’s Shadow: Special Operations Forces, the Afghans, and their Fight Against the Taliban, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2017, pp. 1-256.

[12] Al-Waeli, M. (2017). ‘Rationalizing the Debate Over the PMF’s Future: An Organizational Perspective’, 1001 Iraqi Thoughts at http://1001iraqithoughts.com/2017/12/14/rationalizing-the-debate-over-the-pmfs-future-an-organizational-perspective/

[13] Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations. (2017). Operation Inherent Resolve, Report to the U.S. Congress-July 2017-September 2017, pp. 1-126; U.S. Department of Defence. (2016). Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan, Report to Congress, pp. 1-106 at https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Afghanistan-1225-Report-December-2016.pdf ; Hammes, T. X. (2015). ‘Raising and Mentoring Security Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq’, in Hooker Jr, R. D., & Joseph J. Collins. J. J. (eds.), Lessons Encountered: Learning from the Long War, Fort MacNair: National Defence University, pp. 277-344 at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0030438715000691

Afghanistan Allies & Partners Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Iraq Irregular Forces Option Papers Patrick Blannin United States

Assessment of the How the Media Overstates the Threat Posed by the Erroneously Called ‘Lone-Wolves’

Cristina Ariza holds a master’s degree from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, where she focused on radicalisation and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE.)  She is a freelance analyst, currently researching on Spanish jihadist networks and the role of families in CVE.  She can be found on Twitter @CrisAriza_C.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the How the Media Overstates the Threat Posed by the Erroneously Called ‘Lone-Wolves’

Date Originally Written:  January 23, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 16, 2018.

Summary:  Media outlets, commentators, and prosecutors continue to use the ‘lone wolf’ typology to refer to any kind of individual attacker, which overlooks how the majority of these perpetrators have radicalised in contact with other like-minded individuals. As a result, the threat arising from supposedly ‘undetectable terrorists’ has been markedly overstated, to the point of sowing unnecessary fear.

Text:  A quick Google search of the term ‘lone wolf terrorism’ throws about 459,000 results, which is a striking number given how misleading this concept actually is. Initially, the concept of ‘lone wolf’ was supposed to represent the threat coming from individuals who radicalised in isolation and went on to commit an attack alone. Since they were not receiving instructions from a terrorist command nor they were in contact with other extremists, lone wolves were undetectable threats that could strike at any given time. However, as shown by the media frenzy that arises every time there is an attack, this category has lost all meaning. Now, every attack committed by one individual is automatically labelled as a ‘lone wolf’ attack, regardless of whether said individual actually fits the criteria. Thus, the discourse shifts onto a meaningless debate that contributes nothing to explaining how individuals are actually driven to commit attacks.

The first stumbling block we come across when examining ‘lone wolves’ is conceptual. There seems to be a certain consensus in the literature that in order to be designated as such, ‘lone wolves’ need to be detached operationally and institutionally from larger networks. In his study on Islamist lone attackers, Raffaello Pantucci differentiated between loners, lone wolves, lone wolf packs, and lone attackers. However, only the ‘loners’ had radicalised in total isolation and proceeded to attack alone. The rest of the categories included individuals who did not formally belong to a hierarchical command but had some online or offline contact with extremists, and individuals who committed an attack in small groups[1]. Strictly speaking, only the ‘loners’ could fit the criteria of self-radicalised ‘lone wolves,’ which is why compiling all these categories under the same typology ends up being problematic. For starters, this compiling overlooks the significant differences that exist between self-radicalisation and group radicalisation. As Bart Schuurman et al correctly point out, ‘peer pressure, leader-follower interactions, group polarization and other social-psychological processes by definition rule out including even the smallest „packs‟ under the heading of lone-actor terrorism[2].’

While, in spite of disagreements, literature discussions on ‘lone wolf’ terrorism tend to be very nuanced, this meticulousness appears to be absent in other contexts. In media and public usage, every attack that is committed by an individual perpetrator is at first designated as a ‘lone wolf’ attack, which risks overestimating the threat coming from self-radicalised and independently operating individuals. In 2016, the Nice and Berlin attackers were first wrongly identified as ‘lone-wolves’, even though it later emerged that both perpetrators had radicalised in contact with like-minded individuals. Jason Burke, in his piece entitled ‘The Myth of the Lone-Wolf Terrorist’ compellingly argues that ‘this lazy term [lone wolf] obscures the real nature of the threat against us[3].’

Furthermore, there seems to be a correlation between the modus operandi of an attack and the decision to designate an individual (or even individuals) as ‘lone-wolves.’ A perfect example of this correlation is a Daily Mail headline that claimed: ‘ISIS has abandoned large-scale terror atrocities to focus on ‘lone wolf’ attacks like Nice and Berlin, government report says[4].’ The government report quoted in this article, whose authenticity could not be independently verified, referred more generally to ‘lone actors’ and ‘small groups’, which in sensational media jargon translates as ‘lone wolves.’ Despite the fact that neither the Berlin nor the Nice attacker could actually be categorised as lone-wolves, the article audaciously equated low-cost attacks with lone-wolves, as if tactics had any bearing on radicalisation. While the Daily Mail is not particularly known for its credibility, a journalist from the much more reliable British newspaper ‘The Telegraph’ also suggested that the Westminster 2017 attack and the murder of Lee Rigsby were examples of how lone-wolf attacks did not require sophisticated weapons[5].’ Whereas one could forgive a premature—and ultimately mistaken— analysis on whether Khalid Masood was a lone wolf, both perpetrators in the Lee Rigsby case were linked to Al Muhajiroun, one of the United Kingdom’s largest jihadist recruitment networks. Therefore, the apparent correlation between low-cost weapons and lone wolves—or even ‘pack of wolves’— is not immediately clear. While it stands to reason that individuals who formally belong to terrorist organisations and have planned to commit large-scale attacks might resort to more sophisticated weapons —the Paris and Brussels attackers chose to use suicide vests and bombs—, the decision to strike with a low-cost weapon does not say much about how one individual might become radicalised. Granted, true lone wolves would likely resort to low-cost weapons, but so did the London Bridge attackers or the Magnaville perpetrator. Referring to low-cost attacks as ‘lone wolf attacks’ only contributes to adding another layer of confusion to an already problematic concept.

A more recent trial case in the United Kingdom showed how prosecution has also adopted this terminology. According to The Guardian, Munir Mohammed had ‘resolved upon a lone wolf attack[6].’ Yet he had enlisted the help of his girlfriend to buy the ingredients for a chemical attack. Both had met online and frequently shared extremist content with each other. If this was not reason enough to determine that Munir Mohammed did not radicalise in total isolation, as a so-called ‘lone-wolf’ is supposed to do, the article also showed that Munir Mohammed was in contact with an Islamic State commander and that he was waiting for instructions to attack. The evidence clearly shows that the dynamics of radicalization that led Munir Mohammed to try to commit an attack were diametrically different to the mechanisms of self-radicalisation. Unfortunately, the persistent use of the ‘lone wolf typology’ prevents us from noticing these nuances and communicating them to the general public.

The inaccurate understanding of the lone wolf concept is consistently being applied to terrorism cases that fail to meet the necessary criteria, which only contributes to creating preventable fear amongst the population. It is precisely in a climate of exaggerated fear where terrorists thrive, which is why the ‘lone wolf’ categorisation is no longer adequate to analyse and understand the current terrorist threat.


Endnotes:

[1] Pantucci, R. (2011, March). A Typology of Lone Wolves: Preliminary Analysis of Lone Islamist Terrorists. ICSR. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1302002992ICSRPaper_ATypologyofLoneWolves_Pantucci.pdf

[2] Schuurman, B., Lindekilde, L., Malthaner, S., O’Connor, F., Gill, P., & Bouhana, N. (2017). End of the Lone Wolf: The Typology that Should Not Have Been. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1057610X.2017.1419554

[3] Burke, J. (2017, March 30). The Myth of the Lone Wolf Terrorist. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/western-europe/2016-07-26/myth-lone-wolf-terrorism

[4] Boyle, D. (2017, January 5). ISIS has abandoned large-scale terror atrocities to focus on ‘lone wolf’ attacks like Nice and Berlin, government report says. Daily Mail. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4091844/ISIS-abandoned-large-scale-terror-atrocities-focus-lone-wolf-attacks-like-Nice-Berlin-government-report-says.html#ixzz5518Phdcs 

[5] Coughlin, C (2017, March 22). London attack was simply a question of time: This was the lone wolf Britain has long been fearing. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/22/simply-question-time-lone-wolf-attack-britain-has-long-fearing/

[6] Grierson, J. (2018, January 8). UK couple found guilty of plotting Christmas terror attack. The Guardian. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/08/uk-couple-found-guilty-of-plotting-christmas-terror-attack

Assessment Papers Cristina Ariza Violent Extremism

Assessment of the Threat Posed by the Turkish Cyber Army

Marita La Palm is a graduate student at American University where she focuses on terrorism, countering violent extremism, homeland security policy, and cyber domain activities.  She can be found on Twitter at maritalp.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the Threat Posed by the Turkish Cyber Army

Date Originally Written:  March 25, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 9, 2018.

Summary:  Turkish-sympathetic hacker group, the Turkish Cyber Army, has changed tactics from seizing and defacing websites to a Twitter phishing campaign that has come remarkably close to the President of the United States.

Text:  The Turkish Cyber Army (Ay Yildiz Tim) attempted to compromise U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter account in January of 2018 as part of a systematic cyber attack accompanying the Turkish invasion of Syria.  They were not successful, but they did seize control of various well-known accounts and the operation is still in progress two months later.

Although the Turkish Cyber Army claims to date back to a 2002 foundation in New Zealand, it first appears in hacking annals on October 2, 2006.  Since then, the group has taken over vulnerable websites in Kenya, the European Union, and the United States[1].  As of the summer of 2017, the Turikish Cyber Army changed tactics to focus on Twitter phishing, where they used the compromised Twitter account of a trustworthy source to bait a target to surrender log-in credentials[2].  They do this by sending a direct message from a familiar account they control telling the desired victim to click on a link and enter their log-in information to a page that looks like Twitter but actually records their username and password.  Upon accessing the victim’s account, the hackers rapidly make pro-Turkish posts, download the message history, and send new phishing attacks through the new account, all within a few hours.  The Turkish Cyber Army claim to have downloaded the targets’ messages, apparently both for intelligence purposes and to embarrass the target by publicly releasing the messages[3].  Oddly enough, the group has yet to release the private messages they acquired in spite of their threats to do so.  The group is notable both for their beginner-level sophistication when compared to state hackers such as Fancy Bear and the way they broadcast every hack they make.

The first documented victim of the 2018 operation was Syed Akbaruddin, Indian Permanent Representative to the United Nations.  Before the attack on Akbaruddin, the hackers likely targeted Kurdish accounts in a similar manner[4].  Since these initial attacks, the Turkish Cyber Army moved steadily closer to accounts followed by President Trump and even managed to direct message him on Twitter[5].  In January 2018, they phished multiple well-known Western public figures such as television personality Greta van Susteren and the head of the World Economic Forum, Børge Brende.  It so happened that Greta and Eric Bolling, another victim, are two of the only 45 accounts followed by President Trump.  From Eric and Greta’s accounts, the hackers were able to send messages to Trump.  Two months later, the Turkish Cyber Army continued on Twitter, but now primarily with a focus on Indian accounts.  The group took over Air India’s Twitter account on March 15, 2018.  However, the aftereffects of their Western efforts can still be seen: on March 23, 2018 the Chief Content Officer of Time, Inc. and the President of Fortune, Alan Murray tweeted, “I was locked out of Twitter for a month after being hacked by the Turkish cyber army…” Meanwhile, the Turkish Cyber Army has a large and loud Twitter presence with very little regulation considering they operate as an openly criminal organization on the platform.

President Trump’s personal Twitter account was also a target for the Turkish Cyber Army.  This is not a secret account known only to a few.  President Trump’s account name is public, and his password is all that is needed to post unless he has set up two-factor authentication.  Trump uses his account to express his personal opinions, and since some of his tweets have had high shock value, a fake message intended to disrupt might go unquestioned.  It is fair to assume that multiple groups have gone at President Trump’s account with a password cracker without stopping since inauguration.  It is only a matter of time before a foreign intelligence service or other interested party manages to access President Trump’s direct messages, make provocative statements from his account that could threaten the financial sector or national security, and from there go on to access more sensitive information.  While the Turkish Cyber Army blasts their intrusion from the compromised accounts, more sophisticated hacking teams would be in and out without a word and might have already done so.  The most dangerous hackers would maintain that access for the day it is useful and unexpected.

While nothing immediately indicates that this group is a Turkish government organization, they are either supporters of the current government or work for it.  Both reporter Joseph Cox and the McAfee report claimed the group used Turkish code[6].  Almost a hundred actual or bot accounts have some identifier of the Turkish Cyber Army, none of which appear to be censored by Twitter.  Of particular interest in the group’s history are the attacks on Turkish political party Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi’s (CHP) deputy Eren Erdem’ın, alleging his connections with Fethullah Gulen and the 2006 and possible 2017 attempts to phish Kurdish activists[7].  The Turkish Cyber Army’s current operations occurred on the eve of massive Turkish political risk, as the events in Syria could have ended Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s career had they gone poorly. Not only did Turkey invade Syria in order to attack trained troops of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally, the United States, but Turkish representatives had been banned from campaigning in parts of the European Union, and Turkish banks might face a multi-billion dollar fine thanks to the Reza Zarrab case[8].  Meanwhile, both Islamist and Kurdish insurgents appeared emboldened within the country[9].  Turkey had everything to lose, and a cyberattack, albeit not that sophisticated but conducted against high value targets, was a possibility while the United States appeared undecided as to whom to back — its proxy force or its NATO ally.  In the end, the United States has made efforts to reconcile diplomatically with Turkey since January, and Turkey has saved face.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ayyildiz Tim. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://ayyildiz.org/; Turks ‘cyber-leger’ kaapt Nederlandse websites . (2006, October 2). Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2006/10/02/turks-cyber-leger-kaapt-nederlandse-websites-11203640-a1180482; Terry, N. (2013, August 12). Asbury park’s website taken over by hackers. McClatchy – Tribune Business News; Ministry of transport website hacked. (2014, March 5). AllAfrica.Com. 

[2] Turkish hackers target Sevan Nishanyan’s Twitter account. (2017, July 28). Armenpress News Agency.

[3] Beek, C., & Samani, R. (2018, January 24). Twitter Accounts of US Media Under Attack by Large Campaign. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://securingtomorrow.mcafee.com/mcafee-labs/twitter-accounts-of-us-media-under-attack-by-large-campaign/.

[4] #EfrinNotAlone. (2018, January 17). “News that people  @realDonaldTrump followers have been hacked by Turkish cyber army. TCA made an appearance a few days ago sending virus/clickey links to foreigners and my Kurdish/friends. The journalist who have had their accounts hacked in US have clicked the link.”  [Tweet]. https://twitter.com/la_Caki__/status/953572575602462720.

[5] Herreria, C. (2018, January 17). Hackers DM’d Donald Trump With Former Fox News Hosts’ Twitter Accounts. Retrieved March 25, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/eric-bolling-greta-van-susteren-twitter-hacked_us_5a5eb17de4b096ecfca88729

[6] Beek, C., & Samani, R. (2018, January 24). Twitter Accounts of US Media Under Attack by Large Campaign. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://securingtomorrow.mcafee.com/mcafee-labs/twitter-accounts-of-us-media-under-attack-by-large-campaign/; Joseph Cox. (2018, January 23). “Interestingly, the code of the phishing page is in… Turkish. “Hesabın var mı?”, or “Do you have an account?”.”  [Tweet]. https://twitter.com/josephfcox/status/955861462190383104.

[7] Ayyıldız Tim FETÖnün CHP bağlantısını deşifre etti. (2016, August 27). Retrieved January 24, 2018, from http://www.ensonhaber.com/ayyildiz-tim-fetonun-chp-baglantisini-desifre-etti-2016-08-28.html; Turks ‘cyber-leger’ kaapt Nederlandse websites . (2006, October 2). Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2006/10/02/turks-cyber-leger-kaapt-nederlandse-websites-11203640-a1180482.

[8] Turkey-backed FSA entered Afrin, Turkey shelling targets. (2018, January 21). BBC Monitoring Newsfile; Turkey blasts Germany, Netherlands for campaign bans. (2017, March 5). BBC Monitoring European; Zaman, A. (2017, December 07). Turkey probes US prosecutor in Zarrab trial twist. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/11/turkey-probes-reza-zarrab-investigators.html.

[9] Moore, J. (2017, December 28). Hundreds of ISIS fighters are hiding in Turkey, increasing fears of attacks in Europe. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from http://www.newsweek.com/hundreds-isis-fighters-are-hiding-turkey-increasing-fears-europe-attacks-759877; Mandıracı, B. (2017, July 20). Turkey’s PKK Conflict Kills almost 3,000 in Two Years. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/western-europemediterranean/turkey/turkeys-pkk-conflict-kills-almost-3000-two-years.

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Marita La Palm Trump (U.S. President) Turkey

Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Tyler Bonin is a history and economics instructor.  He is also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he developed and participated in host nation infrastructure projects as a construction wireman.  He can be found on Twitter @TylerMBonin.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  January 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 2, 2018.

Summary:   The People’s Republic of China’s continued infrastructure investment in Africa through its One Belt, One Road initiative has led to incremental change in its foreign policy. Security challenges arising in Africa due to continued PRC investment might lead to an increased PRC military presence on the continent, as well as a complete revision of its non-interference policy.

Text:  In 2013, People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping proposed a $5 trillion international infrastructure plan entitled One Belt, One Road (OBOR), intended to advance land and maritime trade routes between Asia, Europe, and Africa[1]. Initial expansion has included approximately 1,700 road, railway, pipeline, and port projects undertaken by PRC state-owned and private enterprises. The state-developed Silk Road Fund and several multilateral development banks have financed these infrastructure projects, in addition to PRC commercial bank loans to OBOR partner countries[2].

A combination of private and state-owned PRC construction firms have built several railways between major African cities, including the Addis Ababa – Djibouti line, which is Africa’s first transnational electric railway. PRC-built railways have opened landlocked countries’ access to seaports, eased the burden of travel for workers, and ultimately facilitated the development of industrial economic corridors. Additionally, PRC companies have continued their investment in roadways and ports. Construction of a port at Bagamoyo in Tanzania will have the two-fold effect of easing congestion at neighboring ports and attracting foreign direct investment; it is slated to be Africa’s largest port[3]. Overall, views toward PRC development activities have been enthusiastic. Survey data from Afrobarometer demonstrates that 63% of Africans (averaged across all countries) view PRC influence as “somewhat” or “very” positive[4]. The PRC’s increasing global investment in infrastructure improves the country’s access to natural resources and also opens access to markets for PRC goods and services. It also serves as a powerful element of the PRC’s increasing soft power.

The PRC’s ever-expanding investment in Africa has also meant its increased role in security on the African continent. As the PRC has invested heavily in the Sudanese oil industry, civil conflict in South Sudan in 2013 led Beijing to take a proactive mediation position. In addition to promising to continue PRC participation in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, President Jinping has also promised to support the development of counter-terrorism measures within African countries[5]. All of these activities have been a departure from the PRC’s traditional “non-interference” foreign policy stance. Security concerns in the past have arisen as the direct result of terrorist activity in Africa, including the kidnapping of PRC workers by the jihadist group Boko Haram. Furthermore, the PRC is now focusing on security as a manner in which to protect its infrastructure investments. Civil unrest and terrorist activity stalls PRC projects and hinders economic activity; the large upfront capital investment required of these infrastructure projects requires continuity in development, which is interrupted by civil strife.

However, security concerns in Africa may also surface as a direct result of PRC infrastructure development. While PRC activity in Africa has been viewed positively on average, PRC labor practices have received negative attention in particular regions. While PRC construction firms have used local workers for projects in regions where the pool of skilled labor is steady, PRC nationals have been brought into regions where skilled laborers do not exist in large enough numbers. Thus, a narrative of foreign workers taking jobs in which local workers could be employed has given rise to periodic populist movements in Africa. One example of populist movement activity is in Kenya, where a group demanding that a PRC project provide jobs to local citizens attacked PRC railway construction workers[6].

Furthermore, young and unemployed populations provide the foundation for rebel movements; As rebel groups may seize access to a country’s resources—and use the sales of such for continuing to fund the movement—participation in rebellion essentially provides young individuals with their only means to income[7]. Many fragile states are the product of extended civil war. Subsequently, these states have seen low levels of education and loss of skills among their working age populations. These fragile states, such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, represent the situation in which PRC workers are used[8]. Thus, PRC activities are a possible catalyst for violence in fragile states where infrastructure projects continue.  In these fragile states, local resentment and populist fervor may build due to the perception that political elites only profit from the governmental arrangement with Beijing, while persistent unemployment exists during an ever-increasing influx of PRC workers. These factors combined may provide the impetus for rebellion that would harm the long-term goals of the PRC’s OBOR.

Due to the preceding, PRC roles in security in Africa may continue well beyond the current financing of counterterrorism measures and the provision of troops to UN peacekeeping operations. Specifically, the PRC’s non-intervention foreign policy may give way to a policy that seeks to actively finance state police forces and provide a stronger military advisory role.  While Djibouti currently maintains a permanent PRC naval station, an active PRC military presence seems likely to grow as investment in Africa increases, especially in fragile states. The dynamics of increased PRC economic and military influence in Africa are just now coming into existence and will pose interesting questions for future security considerations.


Endnotes:

[1] van der Leer, Y., Yau, J. (2016, February). China’s New Silk Route: The Long and Winding Road. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/growth-markets-center/assets/pdf/china-new-silk-route.pdf

[2] Gang, W. (2017, May 9). SOEs Lead Infrastructure Push in 1,700 ‘Belt and Road’ Projects. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from https://www.caixinglobal.com/2017-05-10/101088332.html

[3] Tairo, A. (2017, October 3). Tanzania Surrenders Bagamoyo Port Project to Chinese Firm. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Tanzania-Bagamoyo-port-project-to-Chinese/2560-4122244-rxa9wtz/index.html

[4] Lekorwe, M., Chingwete, A., Okuru M., and Samson R. (2016, October 24). China’s Growing Presence in Africa Wins Largely Positive Popular Reviews. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/Dispatches/ab_r6_dispatchno122_perceptions_of_china_in_africa1.pdf

[5] Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. (2012, July 19). Fifth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC Opens Further China-Africa Cooperation. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://www.focac.org/eng/dwjbzjjhys/t954274.htm

[6] White, E. Analysis: Unpacking Attacks On Chinese Workers in Africa. (2016, August 5). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from https://international.thenewslens.com/article/45988

[7] World Bank’s World Development Report (2011). Retrieved January 12, 2018, from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDRS/Resources/WDR2011_Chapter2.pdf

[8] Coroado, H. and Brock, J. (2015, July 9). Angolans Resentful As China Tightens Its Grip. Retrieved January 12, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-angola-china-insight/angolans-resentful-as-china-tightens-its-grip-idUSKCN0PJ1LT20150709

Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Tyler Bonin

Episode 0002: U.S. & PRC Maritime Competition (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

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In this episode of The Smell of Victory Podcast Bob Hein leads the way in a discussion focusing on maritime competition between the United States and the People’s Republic of China while Steve Leonard and Phil Walter sprint to keep up!

This episode begins with a brief overview of A.T. Mahan and Julian Corbett and the differences between Sea Control and Power Projection.  Your trio of hosts then takes four ideas Andrew Marshall posed in his 1972 RAND paper “Long-Term Competition with the Soviets: A Framework for Strategic Analysis” and discusses them in a United States and People’s Republic of China maritime competition context.  Per Andrew Marshall:

A natural sequence of steps in the development of a policy, or strategy, for the long-term strategic arms competition is the following:

1. Characterization of the nature of the competition.

2. Delineation of u.s. goals in the competition.

3. Development of an appropriate strategy, or strategies, for achieving these goals.

4. Development of analytical methods and modification of inputs required to design and program U.S. strategic forces in accordance with this strategy.

Mahan, Corbett, Marshall, and even Bob Hein’s preferred cigar brands (Montecristo and My Father) are discussed in this episode!

You can listen via Sticher by clicking here, or iTunes by clicking here.  You can also listen on our website by clicking play below or download The Smell of Victory to your favorite podcatcher via our RSS feed below.

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The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

Options to Manage the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia’s Nuclear Ambitions

Joshua Urness is an officer in the United States Army who has served both in combat and strategic studies roles.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  In a notional future the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) Defense Ministry leadership are strongly advocating for initiating a domestic nuclear weapons development program and have begun discussing the issue at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.

Date Originally Written:  January 14, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  March 26, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a non-proliferation and arms control professional working in the U.S. government. This professional was asked to provide recommendations to members of the national security council on how to dissuade the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from pursuing nuclear weapons.

Background:  This background, though containing some facts, is based on the above described notional situation. Key drivers for the KSA on the issue are anticipation of the expiration of the Iranian Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action within 10-15 years and persistent adversarial relations with Iran; likely attributable to continued Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps activity throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council region. This adversarial activity includes perceived Iranian support of Houthi Rebels, by proxy, in Yemen, a force that frequently fires ballistic missiles into KSA territory and has destabilized the KSA’s southern border region.

For this notional scenario we assume that the KSA:

– is a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has actively supported the establishment of a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East (as recently as May, 2017[1]).

– does not currently possess the technological, intellectual or infrastructural capability necessary to produce fissile material or a nuclear weapon[2].

– has been working to develop a domestic nuclear energy program.

– possesses nuclear weapon capable delivery vehicles which were purchased in 2007 from China (DF-21 ballistic missile variants) and has spent substantial resources developing its Strategic Missile Force[3].

– recently published a plan for state-level economic reformation (“Vision 2030”[4]).

– signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. in 2008 on nuclear energy cooperation, an objective also discussed with France[5].

– has illicit agreements with states such as Pakistan for “off the shelf” nuclear weapons capabilities based on the known fact that the KSA funded work by A.Q. Khan[6].

Significance:  This situation matters to the United States because of the following U.S. national security interests:

– Prevent the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction (National Security Strategy, 2017)

– “Checking Iran’s malign influence while strengthening regional friends and allies” (Defense Posture Statement, 2017) and, therefore, the security of trade within and through the Middle East.

– Support of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the NPT 2020 review.

– Support of weapons of mass destruction free zones and, therefore, the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East.

Option #1:  The U.S. focuses on influencing KSA key stakeholder and future king, Crowned Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, to neutralize proponents of nuclear weapons development by supporting his keystone political platform, “Vision 2030.”

“Vision 2030” is an extremely ambitious and aggressive plan that is heavily reliant on both foreign direct investment[7] and non-native intellectual contribution to domestic institutional development. The U.S. could assist the KSA in providing both in a manner that emphasizes domestic nuclear energy and deemphasizes the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Mohammed Bin Salman, author of the plan, is expected to accede the throne soon (to ensure the passing of power under supervision of the current king), and already exercises significant authority regarding the KSA’s future and will be the primary stakeholder in all major decisions.

Risk:  This option accepts that the KSA develops a domestic nuclear energy program which may require more than customary monitoring to determine if this program will become dual-use for nuclear weapons development.

Gain:  This option demonstrates public U.S. support for key allies sustainable economic development in a manner that obscures specific intentions of policy and  will benefit the U.S. economy in long run because of increased ties to development.

Option #2:  The U.S. enhances its current security guarantee and cooperation by expanding the types of weapon systems/services delivered to the KSA and making rapid initial delivery of key systems, which will provide public regional assurance of commitment.

Recent weapons agreement with the KSA totaling $110 billion (bn) U.S. dollars ($350 bn over 10 years) does not include long-range stand-off weapons (land, air or sea) capable of counter-battery fire that could reach Iran. The agreements do include air defense systems (Patriot, THAAD) in limited numbers. This option would expand the current weapons agreement to include such stand-off weapons and increases in air defense systems. This option also emphasizes rapid delivery of equipment currently available to satisfy urgency of KSA military leaders. Expanding service packages with equipment would require forward stationing of U.S. service members in the KSA to train, maintain and develop technical institutional knowledge of new systems, further promoting STEM initiatives of “Vision 2030.”

Risk:  This option only passively addresses KSA nuclear weapon development discussions as it seeks to address insecurity by attempting to conventionally deter Iran.

Gain:  The U.S. Department of Defense is currently seeking acquisition of long-range munitions in significant numbers and funding from this expanded agreement could be used to jump-start production. Rapid delivery would reinforce commitment to all allies in the region.

Other Comments:  Option #1 maximizes benefits for both parties, better than other options. While U.S. national interests are supported in the region, the U.S. will also benefit economically from partnerships built out of acknowledgment and support of the KSA’s effort to achieve “Vision 2030.” Option #1 will also demonstrate U.S. engagement in the region’s key interests and political/economic initiatives. Discussions of nuclear weapons development will be decisively dealt with in a non-public manner; an issue that, if handled publicly, could cause concern in other regional states.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] “United Nations PaperSmart – Secretariat – UNODA – NPT – First Session (NPT) – Documents.” Accessed September 22, 2017. http://papersmart.unmeetings.org/secretariat/unoda/npt/2017-first-session-of-the-preparatory-committee/documents/

[2] “Will Saudi Arabia Acquire Nuclear Weapons? | NTI.” Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/will-saudi-acquire-nuclear-weapons/

[3] “Why Did Saudi Arabia Buy Chinese Missiles?” Foreign Policy. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/01/30/why-did-saudi-arabia-buy-chinese-missiles/

[4] “Saudi Vision 2030.” Accessed September 22, 2017. http://vision2030.gov.sa/en

[5] Department Of State. The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs. “U.S.-Saudi Arabia Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Energy Cooperation,” May 16, 2008. https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/may/104961.htm

[6] Sanger, David E. “Saudi Arabia Promises to Match Iran in Nuclear Capability.” The New York Times, May 13, 2015, sec. Middle East. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/14/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-promises-to-match-iran-in-nuclear-capability.html

[7] “Goals | Saudi Vision 2030.” Accessed September 22, 2017. http://vision2030.gov.sa/en/goals

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Joshua Urness Nuclear Issues Option Papers Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) Weapons of Mass Destruction

Assessment of the Role of Authoritarianism in Fomenting Extremism in the Arab World

Hari Prasad is an independent researcher on Middle East/South Asian Politics and Security. He holds a MA in International Affairs from George Washington University.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the Role of Authoritarianism in Fomenting Extremism in the Arab World

Date Originally Written:  December 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 19, 2018.

Summary:  Many Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) works have focused on the role of individual and enabling factors in the rise of extremism, yet it is important to not overlook larger structural factors.  In particular, authoritarianism in the Arab world has proven to help foment conditions that can help encourage the rise of extremism, or discredit counter extremism efforts.

Text:  In recent years with the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State, the concept of CVE has gained traction in policy and academic circles.  A lot of emphasis has been put on the individual and community level with ideas such as examining the effects of discrimination, mental illness, and extremist ideology on influencing individuals to join violent extremist organizations.  However, it is also important to have an understanding of how larger structural issues, such as regime type, might allow for an environment that fosters extremism.  Using examples from throughout the Arab World, this assessment paper will show how authoritarianism contributes to extremism by encouraging divisions in society, undermining religious messaging, normalizing extremist rhetoric, denying outlets for political expression, and even facilitating the rise of extremist groups.

First and foremost, many Arab regimes fail to counteract sectarianism in the region. Instead of resolving ethnic, sectarian, or other tensions, the regimes exploit them.  As Syrian opposition intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh has observed, sectarianism played an important role in consolidating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime’s power[1].  Encouraging divisions in society causes the various sects to suspect one another, and ‘otherise’ them.  This ‘otherising’ continues sectarian tension and demonization, something that becomes operationalized to deadly effect during times of upheaval.  Authoritarian regimes also try to position themselves, especially to minority groups, as the sole protectors from radical groups.  This protector role provides some blackmailing towards minorities to support the regime or else, while also playing into the narratives of extremist groups that majority groups like Arabs and Sunnis are discriminated against by the regime[2].

Especially in combatting religious extremism, authoritarian Arab regimes can easily undermine religious messaging.  Often Arab regimes attempt to hold influence or control their respective official religious establishments to monitor the content as well as prevent criticism of the regime itself[3].  Although this has been used to also try to counteract extremist messaging, the fact that many religious establishments rarely stray from the regime narrative undermines counter-extremist messaging.  As official religious establishments primarily propagate a pro-regime narrative, they will be accurately perceived as simply another mouthpiece for the authoritarian regime.  Rather than serving as an important pulpit for counteracting extremist messages, the delegitimization of these religious institutions instead inadvertently encourage followers to seek out alternative narratives.

Along with this regime undermining of religious messaging, religion also is a valuable tool for regimes to turn to in times of crisis.  Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein enacted his ‘faith campaign’ while dealing with the harsh sanctions regime.  This campaign led to the rise of new Islamic institutions and organizations, including institutions that the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, attended[4].  In Egypt, despite overthrowing the democratically elected Islamist Mohammad Morsi, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has also turned to Islam to help prop up his rule[5].  Regime manipulation of religion only further delegitimizes traditional religious leaders, while also normalizing religious language in denigrating their opponents.  Indeed, one of Egypt’s former Muftis went as far as to engage in similar takfirist (to declare a Muslim an apostate) justifications against Sisi’s opponents that the Islamic State and other extremist groups have engaged in[6].  Although it can be debated whether these initiatives are carried out to co-opt leaders or out of the personal faith of the leaders, these initiatives instead help normalize extremist rhetoric rather than counteracting it.

Many authoritarian regimes in the Arab World also limit political freedoms and outlets for political expression and change.  Indeed, scholars like Mohammad Hafez have demonstrated the role that repression and political exclusion has played in the rise of Islamic extremist movements around the world[7], especially in the Arab World.  Rather than serving as islands of stability, authoritarian regimes remain fragile and encourage resentment.  As there are few outlets to express one’s political opinions, and many ‘opposition’ parties are co-opted by the regimes, this encourages the rise of groups that lay outside of the realm of formal politics.

Finally, authoritarian regimes can directly facilitate the rise of extremist groups.  It is no secret that since the 9/11 attacks, many Westerners have preferred the ‘secular’ dictators instead of an ‘Islamist.’  These secular dictators have used the specter of Islamism to justify crackdowns and repression against all opposition.  While playing into the other factors that encourage victims to seek alternative ways of confronting the state, this has also proven useful for states that lack international legitimacy.  It is well-known that to support its narrative that it was simply fighting terrorists, the Assad regime released extremists and other unsavory characters from its prisons during the initial uprising in Syria[8].  As the initial protests turned to an uprising, these former prisoners formed organizations that helped paint the groups opposing Assad as extremist.  Groups like the Islamic State even temporarily received support from the Assad regime in its fight against the Free Syrian Army and other Syrian opposition groups.  Of course these are temporary alliances, but it demonstrates how authoritarian regimes will tactically allow extremist groups to form for the sake of their own survival.

Without reforming or changing these authoritarian structures in the Arab World, CVE efforts will only have a limited effect.  Of course, the demise of authoritarianism will not necessarily lead to an extremist free region.  After all, it is the newly democratic Tunisia that has become a large contributor for fighters for the Islamic State.  Nor will authoritarian reform lead to the erasure of extremist ideologies.  Yet, changing these authoritarian structures will provide a political opening that will allow better combatting of extremist ideology, while also providing a less repressive life for those that live in the region.  Authoritarian reform should not be mistaken as purely a humanitarian effort.  It is no secret that Western support for authoritarian regimes has been a common grievance for many extremist groups in the Middle East.  Mohammad Hafez in his keynote remarks to the RESOLVE Network in 2016 noted that the choice between repressive states or extremists, or rather “between barrel bombs and beheadings” is a false one, and one that the regimes themselves try to create[9].  Extremism in the region will never be fully addressed until policymakers understand the structural factors within authoritarian regimes that drive this behavior.


Endnotes:

[1] Saleh, Y. A. (2017). The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.

[2] Shabi, R. (2014, April 10). Battling Perceptions: Minorities in the Arab World. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/04/battling-perceptions-minorities–20144965348535478.html

[3] Brown, N. (2017, May 11). Official Islam in the Arab World: The Contest for Religious Authority. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/05/11/official-islam-in-arab-world-contest-for-religious-authority-pub-69929

[4] McCants, W. (2015, September 1). The Believer: How Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Became Leader of the Islamic State. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://csweb.brookings.edu/content/research/essays/2015/thebeliever.html

[5] Springborg, R. (2014, May 24). Sisi’s Secret Islamism. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2014-05-26/sisis-secret-islamism

[6] Elmasry, M. (2015, June 27). Ali Gumah: Sisi’s Most Loyal Islamic Scholar. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/ali-gumah-sisi-s-most-loyal-islamic-scholar-1205811558

[7] Hafez, M. M. (2005). Why Muslims Rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World. Boulder: Lynne Rienner .

[8] Gutman, R. (2016, December 01). Assad Henchman: Here’s How We Built ISIS. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/assad-henchman-heres-how-we-built-isis

[9] 2016 RESOLVE Forum Flashback: Keynote Speaker Dr. Mohammed Hafez. (2017, September 15). Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.resolvenet.org/news/2016-resolve-forum-flashback-keynote-speaker-dr-mohammed-hafez

Assessment Papers Government Hari Prasad Violent Extremism

Options for the U.S. to Deter China in the East & South China Seas

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Curtin is a Field Artillery Officer with over 20 years of experience in the United States Marine Corps, including at the Pacific Division of Plans, Policies, and Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps.  Annie Kowalewski is a Chinese military and defense researcher at Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Chinese militarization of artificial islands in disputed waters in the East and South China Seas.

Date Originally Written:  March 1, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  March 12, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors are a military member and a defense researcher.  The authors believe that Chinese actions in the East and South China Sea are destabilizing and threaten to shift the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Background:  China is showing no evidence of slowing down its territorial aspirations within the “nine dash line” and continues to emplace anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems on its man-made islands in the East and South China Seas[1].  China also uses its maritime militia to bully neighboring countries and extend Chinese fishing rights and territorial reach.  The United States has thus far been unsuccessful in responding to or deterring these Chinese challenges to the status quo.

Significance:  Chinese actions represent a “salami-slicing” strategy aimed at slowly changing regional norms and asserting Chinese dominance in the East and South China Seas.  This strategy allows China to exert influence and establish itself as a regional hegemon, thereby threatening the balance of power and U.S. primacy in the region.  Chinese militarization and power projection also threaten the United States’ allies and security partners, some of which the United States is bound by treaty to offer security assistance.

Option #1:  The United States invests in capabilities-based deterrents that can deter specific Chinese actions.

Risk:  China has objected to the capabilities that provide this type of deterrent, such as the new F-35B fighter operating on naval vessels in the pacific[2].  China may use the deployment of these capabilities as an excuse to finally militarize islands such as the Scarborough Shoal.

Gain:  A capabilities-based deterrent will make Chinese islands in the East and South China Seas vulnerable and, ultimately, a military liability rather than an advantage.  New technologies such as the F-35B allow the United States more flexibility when operating in the Pacific, by providing U.S. and allied commanders with a 5th generation aircraft that is normally only employed off traditional U.S. aircraft carriers.  Option #1 would not only help offset the eventual Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA(N)) numerical superiority in the Pacific, but also demonstrate the U.S. commitment to modernizing a capability that has been historically suited for military operations against static, geographically isolated island targets.  This option may help shift China’s risk calculus when deciding how aggressively it hopes to militarize the islands, once it realizes that increased island investment actually increases vulnerability instead of capability.

Option #2:  The United States invests in strategic deterrence by helping boost allies’ and security partners’ amphibious capabilities.

Risk:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities runs the risk of antagonizing China.  China has already strongly condemned proposed amendments to the Japanese constitution calling for a larger defense budget[3].  China has been known to use economic and political coercion to pressure regional countries to adopt, or abandon, policies.

Gain:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities will be key to creating a sea force able to challenge an increasingly capable PLA(N).  This option would also allow allies and security partners to better deal with Chinese salami-slicing activities by providing them with the capability to deter or engage the Chinese on their own, rather than rely on U.S. deployments and assistance[4].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Bader, Jeffrey. (2014). The U.S. and China’s Nine-Dash Line: Ending the Ambiguity. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-u-s-and-chinas-nine-dash-line-ending-the-ambiguity/.

[2] Lockheed Martin. (2018). The F-26B Lightning II. Retrieved from https://www.f35.com/about/variants/f35b.

[3] Huang, Kristin. (2017, October 23). China to keep wary watch on Abe’s push to change pacifist constitution. Retreived from http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2116635/china-keep-wary-watch-abes-push-change-pacifist.

[4] Erickson, Andrew. (2016, September 21). Seapower and Projection Forces in the South China Sea. Retreived from https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/seapower-and-projection-forces-south-china-sea.

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Allies & Partners Annie Kowalewski China (People's Republic of China) Christopher Curtin Maritime Option Papers South China Sea United States

Options for the Strategic Goals of the Royal Canadian Navy

Lieutenant(N) Fred Genest is a Naval Warfare Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy and has deployed operationally in HMCS Charlottetown and HMCS Fredericton.  He is currently completing a Master of Public Administration degree while on staff at the Royal Military College of Canada.  He tweets at @RMCNavyGuy.  This article does not represent the policies or opinions of the Government of Canada or the Royal Canadian Navy.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is in the process of recapitalizing its fleet but has not had a significant debate on its strategic goals in decades.

Date Originally Written:  December 19, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 12, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the senior Canadian political and military leadership.

Background:  Successive governments have asserted that Canada must deploy warships overseas to help maintain international security and stability[1].  Despite the RCN’s fleet recapitalization, there has been no debate about the best way to employ its forces.

Current RCN employment is based on history, Cold War thinking, and national myths. Canada sees itself as “punching above its weight” since the Second World War.  In that war, Canada gave control of its forces to the British and American leaders, with disastrous results at home such as the closure of the St. Lawrence seaway.  During the Cold War, Canadian warships deployed with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Standing Naval Forces; this continues in the 21st century.  In its role as a “junior partner” since World War 2, Canada has followed the British and American lead in security and defence, subordinating its national interest to the alliance’s goals.

Significance:  As a sovereign middle power, Canada can set its own strategic priorities[2].  A commitment-capability gap—insufficient units to accomplish designated tasks—has been identified in the RCN since at least the 1964 White Paper on Defence[3].  The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) saw this as normal at the end of the Cold War[4].  A 2013 report[5] stated that Canada would have difficulty meeting its readiness and force posture requirements until well into the 2020s.  Adjusting the current strategy could help reduce the gap.

Option #1:  Maintain the status quo with a medium global force projection navy[6], constant rotations with NATO, and a worldwide presence.

Risk:  With Option #1 the commitment-capability gap could grow.  The Government of Canada (GoC) intends to be prepared to participate in concurrent operations across multiple theatres[7].  However, readiness goals will not be met until the late 2020s[8], perhaps even until the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) project is completed in the 2040s.  Manning is, and will remain, a problem in certain areas like anti-submarine warfare and engineering.

By continuing the historical pattern of letting alliance leaders determine its strategy, Canada is abdicating its responsibility to protect its national interests.

Gain:  There is prestige in being one of the few navies that routinely deploys around the world[9], and RCN ships are recognized by its allies as the “go-to” during operations[10].  Option #1 improves Canada’s standing in the world, especially amongst peer allied nations, and allows Canada to exercise some leadership in international affairs.  This increased leadership role allows Canada to further its interests through diplomacy.

Furthermore, there is a morale-boosting effect in having regular overseas deployments; sailors, like soldiers, are keen to acquire “bits of coloured ribbon.”  In the RCN, this is achieved through overseas operations.  Regular overseas deployments or lack thereof may therefore be a factor in recruitment and retention.

There is also an internal political gain: by highlighting successes abroad, the GoC can raise awareness of the RCN and increase popular support for its foreign policy[11].  This is beneficial to the RCN, as popular support can translate into political pressure to obtain the tools required to achieve its institutional goals.

Option #2:  Downgrade the RCN to a medium regional power projection navy.  Cease overseas deployments except for specific, time-limited United Nations or NATO missions critical for peace or security.

Risk:  No longer routinely deploying internationally would be seen as a loss of prestige, and could lead to a loss of informal diplomatic leadership.

Local operations are often unpopular with sailors, and removing the opportunity to go overseas could lead to a loss of morale, with obvious effects on retention.  Also, one of the main ways Canadian sailors are trained for full-spectrum operations is through workups leading to an overseas deployment, and through multinational exercises while deployed.  Removing those training opportunities could reduce personnel readiness.  Option #2 could also harm the justifications for future, or even current, procurement projects.

Gain:  RCN commitments would be more in line with capabilities.  The GoC’s commitments will continue to be difficult for the RCN to meet in the next decade[12]; reducing the level of commitment would allow the RCN and its allies to plan based on actual capabilities.

Carefully selecting operations as part of Option #2 would also let Canada set its own priorities for its warships.  In recent years, Canadian ships have taken part in operations that were only vaguely related to Canadian interests, such as European Union migrant activities.  Not committing to those operations would free up the RCN to take part in more nationally-relevant operations.

With the CSC, Canada will maintain a full-spectrum capability, and being a medium regional power projection navy does not preclude overseas deployments.  Option #2 would bring Canada in line its European NATO peers, who keep their warships near their own waters, to protect their national interests.

Another challenge for the RCN is its maintenance budget, which is insufficient to meet all requirements. One of the effects is that ships have to swap parts to achieve material readiness and some repairs are left undone due to a lack of parts or available personnel.  Deployments, especially repeated overseas deployments by the same units, are hard on equipment. Reducing the number of overseas deployments under Option #2 would reduce premature failures and maintenance costs.

Other Comments:  Option #2 may not be feasible in the current political climate, but this does not preclude vigorous examination.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Department of National Defence. (2017a). Leadmark 2050: Canada in a New Maritime World. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://navy-marine.forces.gc.ca/assets/NAVY_Internet/docs/en/analysis/rcn-leadmark-2050_march-2017.pdf 
— Leadmark 2050 is a document produced by the Royal Canadian Navy to set its long-term vision beyond its five-year strategic plan. It is a follow-up to the 2001 publication, Leadmark 2020.

[2] Lindley-French, J. (2017). Brexit and the Shifting Pillars of NATO. Retrieved from http://www.cgai.ca/brexit_and_the_shifting_pillars_of_nato

[3] Department of National Defence. (1964). White Paper on Defence. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2012/dn-nd/D3-6-1964-eng.pdf — While it did not call it as such, the concern was evident.
  In Commonwealth countries, White Papers are used to provide information about government policy to parliamentarians and the public.  In Canada, there have been three White Papers on Defence since World War 2: 1964, 1971, and 1994. Major defence policy documents were also released in 1984, 1992 and 2017.

[4] Department of National Defence. (1987). Challenge and commitment : a defence policy for Canada. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2012/dn-nd/D2-73-1987-eng.pdf

[5] Department of National Defence – Chief Review Services. (2013). Evaluation of Naval Forces. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2015/mdn-dnd/D58-33-2013-eng.pdf 
— This document evaluated the RCN’s performance from 2008 to 2013, particularly the ability to generate and employ naval forces as directed by the GoC.

[6] Department of National Defence. (2017a). Leadmark 2050: Canada in a New Maritime World. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://navy-marine.forces.gc.ca/assets/NAVY_Internet/docs/en/analysis/rcn-leadmark-2050_march-2017.pdf

[7] Department of National Defence. (2017b). Strong Secure Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2017/mdn-dnd/D2-386-2017-eng.pdf

[8] Department of National Defence – Chief Review Services. (2013). Evaluation of Naval Forces. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2015/mdn-dnd/D58-33-2013-eng.pdf

[9] Department of National Defence. (2017a). Leadmark 2050: Canada in a New Maritime World. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://navy-marine.forces.gc.ca/assets/NAVY_Internet/docs/en/analysis/rcn-leadmark-2050_march-2017.pdf

[10] Department of National Defence – Chief Review Services. (2013). Evaluation of Naval Forces. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2015/mdn-dnd/D58-33-2013-eng.pdf

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

Canada Fred Genest Maritime Option Papers Strategy

China’s Options Towards the (Re)emerging Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

Adam Ni is a researcher at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University.  His areas of interest include China’s foreign and security policy.  He can be found on Twitter @adam_ni.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China (China) is facing the (re)emergence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad, consisting of the United States, India, Japan and Australia.  The unstated aim of the Quad is to constrain China’s growing power in Asia through possible military and economic cooperation that would raise the cost if Beijing challenges the status quo.

Date Originally Written:  February 28, 2018.

Originally Published:  March 5, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a scholar of China’s foreign and security policy.  The article is written from the point of view of Chinese decision-makers considering policy options in response to the Quad’s challenges.

Background:  The Quad can be traced back to 2007 when diplomatic efforts culminated in a multilateral naval exercise off the Bay of Bengal.  While the countries involved contended that their activities were not aimed at China, it was clear that these activities were largely a response to China’s growing power.  However, the Quad was short-lived with Australia pulling out in February 2008 under Chinese pressure[1].

Recently, the Quad has been revived in the face of an increasingly powerful and assertive China with expanded geopolitical ambitions.  In November 2017, officials from the Quad nations met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in the Philippines and agreed that a “free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” is in the interest of all countries[2].  This meeting was followed in January by the meeting of the Quad navy chiefs at the Raisina Dialogue in India.  During the meeting, Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, characterized China as a “disruptive, transitional force” in the region, and urged Quad nations to take measures against China’s “unilateral ways to change the use of global commons” and uphold “rule-based freedom of navigation[3].”  This sentiment was echoed by the navy chiefs of the other three Quad nations.

Significance:  While it is still too early to tell what the Quad would entail, in theory, it aims to constrain China’s growing power and to ameliorate China’s behavior by altering Beijing’s strategic calculus.  The military dimension of the Quad could take the form of expanded military cooperation that would raise the cost for China to use or threaten the use of force, including in relation to the East and South China Seas.  The economic dimension could take the form of expanded economic and infrastructure cooperation that would compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a grand plan to reshape the world economy with China at the center.

Option #1:  Reassurance.  China continues to emphasize to the Quad nations its intent to develop peacefully through public statements and diplomatic channels.

Risk:  Without pushing back against the Quad, the Quad nations and others in the region may believe that China is unwilling to impose a cost on them for challenging China’s security and economic interests.  This lack of push back may lead to further coalescence of the Quad and may even draw in other states in the region that have become wary of China’s growing power, including those that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Gain:  Option #1 may help to undermine the narrative of an ambitious China with a willingness to adopt coercive means to protect and advance its interests.  This option would strengthen the arguments of domestic forces in the Quad nations that advocate a softer approach in responding to Chinese power.

Option #2:  Punishment.  China applies a high degree of economic and diplomatic pressure on Quad nations to demonstrate the cost of challenging China’s interests and thus deter further challenges.  This option could take the form of economic coercion, formal diplomatic protests, and the downgrading of bilateral cooperation in key fields.

Risk:  Option #2 would strengthen the rationale for the Quad and the argument for constraining China’s power in the first place by demonstrating China’s willingness to adopt coercive measures against those that challenge its interests.  This option may further exacerbate the negative perception of China among the Quad nations, especially where there is already a lively debate about China’s influence (such as in Australia and the United States).  In addition, economic coercion may damage the Chinese economy and in the long run make the target economies less dependent on China.

Gain:  China demonstrating strength and resolve early on may lead to the collapse of the Quad if the Quad nations are not willing to pay the high cost of challenging China’s interests.  For example, Australia is highly dependent on China for trade and investment flows.  The Chinese government could put in place measures to reduce Chinese tourists or students from going to Australia and link these restrictions to Australia’s involvement with the Quad.  Such measures may also deter other regional countries from cooperating with the Quad against China’s interests.

Option #3:  Reassurance and caution.  China continues to emphasize its peaceful intent while also signaling its willingness to impose an economic and political cost on the Quad nations should they continue to challenge China’s interests.

Risk:  Option #3 may not be effective due to a lack of concrete cost imposed on the Quad nations, through, for example, coercive economic measures.  At the same time, the cautioning may be interpreted as an aggressive warning of China’s coercive intent, further exacerbating public anxiety in the Quad nations.

Gain:  This approach may be enough to forestall the further development of the Quad through providing reassurance but also signals China’s resolve to protects its interests.  Option #3’s key benefit is that it does not incur large political or economic cost for China immediately, but hinges Chinese retaliation on further Quad activities.

Other Comments:  The revived Quad is still in the early stages of its development, and it is too early to tell what the Quad would entail.  The above options are presented on the basis that the Quad may involve military and economic dimensions that challenge China’s interests, including its territorial claims in the South China Sea as well as its Belt and Road Initiative.  Given the diversity of strategic interests between the Quad nations in relation to China, there is a likelihood that the Quad will not develop beyond a mechanism for dialogue.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Indrani Bagchi, “Australia to pull out of ‘quad’ that excludes China,” Times of India, February 6, 2008. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Australia-to-pull-out-of-quad-that-excludes-China/articleshow/2760109.cms.

[2] “India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Consultations on Indo-Pacific (November 12, 2017),” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, November 12, 2017. Available at: http://mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/29110/IndiaAustraliaJapanUS_Consultations_on_IndoPacific_November_12_2017

[3] “‘China a disruptive power,’ say navy chiefs of Quadrilateral nations,” Times of India, January 19, 2018. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/china-a-disruptive-power-quad-nations-navy-chiefs/articleshow/62562144.cms.

Adam Ni Australia China (People's Republic of China) India Japan Option Papers United States

Options to Build Local Capabilities to Stabilise the Lake Chad Region

Fulan Nasrullah is a national security policy adviser based in Nigeria.  He currently works for an international research and policy advisory firm.  Fulan tweets at @fulannasrullah and blogs here.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government.


National Security Situation:  Counterinsurgency and stabilisation campaigns in the Lake Chad region.

Date Originally Written:  December 11, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 5, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point Of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a Nigerian National Security Advisor, offering options on the building of key local capabilities in the Lake Chad region to further degrade destabilising non-state armed groups in the region, while fostering stability in the area.

Background:  With the launch of conventional offensives by the Nigerian and Chadian armies in 2015, non-state armed groups in the Lake Chad region and Northeast Nigeria have lost much of the territory which they had earlier captured.  The successes of the regional governments’ conventional offensives have forced the non-state armed groups to return to a heavy emphasis on revolutionary and asymmetric warfare, which the local armies and governments are ill prepared to confront.

The conventional offensive resulted in a situation where local security capabilities, already inadequate, are  increasingly overstretched and worn down, by having to manage multiple security problems over such a wide area.

The Nigerian Army has an estimated 40,000-45,000 combat and support personnel (out of a total 130,000+ personnel) deployed in Northeast Nigeria, in over forty combat battalions.  These include the battalions that make up the in theatre 7 and 8 Divisions, plus those backfilling from 3, 1 and 2 Divisions.  These forces represent the majority of the Nigerian Army’s combat deployable strength, most of whom have been serving a minimum of 2 years of continuous deployment in the Northeast theatre.

However, unlike the much larger Nigerian military, other regional armies involved in this conflict have fewer manpower and material resources to expend.  These less capable forces struggle to combat an insurgency that has proven itself adaptable, and which despite losing conventionally, has sustained itself and progressively gained momentum on the asymmetric front.  The insurgency specifically uses armed groups to offset the disadvantage they suffer in conventional strength, through guerrilla operations, terror, and a heavy focus on information operations and ideological education and propagation targeted at local populations in rural areas.

Weak institutional capabilities, in addition to lack of intelligence and analysis-based understanding of these armed groups, have contributed to multiple conflicting and unrealistic strategies from the regional states, plus enhanced insurgent momentum.

Significance:  United States investment in building local capabilities is a necessity for both the U.S. and Lake Chad regional states, both to degrade active non-state armed groups in the region, and to build, foster, and maintain stability.  Without this investment by the United States, regional states will  be unable to stop the conflict which, though currently at a  strategic stalemate, could turn into a strategic victory for the insurgent groups.

While Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad poses a serious threat to local stability, the Islamic State’s West African Province (ISWAP) is a greater worry for United States’ interests globally and in the long-term.  The power vacuum created by regional states failing to degrade insurgent capabilities[1], thus ceding territory, will create a huge opening for ISWAP and its local affiliates in the Lake Chad, Sahel, and Libyan regions to exploit.  Power vacuums have already been created in the Lake Chad Islands[2], and will be further created as the Nigerian government plans to abandon the rural Borno State[1].

Option #1:  The U.S. invests solely in a kinetic buildup, by establishing a regional infantry and counterinsurgency training centre in Nigeria, in the mold of the Fort Irwin National Training Centre, drawing on lessons the U.S. military learnt in Iraq and Afghanistan, to train local militaries.  A kinetic build up would also involve providing training and funding for more troops and units for the Nigerian and Chadian armies.  These troops would be dedicated to the clearing out of the Lake Chad Islands and areas around the Lake, in addition to training and funding more special operations units with the firepower and mobility necessary to engage in relentless pursuit of insurgents.  Finally, this option would invest in training, funding, and arming already existing local volunteer militia and paramilitary organisations such as the Civilian Joint Task Force in Nigeria, while embedding U.S. advisors with both militia, paramilitary, and regular armed forces units down to the platoon level.

Risk:  Option #1 results in the U.S. de facto owning the war against non-state armed groups in the Lake Chad region.  In the U.S. this owning would lead to deeper engagement in yet another foreign war in an era of President Donald Trump’s “America First,” and increase the risks of more American combat deaths in this region with the accompanying political blowback.  Within the region, Option #1 would increase resistance from local political and military elements who do not want to admit they are incapable of dealing with the crisis themselves, or who may simply be war profiteers not interested in this conflict ending.

Gain:  Option #1 results in the degrading of the military, logistic, and organisational capabilities of ISWAP and Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad and the rolling back of ISWAP’s growing structure in the region.  This degrading and rolling back would place destabilising actors under constant crushing military pressure, increase the tactical performance of local military forces, and use existing volunteer militias to stabilize the government-controlled areas when the conventional military forces depart.  All of the preceding will enable military units to concentrate on offensive operations thus eliminating the ability of global-level actors, e.g. the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, to use bases and ungoverned spaces in the region to attack U.S. interests.

Option #2:  The U.S. invests in a non-kinetic build-up, by helping to establish and expand regional states’ information operations capabilities particularly in electronic warfare, psychological operations, and targeted information dissemination via “Radio-In-A-Box” and other mediums.  Option #2 also includes the U.S. providing training and funding for comprehensive reformations of local intelligence services to create lacking signals intelligence, human intelligence, and intelligence analysis capabilities.  Option #2 will enhance the U.S. Security Governance Initiative programme[3] which seeks to enhance local civil administration capabilities in law enforcement, anti-corruption, and criminal justice, and enhance local capabilities to deliver humanitarian support and government services to communities in the conflict zone.

Risk:  Option #2 reduces emphasis on degrading insurgent capabilities so soft-power efforts are properly funded.  This option would leave the insurgents alone and lead to indirect validation of regional government falsehoods that the insurgents have been defeated and the war is over.  This indirect validation will foster nonchalance and complacency from states of the region, to the strategic advantage of the insurgents. Option #2 will ensure de facto reduction of pressure on the insurgents, which gives room for the insurgents and their external allies to exploit the resultant power vacuum.

Gain:  Option #2 strengthens local governance capabilities, increases civil stability in government controlled areas, and is less expensive, less visible, and shorter term in an era of “America First.”  Option #2 would greatly reduce the risk of American combat deaths.

Other Comments:  None

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Carsteen, Paul and Lanre, Ola. (December 1, 2017) “Nigeria Puts Fortress Towns At Heart Of New Boko Haram Strategy”, Reuters, retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-security-borno/nigeria-puts-fortress-towns-at-heart-of-new-boko-haram-strategy-idUSKBN1DV4GU

[2] Taub, Ben (December 4, 2017), “Lake Chad: World’s Most Complex Humanitarian Disaster”, New Yorker Magazine, retrieved from: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/12/04/lake-chad-the-worlds-most-complex-humanitarian-disaster

[3] Chalfin, Julie E. and Thomas-Greenfield, Linda. (May 16, 2017), “The Security Governance Intiative” PRISM Vol 6. No.4, Center For Complex Operations, National Defense University (US) retrieved from: http://cco.ndu.edu/News/Article/1171855/the-security-governance-initiative/

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Call for Papers: The Pacific

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Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for papers assessing situations or discussing options related to national security interests with a Pacific Ocean nexus.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by April 13th, 2018.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

One of our Strategic Advisors, Dr. Kori Schake, offered the following prompts to inspire potential writers:

– Assess the potential second-order effects of a U.S. preventative strike on North Korea.

– Develop options to compensate for the U.S. losing blue water invulnerability and air superiority in potential conflicts with China.

Our Twitter and Facebook followers offered the following prompts to inspire potential writers:

– Assess U.S. national interests regarding North Korea and their associated intensities.

– What options does the U.S. have regarding North Korea?

– Assess the threat of sea-based missile capabilities.

– What options do countries have to defend against sea-based missile capabilities?

– Assess the threat to freedom of navigation posed by Chinese man-made islands in the Pacific.

– What additional options does China have in a military conflict in the Pacific now that they have built and militarized islands?

– What options does the U.S. have towards the tri border region of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines?

– What options does the U.S. have regarding joint military training with China?

– Assess if a U.S. military-to-military relationship with Japan prior to World War 2 would have impacted the likelihood of war.

– Assess the impact narratives about World War 2 have on today’s security environment.

– What options does the U.S. have to balance its priorities and risk as it shifts away from the Middle East and towards the Pacific?  A specific focus on shifting strategic air assets, munitions, and wartime reserve and prepositioned stocks stocks away from two still active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and partner activities in Yemen is welcome.

Call For Papers Option Papers

Episode 0001: U.S. National Security Strategy (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

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While Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2017, Divergent Options co-founder Bob Hein listened to a lot of podcasts.  Along the way, he asked himself, “Why not a Divergent Options podcast?”

Bob completed his thru-hike and has taken the helm on a new line of effort at Divergent Options, a podcast called The Smell of Victory.

The Smell of Victory podcast debuts with 58 minutes of Phil Walter, Steve Leonard, and Bob Hein discussing the United States National Security Strategy (NSS).  They begin by noting the requirements for an NSS established in 50 U.S. Code § 3043, and then examine the “Strategy in a Regional Context” portion of President Donald Trump’s NSS, which begins on page 45 of the document.  As always, Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  

You can listen via Sticher by clicking here, or iTunes by clicking here.  You can also can listen on our website by clicking play below or download The Smell of Victory to your favorite podcatcher via our RSS feed below.

RSS Feed for The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

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Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?  Options for the U.S. Presence in Syria

Dr. Christopher Bolan has served in Jordan, Tunisia, and Egypt and worked as a Middle East foreign policy advisor to Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney.  He presently teaches and researches national security issues at the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.  He can be found on Twitter @DrChrisBolan.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  


National Security Situation:  U.S. Force Posture in Syria following the strategic defeat of the Islamic State (IS).

Date Originally Written:  February 23, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  February 26, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author writes from the perspective of a seasoned regional analyst focusing on the Middle East.

Background:  The U.S. military battle against IS is nearing completion in both Iraq and Syria.  An intensified U.S. air campaign in support of local ground forces has effectively (and literally) destroyed the physical infrastructure of the so-called IS “caliphate” that at its peak occupied a territorial expanse roughly equivalent to that of Great Britain, extended its brutal authority over 11 million people, and gave it access to annual economic resources estimated at $1 billion[1].  In Iraq, a combination of U.S.-equipped and trained Iraqi security forces fighting alongside a variety of Shi’ia militia groups (some backed by Iran) allowed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to declare victory over IS in early December 2017.  In Syria, Kurdish and Syrian Arab forces enabled by U.S. special operations forces and an aggressive coalition bombing campaign liberated the IS caliphate’s self-proclaimed capital at Raqqa last fall and IS is now largely restricted to the Idlib province.

Significance:  The combined coalition military advances in both Iraq and Syria represent the strategic defeat of IS as a terrorist organization capable of holding territory in the Middle East.  These visible defeats strike at the heart of IS’s claim to leadership of the global jihadist movement.  The destruction of the ‘caliphate’ leaves IS a much diminished and impoverished organization.  Nonetheless, these significant battlefield victories do not entirely eliminate the IS threat as it remains capable of inspiring (if not planning) attacks that threaten regional instability and target Western interests.  In Iraq, a continued U.S. military presence codified through traditional security assistance programs in coordination with the central Iraqi government in Baghdad is virtually a foregone conclusion.  However, Syria presents a different strategic calculus for U.S. policymakers as they weigh options at a time when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to be consolidating his control with the active support of his allies in Moscow and Tehran.

Option #1:  Establish a long-term U.S. military presence in Syria.  U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced in mid-January 2018 that the U.S. “will maintain a military presence in Syria” for an indefinite period of time[2].  In doing so, Tillerson committed the U.S. to achieving an expansive set of strategic objectives that include: ensuring the defeat of IS and al-Qa’ida; diminishing the influence of Iran; facilitating the return of Syrian refugees; advancing a United Nations (UN)-led political resolution to the crisis; and guaranteeing that Syria is free of weapons of mass destruction.

Risk:  The continued presence of the U.S. military in Syria is opposed to one extent or another by virtually every other important actor in Syria including the internationally recognized government of President Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran, and even North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally Turkey.  The proximate defeat of IS and the failure of the U.S. Congress to explicitly authorize U.S. military operations in Syria seriously erodes the international and domestic legal basis for this presence.  More importantly, the actual risk of direct military conflict between the U.S. and any one of these outside actors or their local proxies is real and growing.  In early February 2018, the U.S. conducted defensive strikes killing hundreds of Syrian troops and dozens of Russian contractors.  Meanwhile, the U.S. announcement that it was creating a Kurdish security border force in northern Syria prompted the ongoing Turkish incursion into Afrin that is now threatening a direct military confrontation between a NATO ally and both the Syrian Army and U.S-backed Kurdish militias.  Lastly, Turkish President Recep Erdogan has directly threatened the U.S. with a punitive ‘Ottoman slap’ if the U.S. doesn’t end its support for Kurdish elements or abandon its positions further east in Manbij[3].

Gain:  Russian and Iranian military support to Assad have given him the decisive advantage in the civil war restoring his control over the majority of Syria’s population and key economic centers.  Given this existing reality, an indefinite U.S. military presence in eastern Syria may well be the only concrete leverage that the U.S. has to influence the behavior of the other actors in this crisis.  To accomplish the wide-ranging goals of U.S. strategy as articulated by Tillerson, however, this presence will likely need to maintained or even expanded for the foreseeable future.

Option #2:  Withdraw U.S. military forces from Syria.  The U.S. could use the recent battlefield victories against IS as a justification to declare ‘mission accomplished’ and begin a phased and conditions-based withdrawal of forces from Syria.

Risk:  As Tillerson himself argued, a U.S. withdrawal from Syria could create a security vacuum which IS and other Islamist terrorist groups would exploit to regain a foothold in eastern Syria.  Moreover, with the UN Geneva peace process moribund, the absence of a physical U.S. presence on the ground will leave policymakers with precious little direct leverage to influence the ultimate political or military outcomes in Syria.  This approach also feeds the perception of declining U.S. regional influence and could bolster the reputation of Russia and Iran as reliable partners.

Gain:  U.S. policymakers could use a phased withdrawal as diplomatic leverage to press for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria to include Russia, Iran, and their paramilitary proxies (e.g., Hizbollah, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps).  The scale and timing of the U.S. withdrawal could be explicitly tied to the departure of these other foreign forces, as well as to progress in defeating the remnants of IS.  This would accomplish the two most critical U.S. strategic objectives outlined by Tillerson:  the defeat of IS; and reducing the influence of Iran.  Additionally, such a phased withdrawal would relieve the U.S. of the substantial costs of reconstruction in Syria which is estimated to easily exceed $250 billion[4].  Finally, the prospect of an imminent U.S. military withdrawal would increase pressure on Kurdish elements to come to a workable compromise with both Damascus and Ankara and thereby bolster prospects for a durable political outcome in Syria that enhances regional stability.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] John Feffer, “The Fall of the House of ISIS,” Foreign Policy in Focus, October 25, 2017.  Available at: http://fpif.org/fall-house-isis/.

[2] Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, “Remarks on the Way Forward for the United States Regarding Syria,” Hoover Institute at Stanford University, January 17, 2018.

[3] Bethan McKernan, “Turkish President Erdogan offers US ‘Ottoman Slap’ ahead of Rex Tillerson’s visit to Turkey,” The Independent, February 15, 2018.

[4] UN estimate quoted by Somini Sengupta, “Help Assad or Leave Cities in Ruins?  The Politics of Rebuilding Syria,” The New York Times, December 3, 2017.

Dr. Christopher Bolan Islamic State Variants Option Papers Syria U.S. Army War College Violent Extremism

Assessment of Violent Extremism: The Push of Identity Crisis and the Pull of Ideologies

Linn Pitts holds a B.S. in Marketing/Organization Management and a M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of South Carolina.  He also has studied Public Policy on a graduate level and holds an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Liberty University.  Linn spent a decade in law enforcement prior to transitioning into teaching on a university level.  He presently teaches as an Assistant Professor in the Social Science Department at Shorter University.  He can be found on Twitter @Professor_Pitts and is writing a dissertation on gatekeepers in Countering Violent Extremism programs in the United States.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of Violent Extremism: The Push of Identity Crisis and the Pull of Ideologies

Date Originally Written:  November, 7, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 26, 2018.

Summary:  Successful recruitment of individuals into violent extremist organizations involves a recruiter leveraging the lack of social capital and identity capital to convince the radical-to-be that the organization will meet their needs.  Unless potential recruits have an established identity, resilience to deal with the overtures of recruiters, or have trusted individuals in their life that they can turn for help, the individual will be at risk for recruitment into violent extremist organizations.

Text:  Social Capital involves the problem and the potential solution to violent extremism due to the social identity that is sought by individuals at risk of recruitment for extremist groups.  Robert Putnam[1] identified that social capital aids society via collective action and empowerment.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Lester, Maheswari, and McLain[2] noted that negative influences within family connections can create negative social capital.  In particular, groups that may exhibit extremist tendencies may seem like viable avenues for individuals struggling with identity.  James Côté[3] has further established that a branch of social capital is that of identity capital.  Identity capital is the manifestation of discovering one’s own distinctiveness and plotting their life course.   Therefore, individuals will seek purpose in their life and may turn to extremist movements if they perceive an injustice[4].  Berbrier[5] had previously found that white supremacists will take on a victim identity to exacerbate the sense of injustice of their group’s persona in order to become more attractive to individuals struggling with this aspect in their life.

Ilardi found that recruitment of potential jihadist may not be a top-down recruitment process but it may be more of an individual attraction once introduced to the material such as the messages of radical clerics or videos depicting violence in the defense of religion.  Moreover, Futrell and Simi[6] identified similar activities among white supremacist as occurring at free spaces such as home-based Bible studies, small local bars not frequented by outsiders, or private concerts.  One can easily understand that charismatic leaders may be knowledgeable of these places via organizational ties as noted by Wood[7].  Extremist groups recruit at-risk but willing volunteers, who are seeking purpose in their life.  Though Wood primarily looked at the recruiting methods of the Islamic State, researchers[8] found similar recruiting efforts of white supremacy terror groups.

The key to successful violent extremism recruitment is at-risk individuals and their vulnerabilities such as the following factors discussed by Mitchell[9] while citing Bartlett and Miller, “four often overlooked elements that can move some people toward violent extremism: an emotional impulse to correct an injustice; the thrill of doing something ‘cool’; peer pressure; and attaining a certain status in a hierarchy.”  Three of these, (thrill/cool factor, peer pressure, and status seeking,) directly relate to identity capital as defined by Côté, especially in his discussion of adolescents struggling with the transition to adulthood and identity formation.

Though no apparent correlation to the work of Côté, the emotional impulse concerning an injustice is a view parlayed by Nawaz[10] as he recounted the story of his own radicalization and described the moment of empowerment.  Nawaz’ radicalization occurred while he accompanied his brother and a group of friends when they were accosted by several white nationalists.  He noted his brother mentioned to the white nationalist’s leader that he was carrying a bomb in his backpack [see author’s note].  The incident quickly ended, the white nationalists fled, and Nawaz’s feelings of legitimate identity associated with Islamist ideology.  In this case, it is easy to see Nawaz’s lack of understanding of the radical Islamist ideology, but his nascent view of the identity traits found an appealing association and it related to Côté from the aspect of an altered life-course.  Nawaz and his immigrant family had relocated Essex, England did not feel readily accepted in his transplanted home.  It is not uncommon to find cultural identity struggles faced by second-generation immigrants[11].  In comparison, it may not be limited to strictly struggles faced only by immigrants.  According to Al Raffie[12], “[s]tudies on radicalization find identity to stand at the fore of the radicalization process.  Success partially lies in the radical’s ability to provide the radical-to-be with a distinctive identity[p. 67].”  This identity may be based on an extremist religious ideology or a distinctive worldview such as white nationalism, but the radical-to-be does not fully comprehend the lifestyle they are pursuing and may become indoctrinated because they are seeking the identity.  Consider the life-course of Frank Meeink[13], as he struggled with identity growing up as the product of a broken home, eventually moving in with his father in his preteen years.  Meeink noted that he was constantly harassed/assaulted on the way to school by African-American youth in his South Philadelphia neighborhood.  The turning point for Meeink was a summer with his cousin in a rural area of Pennsylvania that introduced him to white supremacy.  Meeink noted that it made sense to him through the lens of a child that despised African-Americans in his home neighborhood.  It should be further noted this fits Ilardi’s view and that of Lester et al. as identity struggles led to an ideology fit via causal interactions.  Therefore, factors in Nawaz’s radicalization was the result of mistreatment due to his immigrant status akin to Meeink being of a different race in his South Philadelphia neighborhood.  Meeink’s and Nawaz’s story of deradicalization also share similar themes.

In examining societal structures, Cole, Alison, Cole, and Alison[14] cited Munchie’s 1999 work as they discussed that poorly applied preventions may further embolden anti-social identities which was discussed by Mitchell.  The significance of this discussion is that individuals struggling with aspects of self-concept will experiment with different identities and will seek reactions when they sample these new identities such as forms of different dress and customs.  Ultimately, this search leads to a cognitive opening as identified by Carpenter, Levitt, and Jacobson[15] that an extremist recruiter can exploit.  It is further supported by Horgan[16] that individuals joining radical groups do not understand the ideology, but become entrenched in the ideology when isolated from their typical peers.  Therefore, Mitchell’s findings in British Columbia Schools concerning moments where youth were on the fringe of radicalization became teachable moments.  It’s worth noting Mitchell’s respondents felt training concerning bullying and safe school communities offered them the ability to diffuse situations though they had not had formal training on radicalization.

Author’s note:  Some news sources have discredited this personal account by Nawaz, though it is symbolic of his apparent beliefs.


Endnotes: 

[1] Putnam, R. D. [1995]. Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of democracy6[1], 65-78.

[2] Lester, M., Maheshwari, S. K., & McLain, P. M. [2013]. Family Firms and Negative Social Capital: A Property Rights Theory Approach. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management15[1], 11.

[3] Côté, J. E. [2005]. Identity capital, social capital and the wider benefits of learning: generating resources facilitative of social cohesion. London review of education3[3], 221-237.

[4] Ilardi, G. J. [2013]. Interviews with Canadian radicals. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism36[9], 713-738.

[5] Berbrier, M. (2000). The victim ideology of white supremacists and white separatists in the United States. Sociological Focus, 33(2), 175-191.

[6] Futrell, R., & Simi, P. (2004). Free spaces, collective identity, and the persistence of US white power activism. Social Problems, 51(1), 16-42.

[7] Wood, G. (2016). The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State. Random House.

[8] Simi, P., Windisch, S., & Sporer, K. (2016). Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far Right Terrorists Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists.

[9] Mitchell, M. R. [2016]. Radicalization in British Columbia Secondary Schools: The Principals’ Perspective. Journal for Deradicalization, [6], 132-179.

[10] Nawaz, M. [2012]. Radical: My journey from Islamist extremism to a democratic awakening. Random House.

[11] Zhou, M. [2003]. Growing Up American: The challenge confronting immigrant children and children of immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology. 23. 63-95. 10.1146/annurev.soc.23.1.63.

[12] Al Raffie, D. [2013]. Social identity theory for investigating Islamic extremism in the diaspora. Journal of Strategic Security6[4], 67.

[13] Meeink, F. and Roy, J.M. [2010]. An Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story. Hawthorne Books.

[14] Cole, J., Alison, E., Cole, B., & Alison, L. [2010]. Guidance for identifying people vulnerable to recruitment into violent extremism. Liverpool, UK: University of Liverpool, School of Psychology

[15] Carpenter, J. S., Levitt, M., & Jacobson, M. [2009]. Confronting the ideology of radical extremism. J. Nat’l Sec. L. & Pol’y3, 301.

[16] Horgan, J. [2008]. From profiles to pathways and roots to routes: Perspectives from psychology on radicalization into terrorism. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science618[1], 80-94.

Assessment Papers Linn Pitts Psychological Factors Violent Extremism

Assessing Al Suri’s Individual Terrorism Jihadist Against Lone Wolves

Cory Newton served as a Machinegunner in the United States Marine Corps from 1996-2000 and earned a B.S. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics form Eastern Oregon University in 2012.  Cory authored Constitutional Capitalism and Common Defense in 2014 and can be found on Twitter @corynewton78 or on the web at www.corynewton.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Al Suri’s Individual Terrorism Jihadist Against Lone Wolves

Date Originally Written:  December 11, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 19, 2018.

Summary:  Terrorism is a tactic and often results in dead or wounded civilians.  Both individual terrorism jihadists and lone wolves use this tactic.  Despite this tactic producing similar results by whomever uses it, there is a distinct difference between individual terrorism jihadists and lone wolves.  Until governments understand and accept this difference, data related to attacks that use terrorism tactics will be skewed.

Text:  The Global Islamic Resistance Call was published by Abu Mus’ab al-Suri in January 2005[1].  The military theory of the Resistance Call is based on applying two forms of jihad.  The first form is individual terrorism jihad and secret operational activity of small units totally separated from each other.  The second form is participation in jihad at the open fronts wherever the necessary preconditions exist.  The individual terrorism jihadist differs from an open front jihadist in that the individual jihadist is unable to make it to the open front.  The individual terrorism jihadist also differs from the small cell jihadist in that their actions are truly independent.  Individual terrorism jihad was specifically designed to maximize feelings of helplessness of the targeted population by unleashing the innovation, initiative, and creativity inherent in a decentralized structure.

Individual terrorism jihad enables anyone, anywhere, at any time to wage jihad using terrorism without formally being affiliated with a terrorist organization.  All the individual terrorism jihadist must do is be properly motivated to take action in the name of jihad, identify a weakness or vulnerability, and apply force to exploit it.  Although the attacker does not have any direct ties to a terrorist organization, the attacker has rationally chosen to wage jihad using terrorism in a manner which they expect the attack to produce more benefits than costs.

There is a clear distinction between participation in what Al-Suri identified as individual terrorism jihad and lone wolf violent extremists who use terrorist tactics in the name of their cause.

Suppose a person who is inspired by, but not directly affiliated with, any one of the 917 hate groups in the United States identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)[2] carries out a lone wolf terrorist attack.  Despite the violent extremists’ non affiliation with an SPLC-identified hate group, the attack will likely be investigated as an act of terror.

On the other hand, suppose a marginalized person is seduced by an outside of the mainstream Islamist organization.  The person lacks affiliation to a terrorist organization but possess “a resolute, personal decision to perform the individual duty of jihad[1]” which motivates them to conduct an active shooting, knife attack, or vehicular ramming assault in which they verbalize their intentions with an Allahu Akbar war cry.  Despite the attacker’s non affiliation with a terrorist organization, the attack will likely be investigated as an act of terror.

One difference between the two acts of terror described above is that the former is carried out by a lone wolf using terrorism to wage war on a local scale, while the latter is performed by an individual terrorism jihadist locally waging war on a global scale.  The lone wolf who carries out a terrorist attack does not belong to a decentralized military theory of global Islamist resistance, as the individual terrorism jihadist does.  Individual terrorism jihad is similar to an independent franchise.  A lone wolf attack is independent, but usually does not occur within the context of a global resistance movement.

The individual terrorism jihadist and the lone wolf are two different threats.  As terroristic violence that specifically originates from the concept of individual terrorism jihad differs from terroristic violence that originates from the lone wolf, consideration should be given to classifying each differently in order to measure the frequency and severity of individual terrorism jihadist attacks.  If the frequency and severity of terrorist attacks by lone wolves is measured separately, terrorism data will be more accurate.  Both types of terrorist attacks will often have identical consequences.  The carnage wrought by an individual terrorism jihadist may very well be indistinguishable from the carnage wrought by a lone wolf white nationalist or lone wolf ecological extremist.  One is the result of global jihad attacking locally.  The other is a localized attack seeking national media attention.

As individual terrorism jihad and lone wolf attacks continue to increase, it is important properly identify and properly categorize each.  Theodore Kaczynski is the best example of a lone wolf who waged war using terrorism.  The threat posed by a person in that category is significantly different from an individual jihadist locally attacking a variety of soft targets using rifles, blades, explosives, or vehicles in the context of a global resistance movement.

Both individual terrorism jihad attacks and lone wolf attacks will continue to increase and evolve.  In order to combat these attacks in the future it is best if government officials understand whether the terrorist actions are part of global resistance movement or based on a personal or localized motivation.  In the case of individual terrorism jihad, these attacks will continue until the cost far exceeds the benefits.  The U.S. is very effective at determining the amount of force necessary to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.  Unfortunately, the U.S. still has a long way to go in determining the fine line between the amount of force necessary to destroy the enemies’ will to fight, and the amount of force that will galvanize the enemies’ will to resist.


Endnotes:

[1] Lia, Brynjar (2008) Columbia University Press, Architect of Global Jihad, The Global Islamic Resistance Call (Key Excerpts), Military Theory of The Global Islamic Resistance Call, Page 371

[2] Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map

Assessment Papers Cory Newton Information and Intelligence Violent Extremism

The Impact of Extremists in Civil War: Syria’s Shabbiha

Estelle J. Townshend-Denton is a post-graduate student at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.  She is currently working on a Phd on religion and foreign policy.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  The Impact of Extremists in Civil War: Syria’s Shabbiha

Date Originally Written:  December 9, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 12, 2018.

Summary:  Violent extremists frequently emerge when state authority breaks down within civil wars.  Escalatory dynamics are particularly hard to avoid when extremist groups emerge that are embedded in the existing social framework of their identity group.  In Syria the Shabbiha has grown from a trans-border criminal network to sectarian militias fighting for the regime.  The Shabbiha are a significant impediment to the resolution of the Syrian civil war.

Text:  Extremist groups in Syria such as the Shabbiha often emerge from existing social phenomenon.  For instance, prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the Shabbiha were Allawite smugglers and racketeers that primarily operated out of the Allawite heartland in coastal Latakia.  Given the poverty of the Allawite community opportunities were scarce, and Allawite young men saw a way to purchase highly sought after, but banned, Western items in Lebanon, and smuggle them back across the border into Syria.  This smuggling was largely overlooked by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in return for Shabihha loyalty to the Assads[1].

In order to understand the Shabbiha, their place in Syrian society, and their role within the civil war, it is necessary to look into the history of the Allawite sect to which they belong.  The Allawites are a Shia sect whose religion incorporates aspects of Islam, Christianity, Paganism and Zoroastrianism.  The Allawites have been persecuted and marginalised throughout their history.  A Syrian analyst concluded that this persecution has become built into the Allawite identity.  As a result Allawites are highly security conscious[2].

The embattled Assad regime is primarily, but not exclusively, Allawite.  The collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War 1 provided an opportunity for the Allawites to climb out of their position at the bottom most rung of Syrian society to control the state and it’s military.  The Ottoman territory had been divided up between the French and the British.  The French received the mandate for the territory that was to become the state of Syria.  The ruling elite in Syria had been Sunni and they were resistant to French rule.  In order to subdue the Sunni resistors, the French employed a strategy of divide and rule.  Thus the French created a military that consisted of minorities, including the Allawites[3].  Soon, joining the military emerged as the key means for Allawites to climb up the social and economic ladder, and over time they came to dominate the officer class.  Eventually the military emerged as what Horowitz identifies as a “significant symbol of ethnic domination[4].”  Later, Druze and Allawite military leaders staged a coup which ultimately led to the Allawite dominated Assad regime.

Syria was relatively stable under the Assads until the “Arab Spring” of 2011, when the protests sweeping the region spread to Syria.  The regimes of Tunisia and Egypt had already toppled, and most of the world predicted that the Syrian regime would be next.  However, unlike the Tunisian officer class which contributed to the toppling of the Tunisian Government, the Syrian military leadership was heavily invested in the Assad regime.  Furthermore the Assad regime took a lesson from the Egyptian experience and dealt decisively with the protests.  As such, the Assads used the military against the protesters, working to turn the peaceful protests into an armed rebellion.  The regime then developed a narrative that denied the unrest was part of the “Arab Spring” but alternatively asserted it was spawned by external actors and led by Islamist extremists.

Soon the Assad regime faced another problem.  Whilst the Syrian army’s officer class was mostly Allawite, the rank and file was predominantly Sunni.  Sunni were more reluctant to fire on what was emerging as a largely Sunni protest movement.  The regime had Allawite crack units, but they needed to expand the loyal Allawite base of their military capacity through encouraging Allawite civilian participation in the fighting.  One of the ways the Assad regime did this was through the Shabbiha, whose networks were developed and expanded into civilian militias who fought for the Assad regime[5].  Since then, the links between the Assads and the Shabbiha have become increasingly apparent.  The European Union imposed sanctions in 2011 on two of Bashar al Assad’s cousins, Fawwar and Munzir, for their involvement in the “repression against the civilian population as members of the Shabbiha[6].”  According to a relation of the President’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, the expansion of the Shabbiha from a regime linked Allawite criminal network into an extremist paramilitary force loyal to the regime, doing the regime’s dirty work within the civil war, was planned by Makhlouf and the President’s brother Maher al Assad[1].  The presence or absence of gangs of violent fanatics such as the  Shabbiha is described by Ethnic Conflict and International Relations theorist Barry Posen as “a key determinant of the ability of groups to avoid war as central political authority erodes[7].”  Thus the Shabbiha were a significant escalatory dynamic within the Syrian civil war.

Rhetoric from the Shabbiha accessed via the internet is sectarian, brutal, and very loyal to Bashar al Assad with mottos like “Bashar, don’t to be sad: you have men who drink blood[8].”  With a corresponding brutality and sectarianism emerging amongst Sunni Islamist fanatics within the rebellion, the violence and rhetoric of extremists on both sides escalated the civil war.  This brutality and sectarianism worked to strengthen the regime’s legitimacy as protectors of Syria’s minority religious groups against repression from the Sunni majority.  The regime’s reliance on extremist sectarian militias such as the Shabbiha to support the security forces was not only responding to sectarian tension within the unrest but also heightening it[9].

Posen identified that extremists on both sides escalate retaliatory violence and drive up insecurity.  He stated that fanatics “produce disproportionate political results among the opposing group – magnifying initial fears by confirming them….the rapid emergence of organized bands of particularly violent individuals is a sure sign of trouble[7].”  The initial fears resulting from the historical persecution of Allawites under Sunni elites, coupled with fears of revenge on the sect as a whole for the violence of both the Shabbiha and the regime within the civil war, has mobilised the sect in defense of the Assad regime.  What began as a grass-roots protest movement for the removal of the autocratic regime has escalated into a sectarian driven civil war intensified by the violent acts of both the Shabbiha and the Sunni Islamist extremists, to the advantage of the Assads.


Endnotes:

[1] Amor, Salwa and Sherlock, Ruth. How Bashar al-Assad created the feared shabiha militia: an insider speaks. The Telegraph. [Online] March 23, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10716289/How-Bashar-al-Assad-created-the-feared-shabiha-militia-an-insider-speaks.html

[2] Worren, Torstein Schiotz. Fear and Resistance: The Construction of Allawite Identity in Syria. Oslo : University of Oslo, 2007.

[3] Whitman, Elizabeth. The Awakening of the Syrian Army: General Husni al-Za’am’s Coup and Rein, 1949: Origins of the Syrain Army’s Enduring Roel in Syrian Politics. Columbia University. [Online] April 4, 2011.

[4] Horowitz, D.L. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. London : University of California Press, 1985.

[5] Salih, Y. The Syrian Shabbiha and their State. Heinrich Boll Stiftung. [Online] December 21, 2012. http://www.lb.boell.org/web/52-801.html

[6] Flamand, H.M. Syria: Brutally Violent Militaia Member tell it like it is. Global Post. [Online] June 15, 2012. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120614/syria-shabbiha-thug-assad-mafia-guns-smuggling-violence-houla

[7] The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict. Posen, Barry R. 1993, Survival, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 27-47.

[8] Sherlock, H. A. The Shabiha: Inside Assad’s Death Squads. The Telegraph. [Online] June 2, 2012. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9307411/The-Shabiha-Inside-Assads-death-squads.html

[9] Abdulhamid, A. The Shredded Tapestry. Syrian Revolution Digest. [Online] November 9, 2012. https://ammar.world/2012/09/11/the-shredded-tapestry-the-state-of-syria-today/

Assessment Papers Estelle J. Townshend-Denton Illicit Trafficking Activities Syria Violent Extremism

An Assessment of Violent Extremist Use of Social Media Technologies

Scot A. Terban is a security professional with over 13 years experience specializing in areas such as Ethical Hacking/Pen Testing, Social Engineering Information, Security Auditing, ISO27001, Threat Intelligence Analysis, Steganography Application and Detection.  He tweets at @krypt3ia and his website is https://krypt3ia.wordpress.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of Violent Extremist Use of Social Media Technologies

Date Originally Written:  November 9, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 5, 2018.

Summary:  The leveraging of social media technologies by violent extremists like Al-Qaeda (AQ) and Daesh have created a road map for others to do the same.  Without a combined effort by social media companies and intelligence and law enforcement organizations, violent extremists and others will continue to operate nearly unchecked on social media platforms and inspire others to acts of violence.

Text:  Following the 9/11 attacks the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and AQ, the violent extremist organization who launched these attacks, lost ground.  With the loss of ground came an increase in online activity.  In the time before the worldwide embrace of social media, jihadi’s like Irhabi007 (Younis Tsouli) led AQ hacking operations by breaking into vulnerable web pages and defacing them with AQ propaganda as well as establishing dead drop sites for materials others could use.  This method was pioneered by Irhabi007, who was later hunted down by other hackers and finally arrested in 2005[1].  Five years after Tsouli’s arrest, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) established Inspire Magazine as a way to communicate with its existing followers and “inspire” new ones[2].  Unfortunately for AQAP, creating and distributing an online magazine became a challenge.

Today, social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, VKontakte, and YouTube are now the primary modus for jihadi extremists to spread the call to jihad as well as sow fear into those they target.  Social media is perfect for connecting people because of the popularity of the platforms and the ease of use, creation of accounts, and ability to send messages that could have a large audience.  In the case of Daesh, they use Twitter and YouTube as their primary means of messaging not only for fear but also command and control as well as recruitment.  Daesh sees the benefits of using social media, and their use has paved the way for others.  Even after Twitter and YouTube began to catch on and act against the Daesh accounts, it is still easy still for Daesh to create new accounts and keep the messages flowing with a new user name followed by a digit.

AQ’s loss of terrain combined with the expansion of social media set the conditions for movement toward inciting the “far war” over the local struggle as AQ saw it before Osama bin Laden was killed.  In fact, the call to the West had been made in Inspire magazine on many occasions.  Inspire even created a section of their magazine on “Open Source Jihad” which was later adopted by Dabiq[3] (Daesh’s magazine), but the problem was actually motivating the Western faithful into action.  This paradigm was finally worked out in social media where recruiters and mouthpieces could, in real-time, talk to these potential recruits and work with them to act.

Online messaging by violent extremist organizations has now reached a point of asymmetry where very little energy or money invested on the jihadi’s part can produce large returns on investments like the incident in Garland Texas[4].  To AQ, Daesh, and others, it is now clear that social media could be the bedrock of the fight against the West and anywhere else if others can be incited to act.  This incited activity takes the form of what has been called as “Lone Wolf Jihad” which has caused several incidents like the Garland shootings to current day events like the attack in New York City on the bike path by Sayfullo Saipov, a green card holder in the U.S. from Uzbekistan[5].

With the activating of certain individuals to the cause using the propaganda and manuals put out by the jihadi’s on social media, it is clear that the medium works and that even with all the attempts by companies like Facebook and Twitter to root accounts out and delete them, the messaging still gets to those who may act upon it.  The memetic virus of violent extremism has a carrier and that is social media.  Now, with the advent of social media’s leveraging by Russia in the campaign against the U.S. electoral system, we are seeing a paradigm shift into larger and more dangerous memetic and asymmetric warfare.

Additionally, with the advent of encryption technologies to the social media platforms the net effect has been to create channels of radicalization, recruitment, and activation over live chats and messages that cannot be indicted by authorities easily.  This use for encryption and live chats and messages makes the notion of social media as a means of asymmetric warfare even more prescient.  The jihadis now have not only a means to reach out to would be followers, but also a constant contact at a distance, where before they would have to radicalize potential recruits a physical location.

Expanding this out further, the methodologies that the jihadi’s have created and used online are now studied by other like-minded groups and can be emulated.  This means that whatever the bent, a group of like-minded individuals seeking extremist ends can simply sign up and replicate the jihadi model to the same ends of activating individuals to action.  We have already started to see this with the Russian hybrid warfare at a nominal level by activating people in the U.S. such as neo nazi’s and empowering them to act.

Social media is a boon and a bane depending on it’s use and it’s moderation by the companies that create the platforms and manage them.  However, with the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech in the U.S., it is hard for companies to delineate what is free speech and what is exhortation to violence.  This is the crux of the issue for companies and governments in the fight against violent extremism on platforms such as YouTube or Twitter.  Social media utilization boils down to terms of service and policing, and until now the companies have not been willing to monitor and take action.  Post Russian meddling in the U.S. election though, social media company attitudes seems to be changing.

Ultimately, the use of social media for extremist ideas and action will always be a problem.  This is not going away, and policing is key.  The challenge lies in working out the details and legal interpretations concerning the balance of what constitutes freedom of speech and what constitutes illegal activity.  The real task will be to see if algorithms and technical means will be helpful in sorting between the two.  The battle however, will never end.  It is my assessment that the remediation will have to be a melding of human intelligence activities and technical means together to monitor and interdict those users and feeds that are seeking to incite violence within the medium.


Endnotes:

[1] Katz, R., & Kern, M. (2006, March 26). Terrorist 007, Exposed. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/25/AR2006032500020.html

[2] Zelin, A. Y. (2017, August 14). Inspire Magazine. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://jihadology.net/category/inspire-magazine/

[3] Zelin, A. Y. (2016, July 31). Dabiq Magazine. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://jihadology.net/category/dabiq-magazine/

[4] Chandler, A. (2015, May 04). A Terror Attack in Texas. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/05/a-terror-attack-in-texas/392288/

[5] Kilgannon, C., & Goldstein, J. (2017, October 31). Sayfullo Saipov, the Suspect in the New York Terror Attack, and His Past. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/nyregion/sayfullo-saipov-manhattan-truck-attack.html

 

Al-Qaeda Assessment Papers Cyberspace Islamic State Variants Scot A. Terban Violent Extremism

An Assessment of the Conceptualizing of Charisma / Persuasion and Coercion

Dr. Michael Warstler has served in the United States Navy from 2008 to Present and has worked as an adjunct professor and task manager for the Department of Defense.  He recently completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Leadership from the University of the Cumberlands and successfully defended a dissertation addressing group psychological abuse experienced in fundamental religious organizations.  He can be found on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-warstler-908805109.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Conceptualizing of Charisma / Persuasion and Coercion

Date Originally Written:  December 4, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January, 29, 2018.

Summary:  Charismatic leaders embody personalized qualities that allow them to influence followers – oftentimes, in the case of destructive leaders, at the detriment of the follower.  Coercion occurs when a threat against an individual is levied in exchange for obedience and submission[1] and the influencing of an individual through various techniques to perform a task that he or she would normally not want to do[2].

Text:  Le Bon[3] wrote that it is not all that difficult for inspiring leaders to persuade individuals if their needs are being fulfilled and if they are ready to sacrifice self-interest for their “happiness.”  Coercion, on the other hand, requires that a charismatic leader leverage social elements against the better judgment of the individual – oftentimes through manipulation.  Sandberg and Moreman write that charisma is a relationship where followers typically transfer control and accountability to the leader “often in a worship-like manner[4].”  Being that charisma, in itself, is intrinsically morally neutral; instances of abuse of authority are derived when either party in the relationship is given too much influence over the other.

Coercion and persuasion are noted as the forces at work in the conceptualization of the nature of power in relationships.  Coercion, as noted by Hartshorne is the “power to determine every detail of what happens in the world,” and persuasion is the power to “significantly influence the happenings in the world[5].”  Ultimately, coercion and persuasion remain intrinsically neutral until employed for good or evil ends; but both are grounded in the nature of power.  Referring to the individual perspective of charismatic attribution from followers to leaders, if the individual has a perspective of empowerment as coercive, he or she will typically conceive any form of influence as “coercion.” While if he or she has a perspective of empowerment in terms of “love” or “compassion” then he or she might view such empowerment as “persuasion[6].”

Coercion, as noted by famed cult researcher Robert Lifton, is when a threat against an individual is levied in exchange for obedience and submission[7].  It is saying “obey, or else” – the threat of “or else” might be “anything from death to social ostracism, any form of physical or emotional pain[8].”  With any form of non-rational imbalance of authority also comes an imbalance in individual responsibility[9].  A deficit in individual responsibility allows the controlling leader to make the primary decisions for the subservient follower.  While the follower is given a semblance of control over his or her own decisions and well-being, bullying has been known to occur in imbalanced leader-follower relationships from the subtle to the more blatant and grotesque[10].

Power is a central theme in the process of coercive and persuasive influence.  “Leadership” in itself, is a process of influencing and mobilizing individuals towards the attainment of a collective goal.  It is important, then, to differentiate between leadership as a positive attribution of social influence[11] where followership is voluntary, and abuse of authority, “where followers are coerced into compliance or obedience[12].”  A charismatic leader might passively persuade an individual that a course of action is in his or her best interest, while the coercer might leverage some form of threat against the individual in order to force them into compliance.

Coercion is the “despot’s ideal of power[13].”  It involves the coercer and the coerced – and the outcome typically resembles a diminished freedom and responsibility of choice on part of the coerced. Or as Reichard notes “a violation that most would argue, at least in practical terms, is a moral violation[14].”  In a leader-follower relationship where a significant imbalance of power is granted to the leader to “adjust the psyche” of his or her followers (oftentimes masked as the attainment towards a collective goal), such influence could just as easily be abused to fulfill the motives of the respective leader.  This dilemma, as noted by Ciulla[15] has been aptly named the “Hitler problem.”  It is posited by Tourish and Pinnington, could a “Hitler,” then, be viewed as a transformational leader?  If so, could one that displays these characteristics also be grouped in the same category with those perceived as moral leaders such as Gandhi or Mother Teresa[16]?

Hitler, Mao, and Stalin are case examples of individuals that displayed high levels of charisma as well as a lack of morality and a focus on idealized influence.  Such individuals often influence followers to negatively pursue destructive ends[17].  Research has identified two forms of charismatic leadership, socialized and personalized[18].  The socialized leader focuses on the needs and service to others in the group, while the personalized leader focuses on his or her own needs[19].  A personalized leadership approach often results in magnetism towards the fulfillment of the leader’s own needs vice that of the collective group[20].  Such actions are often self-serving and any doubt of loyalty to the group and its leadership are highly discouraged[21].

While doubt and resistance to authority within these groups certainly occurs, coercion and persuasion are key methods employed by abusive charismatic leaders in order to influence individuals to obtain a “converted” mindset[22].  Oftentimes when “converted” individuals may relinquish his or her resistance to doubt and submit to authority, he or she may become more liable to display the most zealous characteristics and become the most vocal proponents “aligned with the belief system chosen for them by powerful others[23].”  In the instance of Saul’s conversion to Paul in the Book of Acts, one might find that the most zealous resistors to change are also the most likely proponents once converted.  Coercion and persuasion, when employed effectively, can evolve into a “discursive system of constraint” that is often highly difficult to challenge and resist even if one considers themselves to be a “strong-willed” individual[24].


Endnotes:

[1] Lifton, R. J. (1961). Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China. Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing.

[2] Tourish, D., Collinson, D., & Barker, J. R. (2009). Manufacturing conformity: Leadership through coercive persuasion in business organisations. M@n@gement, 12(5), 360-383.

[3] Le Bon, G. (1917). The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.

[4] Sandberg, Y., & Moreman, C. M. (2015). Common threads among different forms of charismatic leadership. Journal of Religion and Business Ethics, 3(1), p. 13.

[5] Hartshorne, C. (1984). Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, p. 11.

[6] Reichard, J. (2014). Relational empowerment: A process-relational theology of the spirit- filled life. Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, 36(2), 226-245, p. 231.

[7] Lifton, R. J. (1961). Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China. Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing, p. 438.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Sandberg, Y., & Moreman, C. M. (2015). Common threads among different forms of charismatic leadership. Journal of Religion and Business Ethics, 3(1).

[10] Samnani, A., & Singh, P. (2013). When leaders victimize: The role of charismatic leaders in facilitating group pressures. Leadership Quarterly, 24(1), 189-202.

[11] Shamir, B. (1999). Taming charisma for better understanding and greater usefulness: A response to Beyer. The Leadership Quarterly, 10, 555-562.

[12] Tourish, D., Collinson, D., & Barker, J. R. (2009). Manufacturing conformity: Leadership through coercive persuasion in business organisations. M@n@gement, 12(5), 360-383, p. 362.

[13] Hartshorne, C. (1984). Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, p. 12.

[14] Reichard, J. (2014). Relational empowerment: A process-relational theology of the spirit- filled life. Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, 36(2), 226-245, p. 231-232.

[15] Ciulla, J. (1995). Leadership ethics: Mapping the territory. Business Ethics Quarterly, 5, 5- 28.

[16] Tourish, D., & Pinnington, A. (2002). Transformational leadership, corporate cultism and the spirituality paradigm: An unholy trinity in the workplace? Human Relations, 55(2), 147-172, p. 149.

[17] Vann, B. A., Coleman, A. N., & Simpson, J. A. (2014, September). Development of the Vannsimpco Leadership Survey: A delineation of hybrid leadership styles. SBS Journal of Applied Business Research, 3, 28-38.

[18] Howell, J. M., & Shamir, B., (2005). The role of followers in the charismatic leadership process relationship and their consequences. The Academy of Management Review, 30, 96-112.

[19] Howell, J. M. (1988). Two faces of charisma: Socialized and personalized leadership in organizations. Charismatic Leadership: The Elusive Factor in Organizational Effectiveness. (pp. 213−236). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[20] Lussier, R. N., & Achua, C. F. (2013). Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development (6 ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.

[21] Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

[22] Tourish, D., Collinson, D., & Barker, J. R. (2009). Manufacturing conformity: Leadership through coercive persuasion in business organisations. M@n@gement, 12(5), 360-383.

[23] Ibid, p. 364.

[24] Ibid.

Assessment Papers Dr. Michael Warstler Leadership

An Historic Assessment of the Role and Participation of Women as Active Agents in Violent Extremist Organizations

Brandee Leon is a freelance analyst of counter-terrorism and international relations, focusing on terror in Europe.  She frequently covers women in terrorism.  She has been published in Business Insider, The Strategy Bridge, and The Eastern Project. She can be found on Twitter at @misscherryjones.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Historic Assessment of the Role and Participation of Women as Active Agents in Violent Extremist Organizations

Date Originally Written:  December 4, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 22, 2018.

Summary:  Despite their continual portrayal as being exploited by violent extremist organizations, women have actually been active agents for decades. From purveyors of propaganda and operational support, to participating in combat and suicide missions, women have been involved in the anarchist campaigns of the turn of the century, the anti-colonial fights in the mid-century, and the current wave of religious-based terrorism.

Text:  “Women as victim” is a common narrative, told for ages. Its current form is manifested in stories of “jihad brides,” those women and girls supposedly lured to Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State. That narrative fails to capture the reality of the role of women in the Islamic State, or any other terrorist or violent extremist group. The real story is that women have been playing an active role in these groups for over a century.

In the late 1800s, an anarchist group founded in Russia, Narodnaya Volya, planned assassinations of state officials and other political persons. One of the group’s leaders was a woman named Vera Figner. Figner helped organize the underground, as well as help plan attacks. Several other women were involved in the group’s activities. A member named Anna Yakimova helped construct bombs, and Figner’s own home was used as a workshop[1]. Several other women played active roles in Narodnaya Volya’s plots. Narodnaya Volya’s influence lived on, most notably in the Paris terror campaign in the 1880s[2]. That campaign included the participation of many women.

Throughout the Twentieth Century, women would play prominent roles in violent extremist groups all over the world. During the Algerian War, women featured prominently, planting bombs for the National Liberation Front (FLN) during the Battle of Algiers. Djamila Bouhired[3] planted a bomb in a café which killed 11 people in 1957. Hassiba Ben Bouali was killed alongside other FLN militants during a French bombing raid. Perhaps the most well-known female militant in Algeria was Zohra Drif. Drif was very active in the anti-colonial independence movement, gathering support, running the underground, and planting bombs.

Germany’s Red Army Faction (RAF), also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group, was co-founded in 1970 by a woman named Ulrike Meinhof. During the group’s first two years, Meinhof participated in numerous robberies and bombings. Although Meinhof was captured in 1972, she was not the only woman active in RAF’s twenty-plus yearlong campaign. Verena Becker was imprisoned in 1977 for criminal involvement, but later released. She was also convicted in 2012 for a murder committed during her time with RAF.

Women’s roles in violent extremist groups took a new direction when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) began using women as suicide bombers in their bid for independence. In Sri Lanka, women were second-class citizens, but LTTE women were viewed as equals, having roles in military leadership, and even having their own divisions. Women were trained and participated in all areas of combat, and like their male counterparts, were given the title of martyr[4].

In the late 1990s, Germany saw another terror campaign in which a woman played a role. Between 1998 and 2011, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Nazi group, was responsible for ten murders, three bombings, and 15 bank robberies. Though the German prosecutors say the group only comprised of three members – Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt, and a woman, Beate Zschäpe – others say they have ties to neo-Nazi groups all over Germany. Zschäpe, the only surviving member of NSU, has admitted to arson, but is accused of aiding in the robberies and murders. Before turning herself in, she set fire to an apartment in order to destroy evidence[5].

The insurgency in Chechnya during the First and Second wars produced some of the most well-known women as active agents. Women from the North Caucasus were responsible for over 30 suicide bombings in Russia between 2000 and 2010. Women were also participants in the Dubrovka Theater and Beslan School sieges[6]. Their actions have not been limited to Chechnya; a Dagestani woman is thought to have blown herself up in Istanbul in 2015.

Since al-Qaeda’s inception, women have played an active role. Many women in al-Qaeda have conducted surveillance, run propaganda accounts in order to recruit, and some have even conducted operations themselves. On November 6, 2005, a Belgian woman named Murielle Degauque strapped on a suicide belt and detonated herself near a U.S. Army patrol in Baquba, Iraq. Sajida al Rishawi attempted to detonate a suicide belt in Amman, Jordan. Sajida was the first woman of al-Qaeda arrested. And in December 2015, Tashfeen Malik, along with her husband, committed an act of terror in San Bernardino, California. Malik was inspired by both al-Qaeda and Islamic State[7].

As the Islamic State faces military defeat in Iraq and Syria, the roles the women are playing as supporters are evolving. Previously, women had participated in online propaganda campaigns, and in policing other women as part of the Al-Khansaa and Umm Al-Rayan brigades[8]. But in September 2016, a group of French women guided by the Islamic State were intercepted before they could carry out a bombing plot in Paris[9]. There have even been reports of Islamic State women as suicide bombers, but as of this writing, nothing has been confirmed.

Throughout the decades, women have played an active role in violent extremist organizations. Their roles have varied from organization to organization, and the ideology spans the spectrum. One thing is certain, women as violent extremists does not seem to be a phenomenon that will disappear any time soon.


Endnotes:

[1] John Simkin, “Vera Figner,” http://spartacus-educational.com/RUSfigner.htm, (accessed November 2017)

[2] John Merriman, The Dynamite Club (Boston New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)

[3] Ali Adeeb Alnaemi (translator), “Djamila Bouhired: A Profile From the Archives,” http://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/27072/Djamila-Bouhired-A-Profile-From-the-Archives

[4] Mia Bloom, Bombshell (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011)

[5] Antonia von der Behrens, “The NSU Case in Germany,” https://www.nsu-watch.info/2017/03/the-nsu-case-in-germany/, (accessed November 2017)

[6] Brandee Leon, “The Curious Case of Russia: History and Russia’s Female Suicide Bombers,” https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2014/4/16/the-curious-phenomenon-of-russia-history-russias-female-suicide-bombers, (accessed November 2017)

[7] Brandee Leon, “The Roles Women Play: al Qaeda and Islamic State,” https://misscherryjones.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/the-roles-women-play-al-qaeda-and-islamic-state/, (accessed November 2017)

[8] Brandee Leon, “Women and the Islamic State,” https://wordpress.com/posts/misscherryjones.wordpress.com, (accessed December 2017)

[9] Souad Mekhennet and Joby Warrick, “The jihadist plan to use women to launch the next incarnation of ISIS,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-jihadist-plan-to-use-women-to-launch-the-next-incarnation-of-isis/2017/11/26/e81435b4-ca29-11e7-8321-481fd63f174d_story.html, (accessed November 2017)

Assessment Papers Brandee Leon Violent Extremism Women

Assessment of the Factors Leading to the Recruitment of Violent Extremists

Jason Baker is an Officer in the United States Air Force, with a recent deployment supporting the fight against the Islamic State.  Jason is also an M.A. candidate at American University’sSchool of International Service.  He can be found on Twitter @JasonBakerJB.  All opinions in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official positions of the United States Department of Defense or United States Air Force.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Factors Leading to the Recruitment of Violent Extremists

Date Originally Written:  December 3, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 15, 2018.

Summary:  Governments traditionally focus counterterrorism efforts on intelligence, kinetic capabilities, and enhanced domestic security policies.  Neglected still, and likely why terror attacks persist, is governments understanding the forces that motivate people to join violent extremist organizations in the first place.  Unfortunately, a marriage between counterterrorism efforts and the study of socioeconomic equality, may still be far off.

Text:  Terror attacks around the world continue to occur with a regularity that has made them a seemingly normal part of life.  As such, the response to, and prevention of, such attacks is a topic regularly covered by journalists, news anchors, and security experts.  These analyses usually focus on the need for intelligence to identify terrorists, the use of kinetic capabilities to target terrorists, and enhanced domestic security policies to prevent and protect against attacks.  While the majority of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy focuses on these three areas, terror attacks persist.  An area of study that continues to be neglected is that which seeks a better understanding of where recruits for violent extremist organizations come from and why they join, so that policy to prevent people from being radicalized in the first place can be made.  The biggest drivers of extremist propaganda and recruitment are not a religious message, but income inequality, social resentment, and unstable governments or refugee situations.

Income inequality is a growing problem throughout the world.  So much so that in 2015 the World Economic Forum ranked rising income inequality as the world’s top priority[1].  The economically disenfranchised develop strong feelings that can often turn into anger and resentment about their situation, which can drive a need for revenge when they feel they have no power to change the status quo.  Such an income equality situation creates favorable conditions for violent extremist organizations to win new recruits and operate[2].

Similar to feeling economically disenfranchised, many extremist recruits come from the ranks of the socially ostracized.  To be certain, this is not to say those who just “don’t fit in” (although that can contribute) to society, but those that are marginalized by their government or large parts of their society.  This socially ostracized population could be migrants in a new land who are not afforded the chance to assimilate into society (as seen in Europe) or religious or ethnic minorities in states with hard-line governments (Sunni majorities being governed by Shia hardliners and vice versa).  Sometimes ostracism even metastasizes into something as awful as the situation in Myanmar where many Rohingya feel as though they are left with almost no option other than to attack the government.

The greatest of all these factors that leads to terror recruitment are failed states and refugee situations.  In violent, lawless places like Syria the group that can offer a better way of life whatsoever is often the one that is joined.  Violent extremist organizations such as the Islamic State offer services and security in exchange for committing to their cause.  A similar situation is seen in Yemen.  These failed states create refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) situations that can become breeding grounds for violent extremist recruiting.  Violent extremist organizations have their choice of recruiting tactics when dealing with refugee camps and IDPs.  Some violent extremist organizations offer food and cash in exchange for joining, and some offer a message of hope and promise of revenge to those angry about their situation.  The situation then feeds itself.  While anything from failed states to climate change can cause refugee and IDP situations, violent extremism is clearly becoming a more important factor in driving people from their homes.  In Iraq, the pre-2003 Christian population of 1.5 million is estimated to have dwindled to 400,000, while over half a million of Syria’s 1.8 million Christians have been displaced[3].  Elsewhere, there are in excess of 2.5 million displaced in Yemen[4] and over 600,000 in Myanmar[5].   The humanitarian reasons for solving the displaced persons crisis the world faces are evident, but it is also a dire security issue.

All of these are problems the world needs to address individually, for their own specific reasons, but also because they create fertile grounds for violent extremist organization recruitment.  There is not often a lot of cross over between those who care deeply about countering violent extremism, and those who care about socioeconomic equality.  Connecting the two together however, can bring more urgency to the issue of fighting violent extremist organization recruiting with more problem solvers at the table.  Policy and decision makers who focus on the drivers of violent extremism organization recruitment may be able to go further than intelligence, kinetic capabilities, and policies that enhance domestic security have thus far.


Endnotes:

[1] The Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015. World Economic Forum. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://reports.webforum.org/outlook-global-agenda-2015/

[2] Seaver, B. M., Hyman, G. F., Toft, M. D., & McCarthy, D. (2015, September 1). The National Interest. This Is Why Global Income Inequality Is a Real National-Security Threat. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://nationalinterest.org/feature/why-global-income-inequality-real-national-security-threat-13747

[3] Koser, K. (2016, July 29). IDPs, Refugees, and Violent Extremism: From Victims to Vectors of Change. The Brookings Institute. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2015/02/20/idps-refugees-and-violent-extremism-from-victims-to-vectors-of-change/

[4] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) – Norwegian Refugee Council. (2015, December 31—updated May 2016). Yemen IDP Figures Analysis. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://www.internal-displacement.org/middle-east-and-north-africa/yemen/figures-analysis

[5] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) – Norwegian Refugee Council. (2017, September 28). How many internally displaced Rohingya are trapped inside Myanmar? Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://www.internal-displacement.org/library/expert-opinion/2017/how-many-internally-displaced-rohingya-are-trapped-inside-myanmar

Assessment Papers Economic Factors Jason Baker Violent Extremism

An Australian Perspective on Identity, Social Media, and Ideology as Drivers for Violent Extremism

Kate McNair has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology from Macquarie University and is currently pursuing her a Master’s Degree in Security Studies and Terrorism at Charles Sturt University.  You can follow her on Twitter @kate_amc .  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  An Australian Perspective on Identity, Social Media, and Ideology as Drivers for Violent Extremism

Date Originally Written:  December 2, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 8, 2018.

Summary:  Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) is a leading initiative by many western sovereigns to reduce home-grown terrorism and extremism.  Social media, ideology, and identity are just some of the issues that fuel violent extremism for various individuals and groups and are thus areas that CVE must be prepared to address.

Text:  On March 7, 2015, two brothers aged 16 and 17 were arrested after they were suspected of leaving Australia through Sydney Airport to fight for the Islamic State[1].  The young boys fouled their parents and forged school letters.  Then they presented themselves to Australian Immigration and Border Protection shortly after purchasing tickets to an unknown middle eastern country with a small amount of funds and claimed to be on their way to visit family for three months.  Later, they were arrested for admitting to intending to become foreign fighters for the Islamic State.  October 2, 2015, Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar, 15 years old, approached Parramatta police station in Sydney’s West, and shot civilian police accountant Curtis Cheng in the back[2].  Later it was discovered that Jabar was inspired and influenced by two older men aged 18 and 22, who manipulated him into becoming a lone wolf attacker, and supplied him the gun he used to kill the civilian worker.

In November 2016 Parliament passed the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016 and stated that “Keeping Australians safe is the first priority of the Turnbull Government, which committed to ensuring Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the tools they need to fight terrorism[3].”  More recently, the Terrorism (Police Powers) Act of 2002 was extensively amended to become the Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Police Powers and Parole) Act of 2017 which allows police to have more powers during investigations and puts stronger restrictions and requirements on parolees when integrating back into society.  Although these governing documents aim at honing in on law enforcement and the investigation side of terrorism efforts, in 2014 the Tony Abbot Government implemented a nation-wide initiative called Living Safe Together[4].  Living Safe Together opposed a law enforcement-centric approach and instead focused on community-based initiatives to address the growing appeal of violent extremist ideologies in young people.

Levi West, a well-known academic in the field of terrorism in Australia highlighted that, in the cases of the aforementioned individuals, they have lived there entire lives in a world where the war of terror has existed.  These young men were part of a Muslim minority and have grown up witnessing a war that has been painted by some as the West vs Islam.  These young men were influenced by many voices between school, work, social events, and at home[5].  This leads to the question on whether these young individuals are driven to violent extremism by the ideology or are they trying to find their identity and their purpose in this world.

For young adults in Australia, social media is a strong driver for violent extremism.  Young adults are vulnerable and uncertain about various things in their life.  When people feel uncertain about who they are, the accuracy of their perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes, they seek out people who are similar to them in order to make comparisons that largely confirm the veracity and appropriateness of their own attitudes.  Social media is being weaponised by violent extremist organizations such as the Islamic State.  Social media, and other communicative Peer-to-Peer sharing platforms, are ideal to facilitate virtual learning and virtual interactions between young adults and violent extremists.  While young adults who interact within these online forums may be less likely to engage in a lone wolf attack, these forums can reinforce prior beliefs and slowly manipulate people over time.

Is it violent extremist ideology that is inspiring young individuals to become violent extremists and participate in terrorism and political violence?  Decentralized command and control within violent extremist organizations, also referred to as leaderless resistance, is a technique to inspire young individuals to take it upon themselves, with no leadership, to commit attacks against western governments and communities[6].  In the case of the Islamic State and its use of this strategy, its ideology is already known to be extreme and violent, therefore its interpretation and influence of leaderless resistance is nothing less.  Decentralization has been implemented internationally as the Islamic State continues to provide information, through sites such as Insider, on how to acquire the materiel needed to conduct attacks.  Not only does the Islamic State provide training and skill information, they encourage others to spread the their ideology through the conduct of lone wolf attacks and glorify these acts as a divine right.  Together with the vulnerability of young individuals, the strategy of decentralized command and control with the extreme ideology, has been successful thus far.  Based upon this success, CVE’s effectiveness is likely tied to it being equally focused on combating identity as a driver for violent extremism, in addition to an extreme ideology, and the strategies and initiative that can prevent individuals to becoming violent extremists.

The leading strategies in CVE have been social media, social cohesion, and identity focused.  Policy leaders and academics have identified that young individuals are struggling with the social constraints of labels and identity, therefore need to take a community-based approach when countering violent extremism.  The 2015 CVE Regional Summit reveled various recommendations and findings that relate to the use of social media and the effects it has on young, vulnerable individuals and the realities that Australia must face as a country, and as a society.  With the growing threat of homegrown violent extremism and the returning of foreign fighters from fighting with the Islamic State, without programs that address individual identity and social cohesion, violent extremism will continue to be a problem.  The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have designated Community Liaison Team members whose role is to develop partnerships with community leaders to tackle the threat of violent extremism and enhance community relations, with the AFP also adopting strategies to improve dialogue with Muslim communities. The AFP’s efforts, combined with the participation of young local leaders, is paramount to the success of these strategies and initiatives to counter the violent extremism narrative.


Endnotes:

[1] Nick Ralston, ‘Parramatta shooting: Curtis Cheng was on his way home when shot dead’ October 3rd 2015 http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/parramatta-shooting-curtis-cheng-was-on-his-way-home-when-shot-dead-20151003-gk0ibk.html Accessed December 1, 2017.

[2] Lanai Scarr, ‘Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said two teenage brothers arrested while trying to leave Australia to fight with ISIS were ‘saved’’ March 8th 2015 http://www.news.com.au/national/immigration-minister-peter-dutton-said-two-teenage-brothers-arrested-while-trying-to-leave-australia-to-fight-with-isis-were-saved/news-story/90b542528076cbdd02ed34aa8a78d33a Accessed December 1, 2017.

[3] Australian Government media release, Parliament passes Counter Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill No 1 2016. https://www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/Mediareleases/Pages/2016/FourthQuarter/Parliament-passes-Counter-Terrorism-Legislation-Amendment-Bill-No1-2016.aspx Accessed December 1, 2017.

[4] Australian Government, Living Safer Together Building community resilience to violent extremism. https://www.livingsafetogether.gov.au/pages/home.aspx Accessed December 1, 2017.

[5] John W. Little, Episode 77 Australian Approaches to Counterterrorism Podcast, Covert Contact. October 2, 2017.

[6] West, L. 2016. ‘#jihad: Understanding social media as a weapon’, Security Challenges 12 (2): pp. 9-26.

Assessment Papers Australia Cyberspace Islamic State Variants Kate McNair Social Media Violent Extremism

Playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi”

Ian Wilkie is an American lawyer and terrorism expert living outside of New York City.  Wilkie has lived in Europe, Asia, and Africa and speaks multiple foreign languages.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Army (Infantry), completed French Foreign Legion commando training, and graduated from Vassar College and Tulane Law School.  Wilkie lived in South Asia post-9/11 where he conducted research and has been a consultant and advisor to two U.S. government agencies.  He has also worked for two of the three largest law firms in the world and has served as general counsel to hedge funds.  Wilkie possesses a deep knowledge of terrorist strategy and is currently working on a book called “Checkmate: Jihad’s Endgame.”  Follow Wilkie on Twitter @Wilkmaster.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi”

Date Originally Written:  December 5, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 1, 2018.

Summary:  U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter[1] and Ronald Reagan[2] aligned the U.S. with jihadists in Afghanistan against Russia and later gave weapons to Salafi-jihadis allied with Osama Bin Laden[3].  Less than 20 years later, Al Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon.  Presently the U.S. is bogged down in Syria and continues to make the foreign policy mistake of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi.”

Text:  The United States has been fitfully fighting Muslim-majority countries since shortly after the founding of the nation.  President Thomas Jefferson saw enough of a piracy and kidnap threat to mobilize the Navy and newly formed Marine Corps and deploy them to Africa[4].  Centuries later, the use of violence against civilians is a hallmark of Islamist extremists.  Informed by Islamist interpretations of ample examples in scripture (Qu’ran[5] and Hadith[6]), religious “holy warriors” find it easy to commit atrocities and justify them on perceived religious grounds.  Some clerics support this violence, and some have even gone so far as to condone the use of nuclear[7] and biological[8] weapons against “infidels” based their interpretation of sacred texts.  The violence of these Islamist actors, whether on 9/11 or in Europe, Africa, or the various countries of the Middle East today, is not in doubt.  The history of violence associated with the Islamist jihad (“struggle”) to convert the world to Islam is rife with examples of massacres and forced conversions[9].  Put bluntly, the blood lust of these violent Islamists is not even an open question, yet the U.S. still works with some of the extremists, while trying to kill others.

Afghanistan in the decade from 1979-1989 saw the U.S. advance a strategy of opposing Russia without fighting Russia directly.  The U.S., primarily the Congress and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), believed that Russia could be bloodied and beaten if the “right” people were given the right weapons, clandestinely.  To this end, close ties were forged between the CIA and jihadists and Salafi-jihadis who believed in pedophilia, polygamy, and the liberal application of violence against civilians, including religious minorities.  America knew what Osama bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar stood for, yet we still worked with them according to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” theory of geopolitics[10].  On September 11, 2001, America and the world learned the true dangers of allying with Islamist religious zealots: they may kill U.S. enemies, but they will never be U.S. allies.  Islamist religious zealots answer to their God and no one else, regardless of which faith they profess.

The cold, realpolitik calculus that the CIA made in Afghanistan to work with jihadists and Salafi-Jihadis may have hastened the break-up of the Soviet Union, but it also hastened the end of America’s moral leadership in the eyes of the world.  When these “good” jihadis the U.S. once armed and trained utilized tactics from World War 2[11] against American buildings, the American response was telling: the Saudi allies and sponsors of violent jihad were permitted to leave the U.S., no questions asked[12].  The softball investigation of official Saudi ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 reflected yet another Machiavellian choice by Washington; the oil money and strategic advantage of remaining allied to the bandit Kingdom[13] outweighed any practical considerations of justice for the victims.  The Saudi departures and lackluster investigation were a clear case of vested interests and money overwhelming U.S. morality and yet, almost two decades later, the survivors and the almost 3,000 dead still demand justice.

America’s reaction to 9/11 consisted of removing the Afghan Taliban from power, but not eliminating their base of support in Pakistan, their illicit drug networks, or their financial backing across the Sunni Muslim world.  The American response largely ignored the fundamentalist horrors of the Afghan Taliban’s behavior towards women, children, and minorities and focused only on which “externally focused” terrorists they were giving refuge to.  Rather like its 180° shift on Osama Bin Laden, the U.S. went from bombing the Afghan Taliban to inviting them to peace talks, in effect treating them like normal people and not the barbarians that they are.  In 2017, the U.S. is still open to sitting across the table from “men” who rape little boys[14] as a matter of honor and shoot schoolgirls in the face[15] as a point of pride, which is moral capitulation of the very worst kind.

Shifting to Syria, we encounter the most egregious examples of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi” that the U.S. has ever engaged in.  The fact that the CIA was willing to advance the fiction that foreign fighters from Sunni theocracies were anything but jihadis shows you how gullible and uninformed they believe Americans are[16].  From an ethical point of view, there is no such thing as a “moderate” Sunni foreign insurgent in Syria and there never will be.  Syria is another example of the U.S. trying to advance a larger goal (oppose Shia Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) by making a moral compromise and allying with malign forces.  In Syria, the U.S. has sent entire warehouses full of weapons to some of the most suspect killers on the planet[17].  For example, U.S. antitank missiles have been used by “friendly, moderate rebels” to attack medevac missions and even journalists[18].  Jihadis that the U.S. knows, and possibly trained[19], have used chemical weapons dozens of times in that conflict[20].  That the insurrection in Syria failed is largely due to the fact that Islamist jihadis don’t fight in lanes; they fight everyone and especially each other.  The U.S. continues to arm “bad” jihadis, as there is no such thing as a “good” jihadi, and the results speak for themselves.


Endnotes:

[1] Brzezinski, Zbigniew (Interview). “How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen” https://www.counterpunch.org/1998/01/15/how-jimmy-carter-and-i-started-the-mujahideen/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2107).

[2] Kaplan, Fred. “Reagan’s Osama Connection” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2004/06/reagans_osama_connection.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[3] Harnden, Toby. “Taliban still have Reagan’s Stingers” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/1357632/Taliban-still-have-Reagans-Stingers.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[4] Hitchens, Christopher. “Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates” https://www.city-journal.org/html/jefferson-versus-muslim-pirates-13013.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[5] Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. “Islam Is a Religion of Violence” http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/09/islam-is-a-religion-of-violence-ayaan-hirsi-ali-debate-islamic-state/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[6] Anonymous. “1.B Violence in Hadith Books” https://islamreligionofwar.wordpress.com/1b-violence-in-hadith-books/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[7] Tobey, William & Zolotarev, Pavel. “The Nuclear Terrorism Threat” https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/nuclearterrorismthreatthailand2014.pdf (p.10, Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[8] Gunaratna, Rohan & Pita, René. “Revisiting Al-Qa`ida’s Anthrax Program” https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/revisiting-al-qaida’s-anthrax-program (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[9] Konrad, Mike. “The Greatest Murder Machine in History” http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/05/the_greatest_murder_machine_in_history.html (Accessed 5 December 2017).

[10] Coll, Steve (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin, pp. 125-128.

[11] Editor, Military History Now. “One Way Ticket – Japan’s Kamikazes Weren’t the Only Suicide Pilots of WW2” http://militaryhistorynow.com/2014/03/17/one-way-ticket-japans-kamikazes-werent-the-only-suicide-pilots-of-ww2/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[12] Sperry, Paul. “Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup” https://nypost.com/2013/12/15/inside-the-saudi-911-coverup/ (Accessed 24 Nov 2017).

[13] Zakaria, Fareed. “Saudi Arabia: The devil we know” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/saudi-arabia-the-devil-we-know/2016/04/21/2109ecf6-07fd-11e6-b283-e79d81c63c1b_story.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[14] Agence France-Presse. “Male rape and paedophilia: How Taliban uses ‘honey trap’ boys to kill Afghan police” http://www.firstpost.com/world/male-rape-and-paedophilia-how-taliban-uses-honey-trap-boys-to-kill-afghan-police-2837546.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[15] Johnston, Ian. “Malala Yousafzai: Being shot by Taliban made me stronger” https://www.nbcnews.com/news/other/malala-yousafzai-being-shot-taliban-made-me-stronger-f6C10612024 (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[16] Mazzetti, Mark, Goldman, Adam & Schmidt, Michael S. “Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/middleeast/cia-syria-rebel-arm-train-trump.html (Accessed 4 Dec 2017).

[17] Sanger, David E. “Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[18] Russia Today. “US anti-tank TOW missile used in attack on RT journalists in Syria” https://www.rt.com/news/323810-us-missile-journalists-attack-syria/ (Accessed 5 Dec 2017).

[19] Adl-Tabatabai, Sean. “State Dept: US-Backed Forces Executed Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria” http://yournewswire.com/state-dept-us-forces-chemical-weapons-syria/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[20] “State Dep. Admits Opposition in Syria Has Chemical Weapons”
https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/State-Dep.-Admits-Opposition-in-Syria-Has-Chemical-Weapons-20171020-0006.html (Accessed 24 Nov 2017).

Allies & Partners Assessment Papers Ian Wilkie Islamic State Variants Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States Violent Extremism

Call for Papers: Africa

True Size of Africa.jpg

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Africa.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by February 16th, 2018.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Thoughts from our Twitter Followers to Inspire Potential Writers:

What countries in Africa are hot spots for friction between the United States and the People’s Republic of China?

Does the construction of ports in Kenya drag all of Africa’s wealth to one part of the continent?  If so, what are the impacts?

Assess the performance of United States Africa Command.

Assess the impact of activities conducted by large corporations in Africa.

Describe options to combat human trafficking and slavery in Africa.

Describe options to address famine in Africa.

If cryptocurrencies are utilized by unbanked populations in Africa, what will the impact be to the global economy?

Can the G5 Sahel group counter threats in West Africa?

Assess the status of Islamist terrorists from the Horn of Africa to West Africa.

Are clandestine or covert programs conducted in Africa by third countries a stabilizing or destabilizing force?

Assess the impact of fishery development in Somaliland.

Assess the strategic implications of water security, e.g., the stand-off over the Ethiopian hydroelectric dam on the Nile.

What strategic planning efforts does United States Africa Command need to undertake to be more effective in its mission?

Assess the national security implications of wildlife exploitation in Africa.

Assess the current impact of France’s actions and inactions related to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Africa Call For Papers

Assessment on the Revised Use of Afghan Militias

Suzanne Schroeder is an independent analyst.  She can be found on Twitter @SuzanneSueS57, and on Tumblr.  She is currently working on a long-term project on school poisonings in Afghanistan and has previously written for War on the Rocks.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Date Originally Written:  November 27, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 25, 2017.

Summary:  A new plan is under consideration by the Afghan Government to transform the Afghan Local Police into an Afghan Territorial Army.  While this transformation contributes to the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, without proper oversight, the Afghan Territorial Army could be co-opted by regional strong men.

Text:  The number of U.S. and North American Treaty Organization troops currently in Afghanistan is insufficient to carry out U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy.  This strategy has multiple parts involving an increased use of air power, employing Special Operations Forces in more ambitious ways, and a constant fight to reverse Taliban gains and prevent the Taliban from securing additional territory.  Additionally, there is a counter-terrorism part of the U.S. mission, which unilaterally focuses on containing/defeating the Islamic State-Khorasan Province[1].

On November 19, 2017, The Guardian newspaper reported that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani is currently considering a U.S. proposal to restructure the Afghan Local Police into the Afghan Territorial Army, modeled after the Indian Territorial Army[2].  The Guardian also reported that the proposal would start with 1,000 men, and possibly reach 20,000, over two years[3].  This proposal has raised numerous concerns with human rights groups, including the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, that fear any new iteration of the militia system will revive the serious abuses that the militias have been accused of in the past ranging  from child sexual abuse to extra judicial killings.  As global attention shifts away from Afghanistan, increased misuses of power are a concern.

If one types the word “arbakis,“ the Pashto world that generally means militias, into the search field on the Taliban’s alemarah website the result is 81 pages where the term is used.  Despite the deceptions and exaggerations that often appear in Taliban propaganda, the negative opinions regarding militias allow the Taliban to gain political capital by exploiting the distrust of these groups based on their records of abusive practices towards civilians.  If this anti-militia narrative did not produce some benefit for the Taliban, it is doubtful they would continue to adhere to it so closely.

The plans to form an Afghan Territorial Army are an attempt to provide a second-line defense against Taliban gains.  The Taliban understand that repeated attacks on military and police targets accomplish the goal of psychological intimidation.  For anyone who may be considering joining the Afghan National Security Forces, the awareness of how often security forces are targeted is a strong deterrent.  Taliban attacks on police and military targets have become increasingly ambitious, complex, and deadly.

The war in Afghanistan is both regionally strategic, and a micro-level conflict driven by local concerns.  All regional players have their own motives for involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan, whether related to security concerns (containing the Islamic State for both Russia and Iran, as an example), or economic opportunities, as in the case with India and the People’s Republic of China.  Also involved are the ever-complex machinations of Pakistan and its security services.  Concurrently, there are numerous local competitions for resources, favors, development projects, drugs, and all other commodities.  These conditions have allowed local powerbrokers, most of whom have connections to the Afghan National Unity Government, to consolidate their power and establish local fealties, policed by militias.  The idea that an Afghan Territorial Army would not be co-opted in some fashion by regional strong men seems dangerously naïve.  Afghan Territorial Army units might also be used as conduits for influence from other regional actors.  There is no reason why Russia, who already assists the Taliban with small arms and a fuel supply scheme[4], wouldn’t seek to co-opt the Afghan Territorial Army.  Any establishment of an Afghan Territorial Army must also take into account the shifting of alliances, which have been so characteristic of this conflict.

A critical part of the counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan includes the avoidance of another civil war, such as the devastating one that followed the Soviet departure in 1989.  While the continuation of Western aid would seem to prevent this outcome, it’s still a danger that existing conditions can be worsened by sectarianism, social inequality, and the ever-present corruption, that is too entrenched to be effectively combated.  The establishment of an Afghan Territorial Army that is unregulated and operates outside of an accountability structure, would further fuel declining social and political cohesion.  Combined with abuses, and little or no means of redress, Afghan hostilities may be directed at the Afghan National Unity Government, which ironically is greatly lacking in “unity.”  The inability of Afghans to redress the actions of an unregulated Afghan Territorial Army would ensure the Taliban gains support.  One way to preempt this inability of redress is to truly model the Afghan Territorial Army after the Indian Territorial Army, which is subordinated to the Indian Army to ensure proper oversight.

An Afghan Territorial Army with sufficient oversight, including maintaining an accurate inventory of its weapons and equipment, could contribute towards the U.S. strategic goal of recapturing territory from the Taliban (80% back in Afghan government control, after two years), and sufficiently degrading Taliban capabilities to make negotiations seem a reasonable option[5]. While this strategic goal is lofty, a narrower tactical goal could be an Afghan Territorial Army that succeeds in addressing the localized nature of the conflict and offsets the high level of desertions, among other problems that plague the Afghan National Army.

Any future development of the Afghan Territorial Army will require a functioning, sustainable system of oversight, and an awareness of consequences that could potentially damage U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, thus strengthening support for the Taliban.  If the U.S. is invested the creation of an Afghan Territorial Army, then Afghan partners must be willing to adhere to mutually agreed upon guidelines for its employment and oversight, and due care must be taken to evaluate both the potential successes and failures of this type of program throughout its life.


Endnotes:

[1] Author interview, with The Guardian’s Kabul correspondent, Sune Engel Rasmussen, September 11, 2017.

[2] Rasmussen, S. E. (2017, November 19). UN concerned by controversial US plan to revive Afghan militias. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/19/afghanistan-militias-us-un-diplomats

[3] Ibid.

[4] Loyd, A. (2017, November 11). Afghanistan: the war that never ends. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/afghanistan-the-war-that-never-ends-mchjpgphh

[5] Stewart, P., Ali, I. (2017, November 20).  U.S. General Sets Two-Year Goal for Driving Back Afghan Taliban.  Retrieved November 27, 2017, from www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-11-20/us-general-sets-two-year-goal-for-driving-back-afghan-taliban

Afghanistan Assessment Papers Irregular Forces Suzanne Schroeder Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States

Assessment of the Trump Administration’s Communications with the “Muslim World”

Jason Criss Howk conducted defense, intelligence, diplomatic, and education missions for the U.S. Government focusing on Afghanistan and Muslim cultures for 23 years.  He now teaches, writes, and speaks nationally to decrease anti-religious bigotry.  He shares a variety of information on Twitter @jason_c_howk and at dispatchesFromPinehurst.com. His award-winning book is The Qur’an: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Trump Administration’s Communications with the “Muslim World”

Date Originally Written:  December 10, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 18, 2017.

Summary:  Fear of Muslims is irrational. Prohibiting a discussion of Islam’s relationship to modern terrorist groups is too. The continuing success of terror recruiting reveals their ideology is a center of gravity, but you cannot shoot an ideology. You have to expose its flaws and turn people against it. One must use the correct terminology when you speak or it empowers terrorists. This is where the Trump Administration has taken 3-steps forward but 1-step back.

Text:  Fear of Muslims is irrational.  Prohibiting a discussion of Islam’s relationship to modern terrorism is too.  President George W. Bush took America into a War on Terrorism[1], President Barack Obama shifted to countering violent extremism[2].  Both stated correctly that America was not at war with Islam.  While acknowledging the importance of countering a terrorist’s ideology[3], neither slowed the spread of violent radical Islamist or khawarij ideologies used to recruit.  Not talking about Islam and its relationship to terrorism has likely contributed to increasing bigotry against Muslims and damaged America’s ability to decrease recruiting.

The number of nations plagued by terrorists has increased, despite America’s excellence at hunting terrorists.  The continuing success of recruiting hints that their ideology is the likely center of gravity.  You cannot shoot or “drone”[4] an ideology.  You have to understand it, expose its flaws, argue about it, and turn people against it thus ensuring the world understands that violent radical Islamism (separate from the religion of Islam) is a failed political ideology causing death and destruction is critical.

Incorrect terminology further empowers mankind’s enemy.  Here the Trump Administration has improved since the campaign yet occasionally stumbles.   President Trump should listen to his advisors that have operated in the “Muslim World,” listen to solid Muslim allies, and only use precise language that helps Muslims to separate violent radicals from society.  President Trump loses ground when he echoes false experts or bigots that push him to use “alpha-male” language that sounds tough, but makes it more difficult for Muslims to stanch the bloodshed.

Not all terrorists are Muslim and not all Muslims are terrorists; only ignorant people believe otherwise.  So, put the straw-man argument aside that says explaining the role of Islam in modern terrorist propaganda will cause anti-Muslim hatred.  The majority of the deadliest terrorists think they are the most pious Muslims in the world.  Their first murder victims were likely Muslims that they deemed “not Muslim enough for them;” (an old khawarij concept).  Most terrorism victims since 2001 were Muslim. It’s illogical not talk about Islam in relation to modern terrorism.

I have spent almost three years leading talks about the religion of Islam, the political ideology of Islamism, and the khawarij or “violent radical Islamist” ideology used by terrorists.  A few things were made clear to me–often angrily.  First, the American people never felt Bush or Obama understood the enemy.  Second, they felt that neither was able to explain a logical strategy for victory.  Finally, audiences felt the Presidents failed them by not talking about how Islam, Islamism, and terrorist ideologies are connected and disconnected.  Americans felt the Presidents believed their citizens were too stupid to have a discussion about Islam.

Instead of civilly talking about Islam and how terrorists can use some parts of the Qur’an to attract fighters to their cause, previous presidents presented straw-man arguments about why they should or would not discuss Islam.  At my discussions, it takes 45 minutes for people who have never studied Islam to grasp this entire concept.  After Bush and Obama, a third president cannot underestimate the intelligence and curiosity of the American people.

If the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia can talk about extreme interpretations of Islam[5] and its relationship to many terrorist groups, and the King of Jordan can succinctly label our enemy as Khawarij[6] using terminology from Islam’s history, the American President can have a straightforward conversation about the topic.

America’s terminology should not drive a wedge between the U.S. and our Muslim allies.  Our language should help Muslims drive a wedge between the khawarij butchers and possible recruits and supporters of this deadly cause.

America can’t use words that help our enemy by complementing murderers or lumping them in with hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims.

Violent radical Islamists want to be called mujahedeen, jihadis, and Muslims.  The word jihad in the Qur’an means to struggle or strive nobly with all your person and wealth in the way of God.  A parallel in Catholicism is the system of sainthood.  Only the most selfless Catholics following God’s path to help others are sainted.  Similarly, in a religious sense, only the best among Muslims should be called mujahedeen (jihadis) which means someone who has performed true jihad.  The word is only used about 14 times in the Qur’an and should be returned to its religious context and taken away from butchers and human rights abusers.  You can’t make jihad into a negative term in a religious sense; so, don’t use it at all.

Instead, insult and brand these violent radical Islamists.  Use the term butcher, murderer, terrorist, khawarij, violent Islamist, loser, Islamist ideologue, distorter or corruptor of Islam, people ignorant of the Qur’an, disgraces, or betrayers of God.

Don’t call violent radical Islamists Muslims or use any negative modifiers in front of the word Islam or Muslim.  These corruptors have left Islam and should be a disgrace to their families.  “Islam” and “Muslims” are both positive words in the Islamic world.  Attaching “Radical” to it is often viewed to mean the entire religion or all Muslims are radical and therefore evil.

Every generation of violent radical Islamist butchers seems to form faster, become more radicalized, kill more gruesomely, and think they are more pious.  The world must stop this trend.

President Trump (obviously not an Islamic scholar) has asked his team and America’s allies to talk clearly about extreme interpretations of the Qur’an and the ideology used by our enemies.  His Riyadh speech[7] was pointed, and by mostly using correct terminology, supported a change[8] that is already underway[9] in the Muslim world.  Start this same discussion in America and ensure that violent radical Islamists and the people who sponsor and provide top-cover for the modern-day Khawarij are exposed and shut down.  Help decrease bigotry towards Muslims.

The world should applaud organizations like this Kuwaiti business[10] that honestly confronted those who purposely misinterpret the Qur’an to justify murder.  All governments should be this brave and clear.

Education won’t end terrorism, but it will impact the long-term fight against Islamist inspired terrorists.  No problem ever improved by refusing to fully examine it and honestly talk about it.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Government (2003, February) National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism, retrieved December 11, 2017,  https://www.cia.gov/news-information/cia-the-war-on-terrorism/Counter_Terrorism_Strategy.pdf

[2] U.S. Government (2011, June) National Strategy for Counterterrorism, retrieved December 11, 2017, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/counterterrorism_strategy.pdf

[3] U.S. Government (2006, September) National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism, retrieved December 11, 2017, https://fas.org/irp/threat/nsct2006.pdf

[4] Friedersdorf, Conor (2016, December 23) Obama’s Weak Defense of His Record on Drone Killings, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/president-obamas-weak-defense-of-his-record-on-drone-strikes/511454/

[5] Chulov, Martin (2017, October 24) I will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam, says crown prince, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/24/i-will-return-saudi-arabia-moderate-islam-crown-prince

[6] Jordan Times (2015, June 11) Nothing treats Islam with more contempt than Khawarij actions — King, retrieved December 11, 2017 http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/nothing-treats-islam-more-contempt-khawarij-actions-—-king

[7] U.S. Government (2017, May) President Trump’s Speech in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://dispatchesfrompinehurst.com/2017/05/22/howks-notes-of-president-trumps-speech-in-saudi-arabia/

[8] Bergen, Peter (2017 September 27) Saudi women driving a sign bigger change is coming, retrieved December 11, 2017 http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/27/opinions/symbolism-of-saudi-women-driving/index.html

[9] IRNA, (2017 October 29) Iranian woman appointed first ever no. 2 at Oil Ministry, retrieved December 11, 2017 http://www.irna.ir/en/News/82712122

[10] Zain Mobile (2017 May 26) Anti-Terrorism Video for Ramadan 2017, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U49nOBFv508

Assessment Papers Jason Criss Howk Trump (U.S. President) United States Violent Extremism

Assessment of the Lone Wolf Terrorist Concept

Linda Schlegel holds a BA in Liberal Arts from the University College Maastricht (NL) and an MA in Terrorism, Security and Society from King’s College London (UK).  Her main topics of interest are radicalization, the role of identity in extremism, and societal resilience.  She can be found on Twitter at @LiSchlegel.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Lone Wolf Terrorist Concept

Date Originally Written:  November 12, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 11, 2017.

Summary:  The label “lone wolf” is attached easily to an individual attacker by politicians and the media, but must be used with care.  These actors do not perceive themselves as acting alone, but as part of a group.  This group is increasingly found in the virtual realm, begging the question of whether traditional notions of membership in terrorist groups is still a valid indication of whether an attack was perpetrated by a lone wolf or not.

Text:  In recent years, the phenomenon of so-called lone wolf terrorism has increased with more and more attacks perpetrated by single actors.  Lone wolf attacks occur in the context of multiple ideological frameworks and are not confined to a single group or system of belief.  The Islamist attack in Nice, France, in 2016 was just as much the work of a lone actor as the atrocities perpetrated by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011.  While governments and the media are quick to attach the label lone wolf to a single perpetrator, one needs to ask what this concept actually entails.  Individuals do not exist in a vacuum and one should not make the mistake of equating the reference to lone action to objective isolation or disengagement from society at large.  It needs to be discussed what the label actually says about the perpetrator, how the perpetrator views himself, and whether there can be lone wolves in the age of global connectivity through social media.

Politically, the concept lone wolf is used to reassure the public and communicate that the danger is no longer immanent.  Academically as well as practically, the concept entails more than this reassurance[1].  Following ideas put forward by Ramon Spaaje in 2010, a lone wolf terrorist can be defined as a person who “operates individually, does not belong to an organized terrorist group or network and whose modi operandi are conceived and directed by the individual without any direct outside command or hierarchy[2].”  Therefore, there are two conditions which need to be fulfilled in order to classify someone as a lone wolf.  Firstly, the individual perpetrating an attack cannot have formal membership in a terrorist organization or be part of a network of terrorists.  This does not mean that the lone actor needs to be completely innovative in his ideology or actions.  In fact, radicalization is often driven by organizations disseminating propaganda and terrorists learn from each other even if they belong to very different ideological backgrounds.  Breivik, for instance, took inspiration from Al-Qaeda for his attacks[3].  But lone wolves cannot be recognized members of organizations and take action on behalf of this group.  Secondly, the individual must have planned, prepared and executed the attack without operational support from others and without direct orders to do so.  While seemingly straightforward, these criteria are increasingly difficult to apply in today’s circumstances.

Sociologist Max Weber postulated in his writings that in order to understand a social phenomenon, it is not enough to judge it from the outside, one must put oneself in the shoes of the social actor.  Do lone wolves view themselves as lone wolves?  Most of the time, the answer is no.  Terrorists are rarely motivated by nihilism, they are motivated by altruism[4] and take action on behalf of a group.  Islamist terrorists often claim to act in defense of the ummah, the global community of Muslims, and right-wing extremists on behalf of the white race, the nation or, as Breivik, on a self-composed category such as “Nordic Europeans.”  Lone wolves do not view themselves as lone wolves; precisely the contrary holds true.  Lone wolves often perceive themselves as part of a heroic avant-garde seeking to protect a larger group of people.  It is important to understand that lone wolf is a label attached to an individual by external forces not the actor himself.  One could argue that this by itself does not render the above-mentioned criteria invalid, as objectively the individual was acting alone, regardless of whether he or she believes to belong to an organization or take action on behalf of a group or not.  Membership in groups and “acting alone,” however, are concepts increasingly difficult to apply in a world where terrorist organizations increasingly organize virtually through social media.

What does it mean to “belong to an organized terrorist group or network[5]” when groups of all ideological backgrounds are increasingly organizing in the virtual sphere[6]?  Online, thousands of people access, view, read, comment on and engage with extremist content disseminated by terrorist groups.  Individuals can feel strongly about the virtual community and construct their individual identity in relation to the collective online movement[7].  A network can now refer to a virtual social network spanning the globe with various degrees of real-life and virtual involvement with the organization.  In the age of clicktivism, the notion of membership in a terrorist organization is increasingly less straightforward.  Is it feasible to consider somebody to be a lone wolf if this person was an active member of an online network run by an organized group even if he or she perpetrated the attack alone?  Facilitating lone actor attacks has become part of deliberate strategies of extremist organizations[8] and attacks sometimes represent hybrids between lone actor and “normal” terrorist action.  For example, during the recent attacks in Germany, the attacker was continuously in contact with members of the so-called Islamic State through instant messaging applications[9], including receiving encouragement and practical hints.  Can a case like this still be considered lone wolf terrorism?

Terrorism is constantly evolving and the concept of lone wolf terrorism is not as unambiguous as it might have seemed previously.  Social media has changed the way membership in violent organizations can be conceptualized and calls into question how alone lone wolves really are in the age of instant virtual communication. The lone wolf concept needs to be reevaluated and adapted to changed circumstances.  Should these actors be regarded as peripheral members of terrorist organizations?  How can we conceptualize those that followed general calls for action, but executed attacks individually?  Can we understand some individuals as “remote-controlled” by official members of terrorist organizations?  Currently, there are more questions than answers on the content and validity of the lone wolf concept, but we should be alert and aware that the external conditions have changed, and old responses may not be appropriate anymore to present-day lone actor terrorism.


Endnotes:

[1] For an overview see Ellis, C., Pantucci, R., de Roy van Zuijdewijn, J., Bakker, E., Gomis, B., Palombi, S. and Smith, M. (2016). Lone-Actor Terrorism: Final Report. Royal United Service Institute: London
https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/201604_clat_final_report.pdf

[2] Appleton, C. (2014). Lone wolf terrorism in Norway. The International Journal of Human Rights. Vol. 18 (2), pp.127-142
See also Spaaij, R. (2010). The Enigma of Lone Wolf Terrorism: An Assessment. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. Vol. 33 (9), pp. 854-870

[3] Borchgrevink, A. (2012). A Norwegian Tragedy: Anders Behring Breivik and the Massacre on Utoya. Cambridge: Polity Press

[4] Atran, S. (2010). Talking to the enemy: Violent Extremism, sacred values, and what it means to be human. Penguin Books: London

[5] Appleton, C. (2014). Lone wolf terrorism in Norway. The International Journal of Human Rights. Vol. 18 (2), pp.127-142

[6] Garcia, F. (9/3/16). White nationalist movement growing much faster than ISIS on Twitter, study finds. The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/white-nationalist-movement-twitter-faster-growth-isis-islamic-state-study-a7223671.html

[7] Berntzen, L.E. and Sandberg, S. (2014). The Collective Nature of Lone Wolf Terrorism: Anders Behring Breivik and the Anti-Islamic Social Movement. Terrorism and Political Violence. Vol 26 (5)., pp.759-779

[8] Burke, J. (6/15/16). Islamist terror has evolved toward lone actors- and it’s brutally effective. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/15/islam-jihad-terrorism-orlando-shooting-paris-attack

[9] Joscelyn, T. (2016). Terror Plots in Germany, France Were ‘remote-Controlled’ by Islamic State Operatives. FDD’s Long War Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/terror-plots-in-germany-france-were-remote-controlled-by-islamic-state-operatives.php

Assessment Papers Linda Schlegel Violent Extremism

Writing Contest Winners

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During a 70 day period from July 26th to October 4th, we ran our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  We received four entries in two different categories.  The winners are as follows:

First Place in the category of Most Disruptive is Adam Yefet for his article Options for U.S. National Service.

Second Place in the category of Most Disruptive is Michael C. Davies for his article Victory Over the Potomac: Alternatives to Inevitable Strategic Failure.

Third Place in the category of Most Disruptive is Dr. John T. Kuehn for his article Options for Streamlining U.S. Department of Defense Decision Making.

First Place in the category of Most Able to be Implemented is Jeremy J. Grunert for his article Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947.

We truly enjoyed our first writing contest and look forward to doing this again in 2018!

 

Contest

2018 Call for Papers Schedule

write-for-us

We learned a lot our first year, are applying those lessons to our second year, and we hope you can join us!

As always we want to fit into the busy lives of our Writers so we publish our Call for Papers schedule as early as possible.  Also, as always, no one should feel constrained by our Call for Papers schedule.  If you have an idea, get in touch!  E-Mail:  submissions@divergentoptions.org

The full Call for Papers schedule, with background and writing formats, can be found by clicking here.

2018 Call for Papers Schedule:

Topic:  Africa

Call for Papers Begins:  January 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-February 2018

Publish Date:  Late-February 2018

Topic:  The Pacific

Call for Papers Begins:  March 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-April 2018

Publish Date:  Late-April 2018

Topic:  Alternative Futures

Call for Papers Begins:  May 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-June 2018

Publish Date:  Late-June 2018

Topic:  Cyberspace

Call for Papers Begins:  July 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-August 2018

Publish Date:  Late-August 2018

Topic: The Middle East

Call for Papers Begins:  September 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-October 2018

Publish Date: Late-October 2018

Topic:  Europe

Call for Papers Begins:  November 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-December 2018

Publish Date:  Late-December 2018

Call For Papers

Options for Streamlining U.S. Department of Defense Decision Making

Dr. John T. Kuehn has served at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas since 2000.  He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 with the rank of Commander.  He presently teaches as a Professor of Military History in the Department of Military History, as well as teaching for Norwich University (Vermont), Naval War College (Rhode Island), and Wolverhampton University (UK) as an adjunct professor.  He can be found on Twitter @jkuehn50 and writes at https://networks.h-net.org/node/12840/blog.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Editor’s Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Disruptive.


National Security Situation:  Updating the National Security Act of 1947 (NSA 47) so that Department of Defense (DoD) decision-making is as streamlined as possible.

Date Originally Written:  August 30, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 4, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired Naval Officer and values a return to a national defense structure that includes a broader range of advice and decentralization of power as represented by cabinet secretaries.

Background:  NSA 47 has outlived its utility in the service of the national security of the United States.  In a post-Cold War world of the 21st Century, the system the United States used prior to 1947 is much more suitable to its traditions, Constitution, and the range of threats posed today.  NSA 47 has gone beyond the utility it provided to the United States after World War II.  NSA 47 once had value, especially in a bi-polar Cold War strategic dynamic informed by the terror of atomic and thermonuclear weapons[1].  However, NSA 47’s utility and value have degraded, especially with the end of the Cold War in 1989-1991.  History moved forward while the United States’ macro-security structure remained static.  Subsequent reforms to the 1947 re-organization, such as that by the Goldwater-Nichols Reform Act of 1987 (GNA), have merely “polished the bowling ball,” not recast it into a new shape[2].

Significance:  The Project for National Security Reform (PNSR) began looking at this issue in 2008 and found that NSA 47 no longer fit the strategic environment we are currently facing or will face in the 21st Century[3].  The 2011 PNSR did a good job of describing the problem and challenges in reforming and reorganizing the system[4].  However, the 2011 PNSR provided little else—no bold recommendations about how to make this happen.  What follows are options I modified from a summation of recommendations the PNSR solicited from me in 2011-12:

Option #1:  Disestablish the position of Secretary of Defense (SecDef) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).  The SecDef / OSD structure has too broad a span of control and this limits the scope of strategic advice Presidents receive.  The SecDef functions would move back under the civilian secretaries of the military departments: Army, Navy and Air Force.

Risk:  Medium.  The risk here was much lower when I first made this recommendation in 2010.  It is higher right now because of the North Korean situation and the need for unity of command of the nuclear arsenal if the worst happens and the U.S. needs to conduct a retaliatory strike should North Korea use nuclear weapons first.  However, the ultimate transfer of that unity of command could go to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) although the President would have to be a direct participant in any nuclear release, just as he is now.  One need not burn the Pentagon down and start afresh, but certainly who answers to whom is a legitimate topic worthy of serious discussion and, more importantly, serious action—by Congress AND the President.

Gain:  DoD decision-making is decentralized to the Military Departments and thus decisions are made quicker.  OSD manpower is redistributed to the Military Departments and the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thus increasing their respective capability to support the military operations conducted by the Combatant Commands.

Option #2:  Move the civilian Secretaries of Navy, Air Force, and Army back into the cabinet, but retain the SecDef, similar to the way things were organized prior to and during World War II.  The SecDef would still be a part of cabinet, but would be co-equal with the other civilian service secretaries.  Retain the current JCS organization and staff, but enhance the Chairman’s role on the National Security Council (NSC).  As an appointed position, the Chairman can always be relieved in the same manner that President Truman relieved General MacArthur.

Risk:  Low to medium low, for similar reasons listed for Option #1, the security situation is fluid as of this writing with threat of nuclear war.  No other current “crisis,” though, need impede the move to reform.  JCS Chairman role on NSC should include a substantial decrease in the size of the NSC staff, which should leverage more the capabilities of existing organizations like the JCS and the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Gain:  A balance is struck between decentralizing and streamlining decision-making to the Secretaries of the Military Departments while maintaining a SecDef in a coordinating role.  Option #2 is likely more palatable to Congress as current structures are maintained manpower wise yet power is shifted around.

Other Comments:  Congress must be a part of the solution[5].  Policy recommendations need Congressional oversight, responsibility, and accountability so that if a President goes against an NSC-recommended policy or strategy Congress will be in the loop.  One fear has been that this might drive the U.S. toward a “cabinet” system of government and curtail Presidential power.  That fear sounds like a benefit to me.

Additionally, there will be a need for a national debate that includes social media—where politicians quit pre-emptively tweeting and sniping at each other and instead “message” about national security reform—staying on task and staying on message as the public participates in the dialog.  We might turn again to the past, as a generation of millennial Publius’s step forward in a new round of Federalist Paper-type thinking and writing to kick these ideas around and to build real consensus—not just that of Washington insiders[6].  There is no deficit of political and intellectual talent out there-despite what the pundits say and write.  All too often, however, we consult the advice of specially constituted commissions (such as that for 9/11) and then ignore their advice or imperfectly implement only the portions that stop the media howl.

The United States has time.  The current system, as ineffective as it is, is not so broken that we must act quickly and without reflection.  However, I prefer to close with an even more powerful means of highlighting the problem—a story.  Every year, at the end of my World War II series of classes to military officers attending the Army Command and General Staff Office Course, I post the following questions: “The security system that existed prior to and during World War II was so ineffective that it had to be replaced in 1947, right?  This was the same system that the United States used to lose the most desperate and far-ranging war in its history, right?”  Wrong—we won World War II–handily–and we can win again by adopting a system that proved successful in a pre-Cold War world that looks a lot like our world of today.  So-called progress does not always lead to better solutions.  The founders looked backwards to go forward, so can we.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] This is not the first time the author has made this argument, see John T. Kuehn, “Abolish the Office of the Secretary of Defense?” Joint Force Quarterly, Issue 47, 4th Quarter 2007, 114-116.

[2] Recent attempt have been made to have a second round of GNA via the Project for National Security Reform effort, see James Locher et al. “Project for National Security Reform: Preliminary Findings” January 2008 (hereafter PNSR 2008), Washington, D.C.; and more recently the follow-on report from the PNSR from November 2011, “AMERICA’S FIRST QUARTER MILLENNIUM: ENVISIONING A TRANSFORMED NATIONAL SECURITY SYSTEM IN 2026,” see www.pnsr.org (accessed 7/31/2017). Full disclosure, the author was an unpaid consultant for the second report.

[3] PNSR, 2008 and 2011.

[4] PNSR, 2011, p.5.

[5] John T. Kuehn, “I Liked Ike . . . Whence Comes Another? Why PME Needs a Congressional Advocate,” in Joint Force Quarterly 83 (4th Quarter, October 2016): 40-43.

[6] Publius was the pen name for the authors of the Federalist Papers who argued the merits and reasoning behind the Constitution: Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and (especially) James Madison. See, Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, The Federalist Papers (New York: Penguin, 1987), paperback.

Contest Governing Documents John T. Kuehn Option Papers United States

Assessment of the Threat to Southeast Asia Posed by Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing

Blake Herzinger is a private-sector maritime security advisor assisting the U.S. Pacific Fleet in implementation and execution of the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative and Pacific Command-wide maritime security efforts.  He served in the United States Navy as an intelligence officer in Singapore, Japan, Italy, and exotic Jacksonville, Florida.  His writing has appeared in Proceedings, CIMSEC and The Diplomat.  He can be found on Twitter @BDHerzinger.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the Threat to Southeast Asia Posed by Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing

Date Originally Written:  September 24, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 27, 2017.

Summary:  Regional conflict brews in Southeast Asia as states vie for access to fish stocks and, increasingly, rely on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF) to meet national requirements.  IUUF risks the collapse of targeted fish stocks, destroys the maritime environment, degrades internal security, and brings national security forces into increasingly-escalatory encounters.

Text:  Over one billion residents of the Asia-Pacific rely upon fish as their primary source of protein, and the fish stocks of the region are under a relentless assault[1].  Current estimates place IUUF at between 11 and 26 million metric tons (MMT) yearly (total legal capture is approximately 16.6 MMT yearly), with an estimated value loss to regional economies of $10-23.5 billion[2][3].  Over a 25 year period, fish stocks in the South China Sea have declined anywhere from 6 to 33 percent, with some falling as much as 40 percent over the last 5 years.  In 2015, at least 490 million people in Southeast Asia lived in chronic hunger, with millions of children throughout the region stunted due to malnutrition[4].

Illegal fishing’s pernicious by-product is the critical damage done to the maritime environment by those flouting fishery regulations.  As large fish become more scarce as a result of industrial-scale overfishing, smaller-scale fishermen turn to dangerous and illegal practices to catch enough fish to survive.  Blast fishing obliterates coral reefs and kills indiscriminately, but despite prohibitions continues at a rate of nearly 10,000 incidents a day in Philippines alone[5].  Cyanide fishing is also still widespread, despite being banned in several Southeast Asian countries.  Used to stun fish for live capture (for aquariums or regionally popular live fish restaurants), cyanide contributes to the devastation of coral reefs across the SCS.  Giant clam poaching also has deleterious effects on reefs across the region as poachers race to feed Chinese demand for these shellfish.  Reefs throughout the Coral Triangle are interdependent, relying on one another for pollination, and as the reefs are destroyed by poachers seeking short-term gains, or even by small fishermen eking out a subsistence lifestyle, the effects of collapse ripple outward across the region.  The region is approaching an inflection point at which the damage will be irreparable.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC), which accounts for one-third of global fish consumption and is the world’s largest seafood exporter, fittingly leads the way in aggressively protecting its fishing fleets with an overwhelmingly powerful coast guard that dwarfs any other maritime law enforcement body in Asia[6][7].  As IUUF and environmental destruction cut into maritime resources and competition for those increasingly scarce resources escalates, national maritime law enforcement and naval forces are being rapidly expanded and widely deployed to protect natural resources and domestic fishing fleets.  If unmanaged, the friction generated by these fleets’ increasing interaction could easily explode into violent conflict.

For many countries in the region, the state’s legitimacy rests largely upon its ability to provide access to basic necessities and protect its citizens’ livelihoods.  Tens of millions across East Asia and Southeast Asia depend on fisheries for employment and, in many cases, their survival.  Should fish stocks begin to fail, regional states’ foundations will be threatened.  The combination of inadequate food supply and loss of livelihood could reasonably be expected to spur civil unrest.  In a state such as Indonesia, where 54 percent of the population relies on fish as its primary animal protein, historically weak institutions and propensity for military intervention only amplify the potential consequences of food insecurity.  In the PRC, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) actively encourages illegal fishing to provide its 1.379 billion people with the fish, seafood and marine products that its lower-and-middle-class, as well as elites, expect.  Legitimacy of the CCP, at least in part, is dependent on the continued production of regional fisheries and desire to buttress its legitimacy will continue to drive this vicious cycle.

The above mentioned calamities can occur in isolation, but they are most often interlinked.  For instance, in the infamous 2012 Scarborough Shoal incident, Philippines maritime law enforcement boarded a PRC fishing boat that had been engaged in giant clam and shark poaching, as well as coral reef destruction.  Armed PRC maritime law enforcement vessels intervened and sparked an external dispute that continues in 2017[8].  Ensuing flame wars between Filipino and Chinese hackers and economic measures enacted by the PRC against the Philippines threatened stability in both the domestic and international spheres of both countries.  The threat posed by IUUF is not just about fish, its direct and follow-on effects have the potential to drag Southeast Asia into disastrous conflict.


Endnotes:

[1] Till, G. (2013). Seapower: a guide for the 21st century. London: Routledge Ltd.

[2] Caputo, J. (2017). A Global Fish War is Coming. Proceedings, 143(8), 1,374. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2017-08/global-fish-war-coming

[3] One of the World’s Biggest Fisheries Is on The Verge of Collapse. (2017, August 02). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-south-china-sea-overfishing-threatens-collapse/

[4] Asia-Pacific region achieves Millennium Development Goal to reduce hunger by half by 2015. (2015, May 28). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from http://www.fao.org/asiapacific/news/detail-events/en/c/288506/

[5] Guy, A. (n.d.). Local Efforts Put a Dent in Illegal Dynamite Fishing in the Philippines. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from http://oceana.org/blog/local-efforts-put-dent-illegal-dynamite-fishing-philippines

[6] Jacobs, A. (2017, April 30). China’s Appetite Pushes Fisheries to the Brink. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/30/world/asia/chinas-appetite-pushes-fisheries-to-the-brink.html

[7] Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy (Rep.). (2015, August 14). Retrieved https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/NDAA%20A-P_Maritime_SecuritY_Strategy-08142015-1300-FINALFORMAT.PDF

[8] Are Maritime Law Enforcement Forces Destabilizing Asia? (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://csis-ilab.github.io/cpower-viz/csis-china-sea/

Assessment Papers Blake Herzinger Environmental Factors Resource Scarcity South China Sea Southeast Asia

Options for U.S. National Service

Adam Yefet has a Master’s degree in International of Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.  He is based in Israel.  He can be found on Twitter at @YefetGlobal.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Editor’s Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Disruptive.


National Security Situation:  A revised National Security Act of 1947 could create a national service requirement.

Date Originally Written:  September 30, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 20, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Adam Yefet has a Master’s degree in International Affairs from George Washington University.  He writes here as an American concerned with U.S. National Security.

Background:  Seventy years after the signing of the 1947 National Security Act, the world is still an unpredictable and dangerous place, but it is not governed by the same fears.  In 1947, the chief concerns of U.S. national security professionals were re-establishing European stability, and preparing for the coming Cold War with the Soviet Union, and ensuring the United States remained atop the new post-war order in an age of industrialized, mass-produced warfare and nuclear bombs.  The urgency of a threat could be measured in the number of troops, tanks, ships, missiles etcetera that enemy states could marshal.  As such, the 1947 National Security Act established an American military and intelligence complex meant to sustain American interests in the face of these challenges.  Today, conventional warfare remains a primary concern, but not the only one.

Significance:  The modern American political environment has revealed intense cleavages in American socio-politics.  Social trust seems on the verge of breakdown as citizens retreat to curated information bubbles not limited to of-the-day political commentary but expanding into the very facts and analysis of events both modern and historical.  Shared truths are shrinking and becoming a thing of the past.  Internal divisions are the greatest existential threat to the United States of America.  A 2017 National Security Act that includes provisions to bridge this divide could reunite the American people behind the values that helped shape America.

Option #1:  Mandatory National Service.  

A new National Security Act could include a provision for one year of mandatory national service to be required of all Americans to be completed between a certain age rage, for example between the ages of 18 and 25.  There would need to a be a number of service options, some existing, some needing to be created, including service in any of the military branches (which would require longer service) or one of several national organizations such as Peace Corps, Teach for America, and City Year.  New services to be created could involve public, local community, and international development, such as public works projects, agriculture development, vocational work, early childhood development, and senior care.  National service will affect all Americans equally, across socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, gender, racial, and religious lines. No one can buy their way out of the program.

Risk:  The creation of a national service program in peaceful and relatively prosperous times would be a massive economic and political endeavor that would reshape several industries with an influx of cheap labor.  The financial investment on the part of the government to train, house, and pay even a meager salary would be enormous.  The transition process within affected industries would be long and complicated and would face a winding legal path.  The executive power to do so and the consent of the government and the governed to receive it may be impossible to create outside the aftermath of a sharp crisis like World War II and the ensuing Cold War that brought about the original National Security Act.

The gaping political divide and widespread political disillusionment the program seeks to solve would be two of the greatest threats to undermine the program before it got started.  A requirement of national service would be anathema to many Americans as an assault on their principles of limited government and freedom.  Bipartisan political support may not be enough in the current political environment.  Prolonged resistance to service could be politicized and create another ugly divide within the nation.  A program plagued by political divides and undermined from the beginning would risk doing more harm than good.

Gain:  This requirement to serve would be an opportunity for young Americans to live, work, and consociate and will bind them to each other in common national cause.  Service will create an equal opportunity for American citizens to work and learn in a team environment with a sense of national purpose.

Americans found a significant common bond in the 20th century in the course of winning two world wars, crossing the Depression in between, and living the fears and competitions of the Cold War.  Success in these endeavors came from a sense of purpose, for American victory, and required massive government investments in people, jobs, infrastructure and science that paid off in the creation of our modern state and economy a modern global order that has delivered peace and prosperity to more people than at any previous time in human history.  A mandatory national service program would give all American’s a common bond of shared burden that comes before political divisions.

Option #2:  Re-Instate the Draft.

The United States military is stretched thin from the two longest wars in the country’s history, and the global deployment of troops and resources.  If these conflicts are going to be seen to a successful end while maintaining the U.S. military as the strongest in the world, the United States must ask more of its citizens.  Global politics are entering a transitional period heralding the decline of the American-led global order established after World War II.  Interstate and intrastate conflicts are spreading across the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe.  The future of international relations and affairs is unknowable but the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus should be prepared for catastrophic events.  The Selective Service and Training Act[1] already requires young men, and now women, to register.  The foundation already exists for America’s men and women to be called to service.

Risk:  The peacetime draft of potentially millions of citizens will require the enlargement of the already massive Defense Department budget.  The long-term increased costs for veteran support areas of the government, especially health care, would be significant.  The influx of potentially millions of troops, many of whom do not want to be there will demand experienced leadership from military and political figures who may not be up to the task.  The draft may have the effect of lowering the standards of the military branches as they seek to find places for new soldiers and retain them into the future to meet the demands of American foreign policy.

Gain:  All Americans will share the burden of America’s global role as a military and economic superpower.  Service will give the United States government the manpower it needs to be prepared for the conflicts of the present and future.  The American people called to service will have a greater appreciation of their responsibility as citizens in the management of American democracy and American foreign policy.  The draft would pull in America’s best and brightest for service to the nation’s security.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] 50 U.S.C. – SELECTIVE TRAINING AND SERVICE ACT OF 1940. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/USCODE-2009-title50/USCODE-2009-title50-app-selective-dup1

Contest National Service Option Papers United States

Assessment of U.S. Cyber Command’s Elevation to Unified Combatant Command

Ali Crawford is a current M.A. Candidate at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.  She studies diplomacy and intelligence with a focus on cyber policy and cyber warfare.  She tweets at @ali_craw.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of U.S. Cyber Command’s Elevation to Unified Combatant Command

Date Originally Written:  September 18, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 13, 2017.

Summary:  U.S. President Donald Trump instructed the Department of Defense to elevate U.S. Cyber Command to the status of Unified Combatant Command (UCC).  Cyber Command as a UCC could determine the operational standards for missions and possibly streamline decision-making.  Pending Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ nomination, the Commander of Cyber Command will have the opportunity to alter U.S. posturing in cyberspace.

Text:  In August 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Defense to begin initiating Cyber Command’s elevation to a UCC[1].  With the elevation of U.S. Cyber Command there will be ten combatant commands within the U.S. military infrastructure[2].  Combatant commands have geographical[3] or functional areas[4] of responsibility and are granted authorities by law, the President, and the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to conduct military operations.  This elevation of Cyber Command to become a UCC is a huge progressive step forward.  The character of warfare is changing. Cyberspace has quickly become a new operational domain for war, with battles being waged each day.  The threat landscape in the cyberspace domain is always evolving, and so the U.S. will evolve to meet these new challenges.  Cyber Command’s elevation is timely and demonstrates the Department of Defense’s commitment to defend U.S. national interests across all operational domains.

Cyber Command was established in 2009 to ensure the U.S. would maintain superiority in the cyberspace operational domain.  Reaching full operational capacity in 2010, Cyber Command mainly provides assistance and other augmentative services to the military’s various cyberspace missions, such as planning; coordinating; synchronizing; and preparing, when directed, military operations in cyberspace[5].  Currently, Cyber Command is subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command, but housed within the National Security Agency (NSA).  Cyber Command’s subordinate components include Army Cyber Command, Fleet Cyber Command, Air Force Cyber Command, Marine Forces Cyber Command, and it also maintains an operational relationship with the Coast Guard Cyber Command[6].  By 2018, Cyber Command expects to ready 133 cyber mission force teams which will consist of 25 support teams, 27 combat mission teams, 68 cyber protection teams, and 13 national mission teams[7].

Admiral Michael Rogers of the United States Navy currently heads Cyber Command.  He is also head of the NSA.  This “dual-hatting” of Admiral Rogers is of interest.  President Trump has directed SecDef James Mattis to recommend a nominee to head Cyber Command once it becomes a UCC.  Commanders of Combatant Commands must be uniformed military officers, whereas the NSA may be headed by a civilian.  It is very likely that Mattis will nominate Rogers to lead Cyber Command[8].  Beyond Cyber Command’s current missions, as a UCC its new commander would have the power to alter U.S. tactical and strategic cyberspace behaviors.  The elevation will also streamline the time-sensitive process of conducting cyber operations by possibly enabling a single authority with the capacity to make independent decisions who also has direct access to SecDef Mattis.  The elevation of Cyber Command to a UCC led by a four-star military officer may also point to the Department of Defense re-prioritizing U.S. posturing in cyberspace to become more offensive rather than defensive.

As one can imagine, Admiral Rogers is not thrilled with the idea of splitting his agencies apart.  Fortunately, it is very likely that he will maintain dual-authority for at least another year[9].  The Cyber Command separation from the NSA will also take some time, pending the successful confirmation of a new commander.  Cyber Command would also need to demonstrate its ability to function independently from its NSA intelligence counterpart[10].  Former SecDef Ash Carter and Director of Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper were not fans of Rogers’ dual-hat arrangement.  It remains to be seen what current SecDef Mattis’ or DNI Coats’ think of the “dual hat” arrangement.

Regardless, as this elevation process develops, it is worthwhile to follow.  Whoever becomes commander of Cyber Command, whether it be a novel nominee or Admiral Rogers, will have an incredible opportunity to spearhead a new era of U.S. cyberspace operations, doctrine, and influence policy.  A self-actualized Cyber Command may be able to launch Stuxnet-style attacks aimed at North Korea or speak more nuanced rhetoric aimed at creating impenetrable networks.  Regardless, the elevation of Cyber Command to a UCC signals the growing importance of cyber-related missions and will likely encourage U.S. policymakers to adopt specific cyber policies, all the while ensuring the freedom of action in cyberspace.


Endnotes:

[1] The White House, “Statement by President Donald J. Trump on the Elevation of Cyber Command,” 18 August 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/08/18/statement-donald-j-trump-elevation-cyber-command

[2] Unified Command Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.defense.gov/About/Military-Departments/Unified-Combatant-Commands/

[3] 10 U.S. Code § 164 – Commanders of combatant commands: assignment; powers and duties. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/164

[4] 10 U.S. Code § 167 – Unified combatant command for special operations forces. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/167

[5] U.S. Strategic Command, “U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM),” 30 September 2016, http://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Factsheets/Factsheet-View/Article/960492/us-cyber-command-uscybercom/

[6] U.S. Strategic Command, “U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM),” 30 September 2016, http://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Factsheets/Factsheet-View/Article/960492/us-cyber-command-uscybercom/

[7] Richard Sisk, Military, “Cyber Command to Become Unified Combatant Command,” 18 August 2017, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/08/18/cyber-command-become-unified-combatant-command.html

[8] Department of Defense, “The Department of Defense Cyber Strategy,” 2015, https://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0415_Cyber-Strategy/

[9] Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post, “President Trump announces move to elevate Cyber Command,” 18 August 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/08/18/president-trump-announces-move-to-elevate-cyber-command/

[10] Ibid.

Ali Crawford Assessment Papers Cyberspace United States

Assessment of Canada’s Fighter Replacement Process

Jeremiah Cushman is a senior analyst at Military Periscope, where he writes about weapons.  He holds an M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies from the George Washington University.  He can be found on Twitter @jdcushman.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Canada’s Fighter Replacement Process

Date Originally Written:  September 30, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 6, 2017.

Summary:  Canada’s aging CF-18 fighters need replaced.  While the U.S. F-35 was expected to be the choice, domestic politics, rising costs, and development problems caused controversy.  As such, both the Harper and Trudeau governments have hesitated to launch an open competition for a replacement.  The current plan is to upgrade existing jets and acquire interim platforms while carefully preparing a competition.

Text:  After more than three decades of service, Canada’s CF-18 Hornet fighter jets are due for replacement. This has proven easier said than done.

Delays and ballooning costs in the U.S.-led F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter program have made it a controversial option, despite Ottawa’s participation as a Tier 2 partner.  Domestic politics and a trade dispute have become another obstacle.  The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) says with additional upgrades it can keep the Hornets in the air until at least 2025.

The Hornet replacement was not expected to be so difficult.  Canada was an early contributor to the F-35 program and anticipated fielding the advanced fighter along with its closest allies.  Participating in the program was seen as a way to obtain the latest technology, while minimizing costs.  Interoperability with the allies Ottawa would most likely operate with was another bonus.  For these reasons, the RCAF has continued to favor the jet.

As development problems arose, defense officials began to emphasize that Canada’s contributions to the program did not guarantee a purchase.

In 2008, the Canadian Department of National Defense decided to reduce its planned procurement from 80 to 65 jets to compensate for growing costs.  The Conservative government of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper continued to back the F-35 until in 2012 a government auditor reported problems with Ottawa’s procurement process and said that the purchase would cost more than publicized.

An independent review of the program reported in December 2012 that the full cost to buy 65 F-35s was around Can$44.8 billion (U.S. $36 billion), well above the Can$9 billion (U.S. $7.2 billion) indicated by the government in 2010.  Harper decided to conduct a review of other options.  The results were received in 2014, but no decision was made[1].  Instead, Ottawa announced that it would modernize the CF-18s to keep them flying until 2025[2].

The election of the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau in October 2015 began a new stage in the fighter replacement saga.  During the election campaign, Trudeau pledged to end participation in the F-35 program and buy a cheaper aircraft.  This move appeared to be driven by the growing costs outlined by the review in 2012 and ongoing development issues with the aircraft.  Nevertheless, Ottawa has continued to make the payments necessary to remain a program participant.

Such a hard-line seems to be out of step with the progress of the F-35 program.  The U.S. Marine Corps declared initial operational capability with its F-35s in July 2015, and the U.S. Air Force followed in August 2016.  The manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, has reported annual reductions in unit costs for the jet.  More North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies have signed on to the program, as well as countries such as Japan and South Korea.  Such progress does not seem to have affected the Trudeau administration’s position.

The Trudeau government released its defense policy review in June 2017.  The document made no promises on how a Hornet replacement might be procured or what platform might be best.  The review included a new requirement for 88 fighters, instead of the 65 jets proposed by the Harper government.  While the additional aircraft are a positive development given Canada’s myriad air requirements, the lack of clarity on the next step revealed the administration’s lack of seriousness.  Ottawa has information on several options on hand from the Harper government’s review.  There appears no good reason why a new process for selecting a Hornet replacement could not already be underway.

The government appears to be driven by a desire to keep its campaign commitment and not to purchase the F-35.  Instead of setting up a competition to select a replacement, Ottawa proposed an interim purchase of 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets from the U.S. to fill an alleged capability gap.  The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the U.S. Department of State had approved such a sale on September 12, 2017[3].  This has been seen as a way to create a fait accompli, since it would make little financial sense to buy and maintain one jet only to switch to another later.

The slow pace of the procurement process so far might result in fewer options.  The Super Hornet line is nearing its end and there are questions about how much longer the Eurofighter Typhoon will be in production.

In any event, the Super Hornet proposal has fallen victim to a trade dispute.  Boeing, which builds the fighter, complained that Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier received government subsidies, allowing it to sell its C-series airliners at a significant discount.  The U.S. Department of Commerce agreed with the complaint, determining in late September 2017 that the aircraft should be hit with a 219 percent tariff[4].  This dispute has for the moment paused any Super Hornet purchase and led Ottawa to explore the acquisition of used Hornet aircraft.  On September 29, 2017, Public Services and Procurement Canada announced that it had submitted an expression of interest to Australia as part of the process to acquire used Hornets.  The release also said that preparatory work for a competition was underway, raising further questions about why interim fighters are needed[5].

Meanwhile, the RCAF is preparing to spend between Can$250 million (U.S.$201 million) and Can$499 million (U.S.$401 million) on further upgrades for its CF-18s to keep them in service until at least 2025.  Project definition is anticipated to begin in early 2018, with contracts being let in 2019[6].

As it stands, Ottawa appears to be trying to avoid selecting a new fighter.  It makes little sense to invest significant sums of money in interim measures when those funds would be better channeled into a new platform.  For reasons that remain unclear, it seems any decision will be postponed until after the next election, likely in 2020.  In the meantime, the RCAF will have to continue to invest scarce resources in its aging Hornets and hope for the best.


Endnotes:

[1] Pugliese, D. (2015, September 22). Canada and the F-35 – the ups and downs of a controversial fighter jet purchase. Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/canada-and-the-f-35-the-ups-and-downs-of-a-controversial-fighter-jet-purchase-2

[2] Canadian Press (2014, September 30). CF-18 upgrades will keep jets flying until 2025, Ottawa says. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/cf-18-upgrades-will-keep-jets-flying-until-2025-ottawa-says-1.2031683

[3] U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency. (2017, September 12). Government of Canada — F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Aircraft with Support. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from http://www.dsca.mil/major-arms-sales/government-canada-fa-18ef-super-hornet-aircraft-support

[4] LeBeau, P. (2017, September 26). US slaps high duties on Bombardier jets after Boeing complains they were unfairly subsidized by Canada. CNBC. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/26/us-slaps-duties-on-bombardier-jets-after-boeing-subsidy-complaint.html

[5] Public Services and Procurement Canada. (2017, October 9). Exploring options to supplement Canada’s CF-18 fleet. Retrieved Oct. 9, 2017, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-services-procurement/news/2017/10/exploring_optionstosupplementcanadascf-18fleet.html

[6] Pugliese, D. (2017, September 26). CF-18 upgrade plan more critical as Bombardier-Boeing spat puts Super Hornet purchase in doubt. Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/cf-18-upgrade-plan-more-critical-as-bombardier-boeing-spat-puts-super-hornet-purchase-in-doubt/wcm/7828c1ea-ef72-4dc5-a774-92630297bb07

Assessment Papers Canada Capacity / Capability Enhancement Jeremiah Cushman

Call for Papers: Violent Extremism

notafraid

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Violent Extremism.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by December 9th, 2017.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic we still welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Contextual Note as of November 11, 2017:  The interest we’ve received thus far in our Call for Papers on Violent Extremism has focused on violent extremism inspired by Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, & their adherents.  While this type of violent extremism dominates the headlines & think-tank analyses today, we encourage potential writers to explore all types of violent extremism & not just that which is inspired by Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, & their adherents.

Thoughts from our Twitter Followers to Inspire Potential Writers:

Assess or provide options to address the driving factors of violent extremism such as lack of economic opportunities or humanitarian crisis.

Who decides when the war against Violent Extremist Organizations is over?

Has Violent Extremist Organization “enlistment” changed – i.e., not the technology, but the motivation?

Why are individuals are drawn to the causes of violent extremism?

Assess or provide options to address social media’s impact on growing violent extremist movements.

For programs that seek to counter violent extremism i.e. “CVE,” assess or provide options to gain reproducible and generalizable outcomes in CVE program evaluation.

Assess the role and participation of women, not as passive victims, but as active agents, in violent extremist organizations.

What role do religious communities play in prevention, fighting against, and deradicalization of the extremist?

Why does early reporting related to violent extremist incidents tend to be inaccurate?

Internet Radicalisation and “Lone Wolf” theories: Is it really a “Lone Wolf” if supported/harboured by community?

Are violent extremists driven more by ideology or by identity?

Terrorism is a tactic.  Counter terrorism is therefore a tactical activity.  Why is not more effort aimed at that which causes the tactic to be utilized i.e. ideology or identity?

What options are available to combat the ideology that motivates people to become violent extremists?

Assess the success of countering violent extremism i.e. CVE programs throughout history.

What options are available to counter radicalisation in prisons?

Funding- beyond the need for “operational capital.” How do violent extremists in western countries support themselves?  What do they remit?

Assess the parallels between different types of violent extremism.

What is the correct/best terminology to talk about violent extremism?  What terms resonate in populations that are at risk for violent extremism yet won’t drive these populations away from U.S. efforts?  What terms can drive a wedge between potential recruits and their violent extremism recruiters?  What terms make it clear to the American people what violent extremism is without overwhelming them with details or dismissing completely the role religion / ideology play in this modern era of terrorism recruiting and radicalization?  What terms can be used to enable people of significantly different religious / ideological backgrounds to talk about violent extremism without talking past each other?

Call For Papers Violent Extremism

Assessment of North Korea’s Illicit Trafficking Activities

Paul Rexton Kan is professor of National Security Studies and former Henry L. Stimson Chair of Military Studies at the U.S. Army War College.  His most recent book is “Drug Trafficking and International Security” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016).  In February 2011, he served as the Senior Visiting Counternarcotics Adviser at NATO Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.  He can be found on Twitter at @DPRKan.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of North Korea’s Illicit Trafficking Activities

Date Originally Written:  October 12, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 30, 2017.

Summary:  As the United Nations and member states have increased the number and variety of sanctions on North Korea for its missile launches and nuclear tests, the regime of Kim Jong Un will likely increase its reliance on illicit international activities to earn hard currency.  The international community must be prepared to respond in kind.

Text:  In an effort to pressure the regime of Kim Jong Un to end its ballistic and nuclear programs, the international community is pursuing a wide-range of sanctions against North Korea.  The newest round of United Nations (UN) sanctions contained in Security Council Resolutions 2371 and 2375 passed in August and September of this year are aimed at the heart of North Korea’s ability to trade with the larger world and earn hard currency for its economy.  In keeping with the UN sanctions, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has reduced its oil trade with North Korea and has ordered all North Korean businesses operating in the PRC to close by the spring of 2018.  Meanwhile, in addition to the UN sanctions, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in September that allows the U.S. Department of Treasury to sanction specific individuals and entities that engage in assisting North Korean textiles, fishing, information technology and manufacturing industries.

All of the recent sanctions seek to inflict sufficient economic pain on the Kim regime so that it will relent in its pursuit of improved missile and nuclear capabilities.  However, past economic sanctions have proven to be largely ineffective in changing North Korean behavior due to the regime’s ability to rely on illicit trade to finance itself.

The Kim dynasty has a long-running history of undertaking illicit trafficking activities to earn hard currency for the regime.  In fact, the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, created an entire government bureaucracy dedicated to pursuing criminal schemes for illicit profit.  Central Committee Bureau 39 of the Korean Workers’ Party was established in 1974 to reduce the country’s dependence on massive Soviet subsidies [1]. Also known as Office #39, this shadowy bureaucracy has proven essential for the North Korean government’s ability to weather economic hardships.  Office #39 has allowed North Korea to survive exceptionally perilous moments of potential state instability such as the collapse of its Soviet benefactor in 1991, the famines in the early 2000s and the dozens of international sanctions programs all the while giving the regime enough economic vitality to pursue nuclear weapons and ballistic programs.

The activities of Office #39 include narcotics manufacturing and distribution, currency and cigarette counterfeiting, arms trafficking, automobile smuggling and money laundering.  These illicit activities have earned billions of dollars for the Kim regime [2]. North Korean government personnel from the military and diplomatic corps carry out these criminal schemes abroad while using dummy companies to deposit launder proceeds through banks in China, Italy, Russia, and Africa[3].  Demonstrating the wide-ranging criminal network of Office #39, they have reportedly made arrangements with the Russian mafia to help the Kim regime launder its funds through the Russian embassy in Pyongyang [4]

Office #39 is also referred to as “Kim’s Cashbox”[5] and has been used to pay for the inducements that keep the North Korean elites mollified with the hereditary communist regime.  Consistent with any totalitarian dictatorship is the ability to control the economy, especially for national leaders who rule by force.  Central to the Kim dynasty’s ability to control its totalitarian regime is a “court economy,” akin to that practiced by an absolute monarch.  To prevent coups over the three generations of Kims, Office #39 has provided the funds to reward the regime’s military, government and party elites; as well as the regime’s security agents.  Such a court economy, resting on the illegal operations of Office #39, thereby promotes internal regime stability.

In addition to undergirding internal regime stability, Office #39 acts to promote North Korea’s external security by financing the weapons’ programs of the regime.  This nexus between illicit finances and sophisticated weapons programs appears to have become tighter under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.  In September 2016, the North Korean military’s organization for owning and running overseas companies, Office #38, was merged with Office #39, now operating only as Office Number 39 [6]. An expert on North Korea believes this merger indicates a growing desire to create a more efficient illicit funding stream to achieve two goals: 1) accelerate the regime’s ballistic missile and nuclear considerable advances; 2) feed even more money into Kim’s court economy as a way to strengthen his possible shaky grasp on leadership [7].

If the United States along with other members of the international community seek to bring maximum economic pressure against North Korea, it will also have to tackle the illicit overseas activities of Office #39.  The U.S. and others have previously coordinated their responses to North Korea’s criminal operations with some success [8].  The Proliferation Security Initiative initiated by the George W. Bush Administration demonstrated that regional cooperation can work to put pressure on Pyongyang’s arms trafficking.  Better coordination of these pressuring activities, through the use of fusion centers and ensuring the inclusion of law enforcement organizations, could enhance their impact.

The time appears right to tackle North Korea’s illicit activities.  North Korea’s recent provocative actions have increased the level of alarm among key regional players, providing a greater impetus for cooperation.  In addition, several North Korean officials posted overseas and who colluded with Office #39 have defected in recent months, taking with them not only vast sums of money, but information about the regime’s illicit financial activities [9] that regional players could use to stymie the regime.  North Korea is not a nation-state that is simply misbehaving. North Korea engages in criminality not as a matter of choice, but of necessity.  Finding new ways combat its illicit international activities will be challenging, but policy-makers must adapt their approaches to bring maximum pressure upon an increasingly bellicose regime.


Endnotes:

[1] Eberstadt, N. (2004).  The persistence of North Korea. Policy Review, Retrieved October 13, 2017, from https://www.hoover.org/research/persistence-north-korea

[2] Kan, P. R., Bechtol, B. E., Jr., & Collins, R. M. (2010). Criminal Sovereignty: Understanding North Korea’s Illicit International Activities. Carlisle Barracks, PA: US Army War College.

[3] A. G. (2013, September 16). Q&A: High Level Defector on North Korean Trade. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2017, from http://blogs.wsj.com/korearealtime/2014/09/16/qa-high-level-defector-on-north-korean-trade/

[4] Kim Jong Un’s Secret Billions. (2013, March 12). Chosun Ilbo. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/03/12/2013031201144.html

[5] Kim, K. (2007). The Dollarization of the North Korean Economcy. Tongit Yongu (Unification Research), 11(9), 11-34. (In Korean)

[6] N. Korea Combines 2 Units Managing Leader’s Coffers in One: Seoul. (2016, September 29). Yonhap . Retrieved October 3, 2017, from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2016/09/485_215017.html

[7] Author interview with Bruce E. Bechtol, Jr. on 4 October 2017.

[8] Asher, D. L. (2011). Pressuring Kim Jong-Il: The North Korean Illicit Activities Initiative, 2001-2006 (pp. 25-52, Publication). Washington, DC: Center for New American Security.

[9] Yi, W. (2016, August 21). N. Korea’s Leader Secret Funds Coming to Light. Korea Times. Retrieved October 2, 2017, from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2016/08/485_212381.html

Assessment Papers Illicit Trafficking Activities North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Paul Rexton Kan

Assessment of the Potential Security Challenges Posed by Water Security Between Afghanistan and Iran

Max Taylor is currently an Intern Intelligence and Security Analyst at Intelligence Fusion where he focuses on the Afghan security landscape.  Max also has a Master’s degree in International Security and Terrorism from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.  Max contributes to the @AfghanOSINT Twitter account.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the Potential Security Challenges Posed by Water Security Between Afghanistan and Iran

Date Originally Written:  September 8, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 23, 2017.

Summary:  Whilst the relationship between Afghanistan and Iran is characterised by generations of shared history and culture, concerns over water security provide a more contemporary security challenge.  Iran’s reliance on Afghanistan’s water supply and Afghanistan’s refusal to cede control over its waterways to Iran will ensure that this issue, if left undressed, will fester.

Text:  Water security between Afghanistan and Iran is not necessarily a new concern, as disputes can be traced back to the 19th century when Afghanistan was under British control[1].  However, as time has progressed, water security as a challenge facing Afghanistan and Iran has continued to grow.  In an attempt to respond to the looming challenges posed by water security, both countries have engaged in various treaties and agreements which intended to ensure Iran received a sufficient amount of water.  The question as to how to allocate sufficient water supply to Iran has not been simple, as the treaties designed to manage the Afghan water supply have largely failed to provide effective oversight and control.  Therefore, with much of Iran’s water supply originating in Afghan sovereign territory, Iran has very little control over their own water supply.  This relative lack of reliable control over their own water supply is a particularly pressing concern for Iran, and is likely to continue to dominate the Afghan-Iran relationship.  This article will aim to expand upon this assumption by first examining the position from which both parties approach their water security, and will then analyse what Iran has done to address the problems it faces.

From Iran’s perspective, the forecast is somewhat bleak.  A study by Dr M. Molanejad and Dr A. Ranjbar[2] suggested that Iran has seen more extremes of weather as a result of climate change, such as draught, and can continue to expect additional extremes of weather.  Precipitation levels recorded in Molanejad and Ranjbar’s study show that in 1998, Iran saw its lowest total precipitation since 1969, but show that such extremes are only going to occur more often.  As within 10 years of the 1998 draught, a similar extreme low in rainfall was recorded which exceeded that of 1998.  Furthermore, agreements such as the 1973 agreement between Afghanistan and Iran which guarantees that Iran can expect to receive 22 cubic meters per second of water from Afghanistan provide little comfort.  The water allowance extract of this agreement is a static figure (albeit with the option to buy increased water allowance) and therefore does not correlate with predicted Iranian population increase.  With Iran’s population expected to be over 90 million in 2021[3], the figures of the 1973 agreement will not be sufficient in years to come.  As climate change is expected to increase the occurrence of extremes of weather, it is wise to assume that Iran’s fragile reliance on their Afghan water supply will become increasingly important.

Within this context the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) is unlikely to commit to  agreements which may limit their control over their own water ways.  Development of water management projects such as the Baksh-Abad Hydroelectric Station is both an effective way to win over the hearts of the Afghan population in the NUG’s ongoing conflict against the Taliban and a highly symbolic move.  In Afghan provinces such as Nimroz, where agriculture characterises the majority of the province, a damming project instigated by the NUG is an effective way for the NUG to connect with a population traditionally isolated from Kabul’s central control.  Construction of water management projects also acts as a symbolic gesture to the people of Afghanistan and the international community.  The NUG’s leading role in organising the projects suggests to observers that the NUG is capable of rebuilding itself in the wake of decades of conflict.

With climate change promising to increase the frequency of extreme weather and the creation of additional water management projects continuing in Afghanistan, time is not on the side of Iran.  Iran is not ignorant of this fact, and has attempted to assert an element of control over Afghan’s water supply.  Iranian President Rouhani has attempted to voice his concerns regarding water security through traditional diplomatic means, but Iran has also been accused of pursing more covert avenues of approach.  Afghan and U.S. officials have frequently accused Iran of supporting the Taliban by funding[4] and supplying the group.  As part of this support, Iran is accused of using the Taliban to sabotage key Afghan water management projects such as the Kamal Khan Dam which Iran claims will negatively affect the Iranian Sistan-Baluchestan Province.  In 2011, a Taliban commander was allegedly offered $50,000 by Iran to sabotage the Kamal Khan Dam[5].  Predictably, Iran explicitly denies that it supports the Taliban, and justifies its dialogue with the group by highlighting their common interest in combating the Islamic State.

Iran’s alleged support for the Taliban as a foreign policy tool has led to obvious implications for the Afghan-Iranian relationship.  With Iranian support for the Taliban being denied by Iran, and largely conducted under the guise of plausible deniability, the Afghan NUG is struggling to bring Iran to justice for their accused support.  Regardless, the sheer volume of accusations of Iranian support for the Taliban emanating from analysts, policy makers and Afghans alike adds an element of credibility to the claims.  The exact nature of Iran’s support for the Taliban is unclear, as the Taliban is a largely decentralised force with local commanders having substantial autonomy.  Furthermore, the Taliban’s traditional opposition to Iranian backed Shia groups in Afghanistan also holds back an ideologically supported relationship forming freely.

In order to comprehend the complexity of the issues posed by Afghan-Iranian water security, it is important to observe the subject from the perspective of both countries.  Iran finds itself stuck between a metaphorical rock and a hard place, with climate change and a rising population acting as the rock, and the continued creation of water management projects acting as the hard place.  On the other hand, the Afghan government is faced with a powerful Taliban insurgency and a distinct lack of public support from within more remote areas of the rural south.  Therefore, improved irrigation would act as an effective bridge between the NUG and the rural Afghan population of provinces such as Nimroz.  With both Afghanistan and Iran’s disposition in mind, it is difficult to comprehend how such an issue will be resolved.


Endnotes:

[1]  Fatemeh Aman, Retrieved 10th September 2017, from: http://www.css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/resources/docs/Atlantic%20Council-Water%20Dispute.pdf

[2]  Dr M. Molanejad & Dr A. Ranjbar, Retrieved September 8th 2017, from: http://www.comsats.org/Latest/3rd_ITRGs_ClimateChange/Dr_Molanejad.pdf

[3]  Parviz Garshasbi, Retrieved September 8th 2017, from: http://www.droughtmanagement.info/literature/UNW-DPC_NDMP_Country_Report_Iran_2014.pdf

[4]  Ahmad Majidyar, Retrieved September 8th 2017, from: https://www.mei.edu/content/io/iran-and-russia-team-taliban-undermine-us-led-mission-afghanistan

[5]  Radio Free Europe, Retrieved September 10th 2017. from: https://www.rferl.org/a/captured_taliban_commander_claims_trained_in_iran/24305674.html

Afghanistan Assessment Papers Environmental Factors Iran Max Taylor

Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947

Jeremy J. Grunert is an officer in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps, currently stationed in the United Kingdom.  He has served in Afghanistan, Qatar, and Turkey.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Editors Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Able to be Implemented.


Title:  Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947

Date Originally Written:  September 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 16, 2017.

Summary:  The National Security Act of 1947 played a significant role in establishing the U.S. as the global superpower it is today.  Despite the broad range of challenges facing the U.S. today, a large-scale update to the Act is likely as dangerous as it is politically infeasible.  Instead, Congress may adopt incremental changes to address threats facing our nation, beginning with the system of classification and security clearance review.

Text:  The National Security Act of 1947 (hereafter “NSA”), signed into law by President Harry Truman on July 26, 1947, is the progenitor of the U.S. intelligence and military establishment as we know it today.  The NSA created the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency; established the United States Air Force as an independent military service; and merged the United States’ military services into what would become the Department of Defense, overseen by one Secretary of Defense.  The NSA’s reorganization of the defense and intelligence agencies set the stage for the United States’ post-World War II rise as, first, a military superpower, and, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, a global hegemon.

Seventy years after the passage of the NSA, the U.S. finds itself in an increasingly challenging security environment.  The lingering war in Afghanistan; the continued threat of terrorism; Russian military adventurism and cyber-meddling; a rising People’s Republic of China; and an increasingly bellicose North Korea all present significant security challenges for the U.S.  Given the solid foundation the NSA provided for the United States’ rise to global hegemony in the difficult period after World War II, is it time to update or amend the NSA to meet the challenges of the 21st Century?

Drastically altering the U.S. security framework as the original NSA did is likely as unwise as it is politically infeasible.  The wholesale creation of new intelligence and military services, or far-reaching changes to the structure of the Department of Defense, would result in confusion and bureaucratic gridlock that the U.S. can ill afford.  Instead, any updates to the NSA would be better done in an incremental fashion—focusing on areas in which changes can be made without resulting in upheaval within the existing security structure.  Two particular areas in which Congressional action can address serious security deficiencies are the realms of intelligence classification and security clearance review.

Proper intelligence classification and proper intelligence sharing—both among organizations within the U.S. national security establishment and between the U.S. and its foreign allies—is imperative to accomplish the U.S.’s strategic aims and protect its citizens.  Improper classification and over-classification, however, pose a continuing threat to the U.S.’s ability to act upon and share intelligence.  At the same time, a mind-bogglingly backlogged system for granting (and renewing) security clearances makes ensuring the proper people are accessing classified information a continuing challenge[1].

Congress has previously amended the NSA to address over-classification[2], and, in conjunction with other Congressional actions, may do so again.  First, whether within the NSA or in a new piece of legislation, Congress may examine amending portions of President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order (EO) 13526.  Specifically, Congress could mandate a reduction of the automatic declassification time for classified intelligence from 10 years to 5 years, absent an agency showing that a longer period of classification is necessary.  Additionally, Congress could amend § 102A of the NSA (codifying the responsibilities of the Director of National Intelligence, including for such things as “Intelligence Information Sharing” under § 102A(g)) by adding a paragraph giving the Director of National Intelligence the authority to create a rapid-reaction board for the speedy declassification or “step-down” of certain classified intelligence.  Chaired, perhaps, by the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence (who can be delegated declassification authority per EO 13526), this board would be used to quickly reach “step-down” decisions with respect to intelligence submitted to the board for release at a certain specified level of classification.  A particularly good example of this sort of request would be a petition to “step-down” certain SECRET//NOFORN (i.e. only releasable to U.S. persons) intelligence for release to U.S. allies or coalition partners.  The goal would be to have a clear method, with a fixed timeframe measured in weeks rather than months, for the review and possible “step-down” of classified information.

Congress may also attempt to address the ever-growing backlog of security clearance applications and renewals.  One way to confront this problem is to amend 50 U.S. Code § 3341(b) and update Title VIII of the NSA (“Access to Classified Information”) to decentralize the process of investigating security clearance applicants.  Section 3341(b) currently requires the President to select a single agency to “direct[] day-to-day oversight of investigations and adjudications for personnel security clearances” and to “serv[e] as the final authority to designate an authorized investigative agency or authorized adjudicative agency” for security clearances[3].  Currently, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts the vast majority of security clearance investigations for U.S. government employees.  The massive backlog of clearance investigations, however, belies the idea that a single government agency can or should be responsible for this undertaking.  Congress could also amend § 3341(b) to allow an agency chosen by the President to establish minimum standards for security clearance investigation, but permit the decentralization of investigative responsibility into the military and intelligence agencies themselves.

An update to Title VIII of the NSA would work in conjunction with an amendment to § 3341(b).  Specifically, Congress could add a paragraph to § 801(a) of the NSA requesting the President require each executive agency, at least within the Defense and Intelligence communities, to establish an investigative section responsible for conducting that agency’s security clearance investigations.  Under the aegis of the minimum standards set forth in § 3341(b), this would allow the various Defense and Intelligence agencies to develop additional standards to meet their own particular requirements, and subject potential clearance candidates to more rigorous review when necessary.  Allowing greater agency flexibility in awarding clearances may reduce the likelihood that a high-risk individual could obtain a clearance via the standard OPM vetting process.

The changes to the National Security Act of 1947 and other laws described above are small steps toward addressing significant security challenges.  Addressing the security challenges facing the United States requires incremental changes—changes which will address concrete problems without an upheaval in our Defense and Intelligence agencies.  Focusing on fixing deficiencies in the United States’ classification and security clearance review systems is an excellent place to start.


Endnotes:

[1] Riechmann, D. (2017, September 11). Security clearance backlog leads to risky interim passes. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/security-clearance-backlog-leads-to-risky-interim-passes/2017/09/11/b9fb21dc-972b-11e7-af6a-6555caaeb8dc_story.html?utm_term=.e487926aac60

[2] Reducing Over-Classification Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-258, 124 Stat. 2648 (2010). Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/laws/reducing-over-classification-act-2010

[3] 50 U.S.C. § 3341(b).  Retrieved September 22, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/3341

Assessment Papers Contest Governing Documents Jeremy J. Grunert Security Classification United States

Victory Over the Potomac: Alternatives to Inevitable Strategic Failure

Michael C. Davies has written three books on the Wars of 9/11 and is a progenitor of the Human Domain concept.  He currently works for an international law firm.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 

Editor’s Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Disruptive.


National Security Situation:  Unless the National Security Act of 1947 is scrapped and replaced, the United States will inevitably suffer grand strategic failure.  After 16 years of repeated, overlapping, and cascading strategic failures[1], the ineptitude of the U.S. national security system has been laid bare for all to see.  These failures have allowed America’s enemies to view the National Security Act’s flaws and provided the time and space to develop effective competitive strategies against the U.S. and successfully threaten both the international order and the U.S. social contract.

Date Originally Written:  September 10, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 9, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of an individual who previously conducted research on the Wars of 9/11 at the U.S. National Defense University and concluded that the United States of America, as a government, a military, and a society, is currently functionally and cognitively incapable of winning a war, any war.

Background:  Because the U.S. national security system, modeled via the 1947 Act, is built for a different era, different enemies, and different mental models, it is incapable of effectively creating, executing, or resourcing strategies to match the contemporary or future strategic environment.  The deficiencies of the current system revolve around its inability to situate policy and politics as the key element in strategy, competitively match civilian and military forces with contemporary and future environments and missions, maintain strategic solvency, end organizational stovepipes, and consider local and regional politics in strategic decision-making.

Significance:  Without immediate and revolutionary reorganization, a series of ever-more consequential strategic failures is inevitable, eventually leading to grand strategic failure.

Option #1:  Revolutionary Reorganization.

The list below offers the necessary revolutionary reorganization of the national security system to negate the previously mentioned deficiencies.

  1. Command and control of the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) is moved to the Department of State.  Senate-approved civilian Ambassadors are given unity of command over all civilian and military forces and policymaking processes in their area.
  2. The Department of State is reorganized around foreign policymaking at the GCCs, super-empowered Chiefs of Mission in each country[2], and functional areas of expertise[3].
  3. The Department of Defense is reorganized into mission-centric cross-functional corps[4].
  4. The intelligence community is rationalized into a smaller number of agencies and reorganized around, and made dependent on, the above structures.
  5. The National Security Council is curtailed into a presidential advisory unit, a grand strategy unit headed by the Secretary of State to align national objectives, GCC policies, civilian and military force structures, and budgets, and a red team cell.
  6. The Joint Chiefs of Staff remain, but transfer all organizational power to the GCCs and the cross-functional corps.  The Chairman remains as the President’s chief military advisor.  The heads of each military Service will retain a position as military advisors to the President and ceremonial heads of the respective Services.
  7. A second tier is added to the All-Volunteer Force to allow for rapid scaling of civilian personnel into military service as needed, negating the need for National Service and the use of contractors.  Second tier individuals undertake a fast-track boot camp, provided functional training according to skills and need, given operational ranks, and assigned to units as necessary to serve a full tour or more.

Because of the magnitude of power given to the Executive Branch by this Act, the War Powers Resolution must be redrafted into a constitutional amendment.  Congress must now approve any action, whether a Declaration of War or an Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF), within 5 days of the beginning of combat by simple majority.  The President, the relevant GCC Ambassador, and the relevant country-team Ambassador(s) will be automatically impeached if combat continues without Congressional approval.  All majority and minority leaders of both houses and the relevant Committees will be automatically impeached if an authorizing vote is not held within the 5-day period.  Any AUMF must be re-authorized at the beginning of each new Congressional term by a super-majority of both houses.

Risk:  This reorganization will cause significant turmoil and take time to organizationally and physically relocate people, agencies, and bureaucratic processes to the new structure.  Large-scale resignations should be expected in response also.  Effective execution of policy, processes, and institutional knowledge will likely be diminished in the meantime.  Furthermore, the State Department is not currently designed to accept this structure[5], and few individuals exist who could effectively manage the role as regional policy proconsul[6].  This reorganization therefore demands significant planning, time, and care in initial execution.

Gain:  This reorganization will negate the current sources of strategic failure and align national policy, ground truth, and effective execution.  It will free the President and the Executive Branch from attempting to manage global politics on a granular level daily.  It will enable local and regional expertise to rise to the forefront and lessen the impact of ideologues and military operationalists on foreign policy.  And above all else, America will be capable of winning wars again.

Option #2:  Goldwater-Nichols for the Interagency.

The implementation of all the recommendations from the Project for National Security Reform’s, Forging a New Shield[7], will allow for superior strategic decision-making by lessening the negative impact of organizational stovepipes.

Risk:  The maintenance of a strong President-centric system, Departmental stovepipes, and the military Services as independent entities that overlay Forging’s proposed interagency teams retains too much of the current national security system to be forcefully effective in negating the factors that have caused repeated strategic failures.  This option could be also used to give the appearance of reform without investing the time and energy to make its goals a reality.

Gain:  This reorganization can be readily adopted onto current national security structures with minimal disruption.  Demands for a ‘Goldwater-Nichols for the Interagency’ is an oft-repeated call to action, meaning that significant support for these reforms is already present.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Kapusta, P. (2015, Oct.-Dec.) The Gray Zone. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/27727

[2] Lamb, C. and Marks, E. (2010, Dec.) Chief of Mission Authority as a Model for National Security Integration. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/stratperspective/inss/StrategicPerspectives-2.pdf

[3] Marks, E. (2010, Mar.) A ‘Next Generation’ Department of State: A Proposal of the Management of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2010/0103/oped/op_marks.html

[4] Brimley, S. and Scharre, P. (2014, May 13) CTRL + ALT + DELETE: Resetting America’s Military. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/05/13/ctrl-alt-delete

[5] Schake, K. (2012, March 1) State of Disrepair: Fixing the Culture and Practices of the State Department. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.hooverpress.org/State-of-Disrepair-P561.aspx

[6] Blair, D., Neumann, R., and Olson, E., (2014, Aug. 27) Fixing Fragile States. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://nationalinterest.org/feature/fixing-fragile-states-11125

[7] Project for National Security Reform (2008, Nov.) Forging a New Shield. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Uploads/001/Media/pnsr_forging_a_new_shield_report.pdf

Contest Governing Documents Michael C. Davies Option Papers United States

Assessment of North Korea’s Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Small Arms

Sam Bocetta is a retired engineer who worked for over 35 years as an engineer specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems.  Past projects include development of EWTR systems, Antifragile EW project and development of Chaff countermeasures.  Sam now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part-time engineering professor and is the ASEAN affairs correspondent for Gun News Daily.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of North Korea’s Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Small Arms

Date Originally Written:  August 25, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 2, 2017.

Summary:  Syria has repeatedly used chemical weapons for large-scale assaults on its own citizens.  North Korea has been instrumental in helping develop those weapons, despite numerous sanctions.  Without being put in check, North Korea’s current regime, led by Kim Jong Un, will likely continue this behavior.

Text:  A confidential report released by the United Nations (U.N.) in August of 2017 indicates that North Korea had sent two shipments, which were intercepted, to front companies for the Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC)[1].  The SSRC is known to handle Syria’s chemical weapons program.  These shipments violate sanctions placed on North Korea, and U.N. experts note that they are looking into reports about Syria and North Korea working together on chemical weapons, ballistic missiles and conventional arms.

One U.N. member state believes the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) has a contract with Syria and both intercepted shipments were part of that contract.  In 2009, the U.N. Security Council blacklisted KOMID under concerns that it was North Korea’s key arms dealer and exported supplies for conventional weapons and ballistic missiles.

This is just the latest example of North Korea’s ties to chemical weapons.  In February of this year, Kim Jong Nam, who is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, died in Malaysia[2].  Malaysian police called the death an assassination done using the nerve agent VX, which is part of the same chemical weapons family as sarin but considerably more deadly.  North Korea has denied any involvement in Kim Jong Nam’s death and attributes the death to a medical condition.  Many didn’t believe this denial, and the incident led to people calling for North Korea to be put back on the list for state sponsors of terrorism[3].  In April, the United States’ House of Representatives voted 394-1 in favor of putting Korea back on that list[4].

North Korea has continually crossed the line and ignored sanctions regarding its weapons programs and supplying weapons to other nations.  This puts the United States and its allies in a difficult position, as they can’t let North Korea operate unchecked, but they can’t trust the country’s current regime to comply with sanctions and agreements.

North Korea’s ties to Syria are particularly concerning.  Syria has used chemical weapons for years, and even though it made a deal with the United States and Russia in 2013 to destroy these weapons, it didn’t follow through.  There have been multiple uses of weaponized chlorine and sarin, a nerve agent, although the Syrian government has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

North Korea has made its support for Syria clear both publicly and privately.  In April 2017 Kim Jong Un sent a message of congratulations to Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, for the anniversary of the country’s ruling party[5].  This was the same time that Assad was using chemical weapons on his own people, killing 86, which prompted worldwide outrage and a missile strike by the United States on the Syrian airbase of Shayrat[6].

In addition to this public message, there have been several shipments from North Korea to Syria intercepted in recent years.  Contents have included ampoules, chemical suits, masks, and other supplies vital in developing chemical weapons.  North Korea has increased its assistance of Syria during the latter nation’s civil war by sending more chemical weapons, providing advice to the Syrian military and helping with the development of SCUD missiles, which can deliver chemical weapons[7].

Although Syria’s use of chemical weapons is appalling[8], it’s North Korea which is proliferating those weapons and others.  In 2007 North Korea was building a nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert.  The Israeli Air Force destroyed the reactor.  The desert where the reactor once was, as of this writing, is territory of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Without the attack by Israel, ISIS might have possessed a nuclear reactor that was near completion.  And with the right help and ability to operate unchecked, it is easy to imagine ISIS trying to weaponize the reactor in some manner.

Yet even when the United States catches a North Korean weapons shipment, diplomatic issues can make it difficult to take any action.  That’s what happened in December 2002, when a North Korean ship, the So San, was stopped by anti-terrorist Spanish commandos after weeks of surveillance by the United States[9].  The ship had 15 SCUD missiles on it, which were hidden beneath sacks of cement, and it was on its way to Yemen[10].  In 2001, Yemen, known for harboring terrorists, agreed to stop getting weapons from North Korea.  When the So San was first stopped, the Yemeni government said it wasn’t involved in any transaction related to the ship.

Once the United States commandeered the vessel, Yemen changed its story, filing a diplomatic protest stating that it did purchase the missiles from North Korea as part of an old defense contract and that the United States needed to release the missiles.  It took hours of negotiating between Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was president of Yemen at the time, and both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney.  Saleh guaranteed that the missiles would only be used for Yemen’s defense and that the nation wouldn’t make any more deals with North Korea, and the United States released the ship.  The United States was developing a counterterrorism partnership with Yemen at that time, and there were few other options to keep the relationship on good terms, but this incident shows that catching North Korea’s weapons shipments is far from the only challenge.

Efforts to halt the spread of chemical and nuclear weapons by North Korea may lead to destabilizing the current regime.  Although there are worries that this destabilization will lead to loose Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the evidence suggests that the spread of WMD is even more likely under Kim Jong Un’s rule.  Sanctions and more thorough inspections of North Korea’s shipments may help here, but it will require that the United States takes a hard-line on any weapons shipments originating from North Korea, and doesn’t allow them simply for diplomatic reasons.

Other approaches may involve penalizing ports that aren’t inspecting shipments thoroughly and flagging those states that reflag ships from North Korea to conceal their country of origin.  Although this could work, it will take time.  It’s all a matter of determining whether the risk is greater with a more aggressive stance towards North Korea or allowing them to continue proliferating weapons.


Endnotes:

[1] Nichols, M. (2017, August 21). North Korea shipments to Syria chemical arms agency intercepted: U.N. report. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-syria-un-idUSKCN1B12G2

[2] Heifetz, J. and Perry, J. (2017, February 28). What is VX nerve agent, and what could North Korea do with it? Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/world/vx-nerve-agent/index.html

[3] Stanton, J. (2017, February 24). N. Korea just killed a guy with one of the WMDs that caused us to invade Iraq … in a crowded airport terminal, in a friendly nation. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/02/24/n-korea-just-killed-a-guy-with-one-of-the-wmds-that-caused-us-to-invade-iraq-in-a-crowded-airport-terminal-in-a-friendly-nation/

[4] Marcos, C. (2017, April 3). House votes to move toward designating North Korea as state sponsor of terror. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/327106-house-votes-to-move-toward-designating-north-korea-as-state-sponsor

[5] Stanton, J. (2017, April 7). If Assad is the murderer of Idlib, Kim Jong-un was an accessory. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/04/07/if-assad-is-the-murderer-or-idlib-kim-jong-un-was-an-accessory/

[6] Brook, T.V. and Korte, G. (2017, April 6). U.S. launches cruise missile strike on Syria after chemical weapons attack. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/04/06/us-launches-cruise-missile-strike-syria-after-chemical-weapons-attack/100142330/

[7] Tribune, W. (2013, August 26). Reports: Cash-strapped N. Korea ‘stepped up’ chemical weapons shipments to Syria. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.worldtribune.com/archives/reports-cash-strapped-n-korea-stepped-up-chemical-weapons-shipments-to-syria/

[8] Stanton, J. (2017, August 22). Latest cases of chemical proliferation remind us why Kim Jong-Un must go. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/08/22/latest-cases-of-chemical-proliferation-remind-us-why-kim-jong-un-must-go

[9] Lathem, N. (2002, December 12). Korean SCUDs Can Skedaddle; Yemen Gets to Keep Missiles by Promising ‘Defense Only’. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from http://nypost.com/2002/12/12/korean-scuds-can-skedaddle-yemen-gets-to-keep-missiles-by-promising-defense-only/

[10] Goodman, A. (2002, December 12). U.S. lets Scud ship sail to Yemen. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/east/12/11/us.missile.ship/

Arms Control Assessment Papers North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Sam Bocetta United States Weapons of Mass Destruction

Options for Constitutional Change in Afghanistan

David Benson is a Professor of Strategy and Security Studies at the United States Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS), part of Air University in Montgomery, Alabama.  His area of focus includes online politics and international relations.  He can be found on Twitter @davidcbenson.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States is attempting to broker peace in Afghanistan allowing it to remove troops, leaving behind a stable country unlikely to be used to stage transnational terror attacks.

Date Originally Written:  August 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 25, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article provides a neutral assessment of two possible courses of action available to the U.S. and Afghan Governments.

Background:  Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic, religious and linguist state.  Nicknamed “the graveyard of empires,” the disparate nature of the country has prevented both foreign empires and domestic leaders from consolidating control in the country.  The most successful domestic leaders have used Afghanistan’s rough terrain and complicated ethnography to retain independence, while playing larger states off each other to the country’s advantage.

The U.S. and its allies have been conducting military operations in Afghanistan for 16 years.  In that time, the coalition of opposition known as the Taliban has gone from control of an estimated 90% of the country, down to a small fraction, and now controls approximately 50% of the country.  At the time of the U.S.-led invasion, the Taliban was a pseudo-governmental organization capable of fielding a military that used modern tactics, but since than has devolved into a less hierarchical network, and in some ways is better thought of as a coalition of anti-government forces.  Although officially a religious organization, the Taliban has historically drawn its greatest support from among the Pashto majority in the country.  The current Afghan government is at Kabul and has supporters amongst every ethnic group, but has never controlled much territory outside of Kabul.

Following the collapse of the Taliban the U.S.-sponsored government installed a constitution which established a strong central government.  Although the constitution recognizes the various minority groups, and provides protections for minority communities, it reserves most authority for the central government.  For example, though the government recognizes 14 ethnic groups and as many as 5 language families as part of Afghanistan, it still calls for a single centrally developed educational curriculum.  The president even appoints regional governors.

Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump and some of his key advisors have raised the possibility of a negotiated solution in Afghanistan.  Such a negotiation would necessarily include the Taliban, and Taliban associated groups.  Insofar as the ongoing conflict is between the central government and those opposed to the central government, a natural accommodation could include a change in the government structure.

Significance:  Afghanistan was the base of operation for the terrorist organization al-Qa’ida, and where the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States were planned.  The importance of the September 11th attacks in the U.S. and international consciousness cannot be overstated.  The perceived threat of international terrorism is so great that if Afghanistan is not stable enough to prevent transnational terror attacks from originating there, regional and global powers will be constantly tempted to return.  Afghanistan is also a potential arena for competition between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.  India seeks an ally that can divide Pakistan’s attention away from India and the Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan wants to avoid encirclement.

Option #1:  Do not change the constitution of Afghanistan which would continue to centralize authority with the government in Kabul.

Risk:  The conflict never ends.  The Afghan constitution provides for a far more centralized government than any western democracy, and yet Afghanistan is more heterogeneous than any of those countries.  Ongoing populist revolts against elite leadership personified by Brexit in the United Kingdom and the election of President Trump demonstrate the desire for local control even in stable democracies.  Combined with Afghanistan’s nearly 40 year history of war, such desires for local control that are currently replicated across the globe could easily perpetuate violence in the country.  Imagine the local popular outrage in the U.S. when Barack Obama and Donald Trump were elected if the President also appointed the governors of every state, and dictated the curriculum in every school.

A second-order risk is heightened tension between India and Pakistan.  So long as Afghanistan is internally fractured, it is a source of conflict between India and Pakistan.  If Pakistan is able and willing to continue to foment the Taliban to thwart India’s outreach into the country, then this raises the possibility of escalation between the two nuclear countries.

Gain:  Afghanistan externally looks more like other states, at least on paper.  The Taliban and other terror groups are in violation of local and international law, and there is a place in Kabul for the U.S. and others to press their claims.  The advantage of the constitution as it now stands is that there is a single point of institutional control.  If the president controls the governors, and the governors control their provinces, then Afghanistan is a more easily manageable problem internationally, if not domestically.

Option #2:  Change the constitution of Afghanistan decentralizing some governing authority.

Risk:  Once the Afghan constitution is on the table for negotiation, then there is no telling what might happen.  The entire country could be carved up into essentially independent territories, with the national state of Afghanistan dissolving into a diplomatic fiction.  Although this would essentially replicate de jure what is de facto true on the ground, it could legitimize actors and outcomes that are extremely deleterious for international peace.  At worst, it might allow bad actors legal protection to develop power bases in regions of the country they control without any legal recourse for other countries.

Gain:  A negotiated solution with the Taliban is much more likely to succeed.  Some Taliban members may not give up their arms in exchange for more autonomy, and perhaps even a legal seat at the table, but not all people fighting for the Taliban are “true believers.”  The incentives for people who just want more local control, or official recognition of the control they already exercise, change with a constitution that cedes control from the central government.  Ideally the constitution would replicate to some degree the internal autonomy with external unity created in the 20th under the monarchy.

Other Comments:  War, even civil war, is always a political problem.  As such, a political solution may be more practical than a military one.  While changes can be applied to force structure, rules of engagement and strategy, until all involved are willing and able to change the politics of the situation, failure is imminent.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

None.

Afghanistan David Benson Governing Documents Option Papers United States

U.S. Options for Basing Forces to Deter North Korea

Mark Loncar is retired from the United States Air Force and is a graduate of the Defense Intelligence College, now called National Intelligence University.  He served in South Korea for 23 months.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. faces a growing existential Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program.

Date Originally Written: August 1, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 18, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a U.S. foreign policy advisor.

Background:  North Korea recently tested another ballistic missile, the second major test in a month, as part of a nuclear weapons program that, if brought to fruition, could threaten the U.S.  Policymakers in the U.S. are understandably reticent because of the serious threat that North Korea may respond with aggressive military action against South Korea and bring the U.S. into another Korean conflict.

The U.S. security commitment to its South Korea ally has not been in doubt since the Korean War started in 1950.  However, the positioning of U.S. forces in South Korea has been debated, and over the years, the number of U.S. troops has decreased from the mid-30 thousands before the North Korean nuclear program started in the 1990s to around 28,000 today.  Amid the present North Korean nuclear challenge, it is time to reexamine the utility of keeping U.S. forces in South Korea.

Significance:  The Korean peninsula is no longer the center of gravity in any hostilities between North Korea and the U.S. as North Korea’s ICBM capability, according to media reports, could reach Honolulu, Anchorage, and Seattle.  U.S. policy must adapt to this drastic expansion of the threat in order to end the impasse that characterizes U.S. dealings with the North Korean ICBM challenge.  In expanding his nuclear capability to ICBMs, North Korean President Kim Jong-un has turned what was a Korean peninsula-centric issue into more of an eyeball-to-eyeball existential threat to the U.S..

Option #1:  U.S. forces remain positioned in South Korea.

Risk:  U.S. policy options concerning the North Korean nuclear program will continue to be limited due to the risk of war to South Korea.  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea preserves the status quo, but does not move the U.S. closer to a solution to the North Korean nuclear challenge.  Having U.S. forces in South Korea also complicates U.S. – South Korea relations and gives South Korea leverage in how the U.S. should respond to the North Korean nuclear issue, further constraining U.S. freedom of movement to respond to North Korea.

Gain:  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea signals U.S. resolve in the Korean Conflict through a sharing of risk with South Korean allies.  This option maintains a U.S. capability to respond quickly and forcibly to North Korean conventional incursions and other hostile actions against South Korea.

Option #2:  U.S. forces redeploy from South Korea to present cleaner options for dealing with North Korean nuclear weapons threat.  The policy would relocate U.S. forces from South Korea to Japan and other countries and bases in the region.  A continued U.S. military presence near the Korean peninsula will help to reassure South Korea and Japan that the long-time security commitments will abide.  The redeployment would also represent a continuation of major U.S. conventional capability in the area to counter any North Korean conventional aggression.

Risk:  Perception of outright appeasement by U.S. allies.  How could the U.S. proceed with redeployment of forces from South Korea without communicating to friends and adversaries that it would be engaging in all-out appeasement of the North Korean regime and surrendering important U.S. and allied interests in Northern Asia to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)?

Gain:  The removal of U.S. forces from South Korea would be a major inducement for North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program or for the PRC to pressure it to do so.  Indeed, North Korea’s paranoia concerning U.S. – South Korea intentions toward its regime could be significantly pacified by moving U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula.  At the same time, the stakes would be raised for Kim Jong-un and his PRC benefactors to change behavior on terms attractive to all parties—agreeing to a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and a reduced threat of war on the peninsula.

Second, removing the threat to U.S. forces on the peninsula would present less cumbersome options for the U.S. with respect to the North Korean nuclear weapons challenge, especially concerns about war on the Korean peninsula.  The U.S. would also be less constrained in deciding to preempt or respond directly to North Korean nuclear aggression.  This is the real capability of such a redeploying U.S. forces from South Korea.  North Korea and the PRC would be on notice that if North Korea continued its nuclear weapons ICBM development after a redeployment of U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula, the regime’s action may be met with the gravest of responses.

Third, this option would deny North Korea a pretext for attacking South Korea should the U.S. strike Kim Jong-un’s nuclear facilities.  Such a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would come only after a U.S. redeployment from the peninsula and the North Korean regime’s obstinate refusal to scrap its nuclear weapons program.  In this security construct, any North Korean attack below the 38th parallel in retaliation for a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would likely elicit the immediate destruction of the North Korean state.

Other Comments:  An opportunity is in reach to have a return to the status quo without a Korean peninsula-centric relationship.  This relationship would be more North Korea-South Korea focused, with the U.S. and the PRC overseeing the relationship.  The U.S. would no longer be in the middle of the mix with its own forces physically present in South Korea.  It may not be the best the U.S. could hope for – that would be a democratic government in North Korea if not an eventual unification of North and South Korea.  However, a U.S. redeployment to incentivize peninsula denuclearization and present cleaner options concerning North Korea’s nuclear weapons program may be a more viable alternative than accepting and having to deter a North Korean global ICBM capability, or to fight another war on the Korean peninsula.  In the end, by removing U.S. forces from South Korea, friend and foe should understand that if North Korea refuses to scrap its nuclear weapons capability, it will be the North Korean regime alone against the overwhelming power of the U.S..


Endnotes:

None.

China (People's Republic of China) Mark Loncar North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States Weapons of Mass Destruction

Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Ray Leonardo previously worked in the defense industry.  He presently works as a graduate researcher in international relations with interests that include power transition, alliance structure, great power politics, and conflict.  He can be found on Twitter @rayrleonardo and writes for rayrleonardo.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Date Originally Written:  July 28, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 11, 2017.

Summary:  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) overtaking of the United States as the largest global economy will bring difficult and potentially dangerous consequences.  Continued peace will depend upon the PRC’s satisfaction with the current international system created by the United States, among others.  History and PRC foreign policy indicate the odds of a peaceful power transition may be lower than expected.

Text:  “…[T]he United States welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and a responsible player in global affairs[1],” was often stated by United States’ President Barack Obama during his multiple summits with PRC President Xi Jinping.  The United States has little influence in slowing the rapid economic growth of the PRC.  Most forecasters predict the PRC will overtake the United States as the largest economy sometime during the first quarter of this century.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the PRC is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2021[2].  Many scholars and practitioners in the field of international relations are concerned that the rise of the PRC will not be so peaceful and their concerns are backed up by theory.

History has shown that rising powers who challenge the status quo, and, or hegemonic nations often create a fertile environment for conflict.  Historical cases indicate that it is power parity (balance of power), rather than a dominated or disproportional relationship (hegemony), that increases the likelihood of war.  This research falls under the theory of Power Transition[3].  Power Transition theory is directly at odds with the often accepted Balance of Power theory, the latter of which states that a balance of power among nations leads to peace[4].  Various theories including nuclear deterrence have formed under the Balance of Power pretext, but the historical data does not back this theory.  Conflict is more apt to break out under conditions where states are about equal in relative power.

Research on power transitions shows that the potential for conflict is dependent on several variables, two of which include relative power and the satisfaction of the rising power[5].  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a common measurement for state power but measuring a state’s satisfaction within the international system is a more challenging task.  Regardless of statistical models, one can see through previous cases of great power transitions that conflict is most likely once the rising power has overtaken (regarding relative power) the previously dominant state.  Conflict is even more plausible when the rising power is highly dissatisfied with the current international system.  This is assuming, as is the case today, that the dominant state (The United States), has created an international regime that of which mirrors its own political and economic systems (Bretton Woods), but also mirrors the dominant nation’s socio-political philosophy and values.

Many factors play into a country’s satisfaction.  One can look at the PRC’s rapid economic rise as proof that they have found a way to be successful in an international system created by the West, particularly by the United States.  However, even as the PRC’s economics can be closely aligned with most of the world under the guise of “capitalism,” it must not be ignored that the PRC has very differing views on political systems, individual rights, and traditional western socio-political values.  The PRC government adopts a foreign policy that is textbook realism in so much that its use of force will never be used to promote “Chinese” or “eastern” values abroad.  The PRC has little concern for human rights domestically, never mind protecting human rights on the international stage.

Twenty-first century conflict in East Asia will be fought on water.  The PRC’s recent build up of artificial islands and claims to various islands in the South China Sea are constant and increasing[6].  This is due to many factors, most of which impact their economy and security.  The PRC’s actions show a consistent effort to leverage regional neighbors, particularly those who lay claim to various land masses throughout the South China and East China seas.  The PRC’s regional foreign policy is not surprising; however, the United States and its allies should be questioning how the future global policy of the PRC will look.  Will the PRC’s aggressive regional policy in the early parts of this century be thought of as a microcosm for their mid-century global policy?  The PRC’s aggressive policy toward countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia shows a strong dissatisfaction with the regional status quo.  The PRC understands the leverage that it has over many of its smaller neighbors and seeks to capitalize on it sooner rather than later.

There is no reason why U.S. officials should assume the PRC will peacefully rise through the international system without leveraging the power and control that comes with being the hegemonic nation.  The PRC will seek to advance their interests even as it may be on the backs of other smaller or even major powers.  With the PRC calling more of the shots regarding our international institutions, capitalist economies will still flourish, the bilateral and multilateral trade will continue to grow, but the principles and values that of which upon these institutions were built will continue to erode.  Human rights will take a back seat on the world stage, and over time few nations will care about the well-being of their trade partner’s people.


Endnotes: 

[1]  Office of Press Secretary, The White House (2015, September 25). Remarks by President Obama and President Xi of the People’s Republic of China in Joint Press Conference Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/remarks-president-obama-and-president-xi-peoples-republic-china-joint

[2]  OECD Data (Edition 2014). GDP Long-term Forecast Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://data.oecd.org/gdp/gdp-long-term-forecast.htm#indicator-chart

[3]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[4]  Schweller, R. L. (2016, May). The Balance of Power in World Politics Retrieved July 25, 2017, from http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-119

[5]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[6]  Ives, M. (2017, August 4). Vietnam, Yielding to Beijing, Backs Off South China Sea Drilling Retrieved August 4, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/world/asia/vietnam-south-china-sea-repsol.html

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Power Transition Ray Leonardo United States

Options for U.S. National Guard Defense of Cyberspace

Jeffrey Alston is a member of the United States Army National Guard and a graduate of the United States Army War College.  He can be found on Twitter @jeffreymalston.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States has not organized its battlespace to defend against cyberattacks.  Cyberattacks are growing in scale and scope and threaten surprise and loss of initiative at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.  Shortfalls in the nation’s cybersecurity workforce and lack of division of labor amongst defenders exacerbates these shortfalls.

Date Originally Written:  July 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 4, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This paper is written from a perspective of a U.S. Army field grade officer with maneuver battalion command experience who is a senior service college graduate.  The officer has also been a practitioner of delivery of Information Technology (IT) services and cybersecurity for his organization for over 15 years and in the IT industry for nearly 20 years.

Background:  At the height of the Cold War, the United States, and the North American (NA) continent, organized for defense against nuclear attack.  A series of radar early warning lines and control stations were erected and arrayed across the northern reaches of the continent to warn of nuclear attack.  This system of electronic sentries were controlled and monitored through a series of air defense centers.  The actual air defense fell to a number of key air bases across the U.S. ready to intercept and defeat bombers from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics entering the NA airspace.  The system was comprehensive, arrayed in-depth, and redundant[1].  Today, with threats posed by sophisticated cyber actors who directly challenge numerous United States interests, no equivalent warning structure exists.  Only high level, broad outlines of responsibility exist[2].  Existing national capabilities, while not trivial, are not enough to provide assurances to U.S. states as these national capabilities may require a cyber event of national significance to occur before they are committed to address a state’s cyber defense needs.  Worse, national entities may notify a state after a breach has occurred or a network is believed to be compromised.  The situation is not sustainable.

Significance:  Today, the vast Cold War NA airspace has its analog in undefended space and gray area networks where the cyber threats propagate, unfettered from active security measures[3].  While the capabilities of the myriad of companies and firms that make up the critical infrastructure and key resource sectors have considerable cybersecurity resources and skill, there are just as many that have next to nothing.  Many companies and firms cannot afford cyber capability or worse are simply unaware of the threats they face.  Between all of these entities the common terrain consists of the numerous networks, private and public, that interconnect or expose all of these actors.  With its Title 32 authorities in U.S. law, the National Guard is well positioned to take a key role in the unique spot interface between private industry – especially critical infrastructure – in that it can play a key role in this gray space.

There is a unique role for the National Guard cyber forces in gray space of the internet.  The National Guard could provide a key defensive capability in two different ways.

Option #1:  The National Guard’s Defensive Cyberspace Operations-Element (DCO-E), not part of the Department of Defense Cyber Mission Force, fulfills an active role providing depth in their states’ networks, both public and private.  These elements, structured as full-time assets, can cooperatively work to negotiate the placement of sensors and honeypots in key locations in the network and representative sectors in their states.  Data from these sensors and honey pots, optimized to only detect high-threat or active indicators of compromise, would be aggregated in security operations centers manned primarily by the DCO-Es but with state government and Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) participation.  These security operations centers provide valuable intelligence, analytics, cyber threat intelligence to all and act to provide depth in cybersecurity.  These units watch for only the most sophisticated threats and allow for the CIKR private industry entities to concentrate their resources on internal operations.  Surveilling gray space networks provides another layer of protection and builds a shared understanding of adversary threats, traffic, exploitation attempts returning initiative to CIKR and preventing surprise in cyberspace.

Risk:  The National Guard cannot be expected to intercept every threat that is potentially targeted at a state entity.  Negative perceptions of “mini-National Security Agencies (NSAs)” within each state could raise suspicions and privacy concerns jeopardizing the potential of these assets.  Duplicate efforts by all stakeholders threaten to spoil an available capability rather than integrating it into a whole of government approach.

Gain:  Externally, this option builds the network of cyber threat intelligence and unifies efforts within the particular DCO-E’s state.  Depth is created for all stakeholders.  Internally, allowing National Guard DCO-Es to focus in the manner in this option provides specific direction, equipping options, and training for their teams.

Option #2:  The National Guard’s DCO-Es offer general support functions within their respective states for their Adjutants General, Governors, Department of Homeland Security Advisors, etc.  These elements are tasked on an as-needed basis to perform cybersecurity vulnerability assessments of critical infrastructure when requested or when directed by state leadership.  Assessments and follow-on recommendations are delivered to the supported entity for the purpose of increasing their cybersecurity posture.  The DCO-Es fulfill a valuable role especially for those entities that lack a dedicated cybersecurity capability or remain unaware of the threats they face.  In this way, the DCO-Es may prevent a breach of a lessor defended entity as the entry point for larger scale attacks or much larger chain-reaction or cascading disruptions of a particular industry.

Risk:  Given the hundreds and potentially thousands of private industry CIKR entities within any particular state, this option risks futility in that there is no guarantee the assessments are performed on the entities at the greatest risk.  These assessments are a cybersecurity improvement for the state overall, however, given the vast numbers of industry actors this option is equivalent to trying to boil the ocean.

Gain:  These efforts help fill in the considerable gap that exists in the cybersecurity of CIKR entities in the state.  The value of the assessments may be multiplied through communication of the results of these assessments and vulnerabilities at state and national level industry specific associations and conferences etc.  DCO-Es can gradually collect information on trends in these industries and attempt to use that information for the benefit of all such as through developing knowledge bases and publishing state specific trends.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Winkler, D. F. (1997). SEARCHING THE SKIES: THE LEGACY OF THE UNITED STATES COLD WAR DEFENSE RADAR PROGRAM(USA, Headquarters Air Combatant Command).

[2]  Federal Government Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2017, from https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/marketing/Cybersecurity/2013march21_cyberroleschart.authcheckdam.pdf

[3]  Brenner, J. (2014, October 24). Nations everywhere are exploiting the lack of cybersecurity. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joel-brenner-nations-everywhere-are-exploiting-the-lack-of-cybersecurity

 

 

 

Cyberspace Jeffrey Alston Non-Full-Time Military Forces (Guard, Reserve, etc) Option Papers United States

Call for Papers: Environmental Factors and Resource Scarcity as a Conflict Driver

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Summary:

Divergent Options is calling for papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Environmental Factors and Resource Scarcity as a Conflict Driver.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by October 20, 2017.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic we still welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

As background, the January 2017 Global Trends report released by the United States National Intelligence Council envisions a future where:

Environmental and climate changes will challenge systems in different dimensions; heat waves, for example, stress infrastructure, energy, human and animal health, and agriculture. Climate change— observed or anticipated—almost certainly will become an increasingly integral component of how people view their world, especially as populations are projected to swell in those areas most vulnerable to extreme weather events and sea-level rise, including coastal megacities and regions already suffering from water scarcity. Many of the ecological and environmental stresses from climate change—and the infectious diseases it will affect—will cut across state borders, making coordination among governments and international institutions crucial to effective responses. Policies and programs to mitigate and adapt to these challenges will spur opportunities for those well-positioned to benefit.

How will this vision of the future affect national security?

What can be done to address this vision of the future?

 

 

Call For Papers Environmental Factors Resource Scarcity

Assessment of Cryptocurrencies and Their Potential for Criminal Use 

The Viking Cop has served in a law enforcement capacity with multiple organizations within the U.S. Executive Branch.  He can be found on Twitter @TheVikingCop.  The views reflected are his own and do not represent the opinion of any government entities.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Cryptocurrencies and Their Potential for Criminal Use

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 28, 2017.

Summary:  Cryptocurrencies are a new technology-driven virtual currency that has existed since late 2009.  Due to the anonymous or near-anonymous nature of their design they are useful to criminal organizations.  It is vital for law enforcement organizations and regulators to know the basics about how cryptocurrencies work as their use by criminal organizations is likely to continue.

Text:  Cryptocurrencies are a group of virtual currencies that relay on a peer-to-peer system disconnected from a central issuing authority that allows users an anonymous or near-anonymous method to conduct transactions[1][2].

Bitcoin, Ethereum, LiteCoin, and DogeCoin are among 820 currently existing cryptocurrencies that have a combined market capitalization of over ninety billion U.S. Dollars at the time of this assessment[3][4].

The majority of cryptocurrencies run off a system design created by an unknown individual or group of individuals published under the name Satoshi Nakamoto[2].  This system relies on a decentralized public ledger system, conceptualized by Nakamoto in a whitepaper published in October of 2008, which would later become widely known as “Blockchain.”

Simplistically, blockchain works as a system of electronic signature keys and cryptographic hash codes printed onto a publicly accessible ledger.  Once a coin in any cryptocurrency is created through a “mining” process that consists of a computer or node solving a complex mathematical calculation known as a “proof-of-work,” the original signature and hash of that coin is added to the public ledger on the initial node and then also transmitted to every other node in the network in a block.  These proof-of-work calculations are based on confirming the hash code of previous transactions and printing it to a local copy of the public ledger.  Once the block is transmitted to all other nodes they confirm that the transaction is valid and print it to their copy of the public ledger.  This distribution and cross-verification of the public ledger by multiple computers ensures the accuracy and security of each transaction in the blockchain as the only way to falsely print to public ledger would be to control fifty percent plus one of the nodes in the network[1][2].

While the electronic signatures for each user are contained within the coin, the signature itself contains no personally identifiable information.  From a big data perspective this system allows one to see all the transactions that a user has conducted through the used electronic signature but it will not allow one to know from who or where the transaction originated or terminated.

A further level of security has been developed by private groups that provide a method of virtually laundering the money called “Mixing.”  A third-party source acts as an intermediary receiving and disturbing payments removing any direct connection between two parties in the coin signature[5].

This process of separating the coins and signatures within from the actual user gives cryptocurrencies an anonymous or near-anonymous method for conducting criminal transactions online.  A level of the internet, known as Darknet, which is only accessible through the use of special software and work off non-standard communication protocols has seen a rise in online marketplaces.  Illicit Darknet marketplaces such as Silk Road and the more recently AlphaBay have levied cryptocurrencies as a go-to for concealing various online black market transactions such as stolen credit card information, controlled substances, and firearms[6].

The few large criminal cases that have involved the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, such as U.S. Citizen Ross Ulbricht involved with Silk Road and Czech national Tomáš Jiříkovský for stealing ninety thousand Bitcoins ($225 million USD in current market value), have been solved by investigators through traditional methods of discovering an IP address left through careless online posts and not through a vulnerability in the public ledger[7].

Even in smaller scale cases of narcotics transactions taking place on Darknet marketplaces local investigators have only been able to trace cryptocurrency purchases backwards after intercepting shipments through normal detection methods and finding cryptocurrency artifacts during the course of a regular investigation.  There has been little to no success on linking cryptocurrencies back to distributors that hasn’t involved regular investigative methods[8].

Looking at future scenarios involving cryptocurrencies the Global Public Policy Institute sees a possible future whereby terrorism devolves back to populist movements and employs decentralized hierarchy heavily influenced by online interactions.  In this possible future, cryptocurrencies could allow groups to covertly move money between supporters and single or small group operatives along with being a means to buy and sell software to be used in cyberterrorism attacks or to support physical terrorism attacks[9].

Cryptocurrency is currently positioned to exploit a massive vulnerability in the global financial and legal systems and law enforcement organizations are only beginning to acquire the knowledge and tools to combat illicit use.  In defense of law enforcement organizations and regulators, cryptocurrencies are in their infancy, with massive changes in their operation, trading, and even foundational technology changing rapidly.  This rapid change makes it so that until cryptocurrencies reach a stable or mature state, they will be an unpredictable moving target to track and hit[10].


Endnotes:

[1]  Arvind Narayanan, J. B. (2016). Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction. Pinceton University Press.

[2]  Nakamoto, S. (n.d.). Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from Bitcoin: https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf

[3]  Cryptocurrency market cap analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved from Cryptolization: https://cryptolization.com/

[4]  CryptoCurrency Market Capitalizations. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2017, from CoinMarketCap: https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/views/all/

[5]  Jacquez, T. (2016). Cryptocurrency the new money laundering problem for banking, law enforcement, and the legal system. Utica College: ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

[6]  Over 57% Of Darknet Sites Offer Unlawful Items, Study Shows. (n.d.). Retrieved July 21, 2017, from AlphaBay Market: https://alphabaymarket.com/over-57-of-darknet-sites-offer-unlawful-items-study-shows/

[7]  Bohannon, J. (2016, March 9). Why criminals can’t hide behind Bitcoin. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/why-criminals-cant-hide-behind-bitcoin

[8]  Jens Anton Bjørnage, M. W. (2017, Feburary 21). Dom: Word-dokument og bitcoins fælder narkohandler. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from Berlingske: https://www.b.dk/nationalt/dom-word-dokument-og-bitcoins-faelder-narkohandler

[9]  Bhatnagar, A., Ma, Y., Manome, M., Markiewicz, S., Sun, F., Wahedi, L. A., et al. (@017, June). Volatile Years: Transnational Terrorism in 2027. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from Robert Bosch Foundation: http://www.bosch-stiftung.de/content/language1/downloads/GGF_2027_Volatile_Years_Transnational_Terrorism_in_2027.pdf

[10]  Engle, E. (2016). Is Bitcoin Rat Poison: Cryptocurrency, Crime, and Counterfeiting (CCC). Journal of High Technology Law 16.2, 340-393.

Assessment Papers Criminal Activities Cyberspace Economic Factors The Viking Cop

Assessment of Alexander Zakharchenko’s “Malorossiya” Proposition

Michael Sheldon is a recent graduate of the Peace and Conflict Studies BA at Malmo University.  Through his academic pursuits and private initiatives, Michael has conducted analysis on the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014, specializing in rebel forces.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Alexander Zakharchenko’s “Malorossiya” Proposition

Date Originally Written:  August 16, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 21, 2017.

Summary:  The Malorossiya proposition, as presented on July 18, 2017 by head of Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Alexander Zakharchenko, was intended to absorb Ukraine in its entirety under rebel control, relocating the capital to Donetsk.  While success seemed unlikely, there were local political objectives to be gained.  After less than a month, the project was cancelled, likely to be succeeded by similar proposals.

Text:  On July 18, ‘Head of the Republic’ of ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ Alexander Zakharchenko announced the Malorossiya project at a press briefing[1].  The news came as a surprise to virtually everyone in-and-outside of rebel territory.  Along with the press briefing, two papers were released to the public through a local “DNR” news organization “DNR-Pravda”, one being a political statement in relation to the project, and the other being a “constitutional act”[2].

Recalling the “DNR” constitution as presented in 2014[3] during the early days of separatism, the constitutional act as it was presented in written form differed in several respects.  Firstly, this act is technically not a legal document and only serves as a guideline for an actual constitution to be adopted by referendum.  The primary goal of the Malorossiya proposal was Ukrainian unification under the federal umbrella of ‘Malorossiya’, literally meaning ‘little Russia.’  The proposed capital for this new federation would be the city of Donetsk, the current capital of ‘DNR,’ granting Kyiv the status of cultural capital.  Other political provisions were also made, reflecting the Soviet nostalgia that has been salient in the separatist states.  This was made apparent especially in the clauses stipulating a union of states between Russia, Belarus and ‘Malorossiya,’ and “Rehabilitation of the Soviet legacy.”

Zakharchenko’s move came long after the apparent failure of a previous ‘Novorossiya’ (New Russia) project, which aimed to create a confederation between the two rebel entities ‘DNR’ and ‘Lugansk People’s’ Republic’ (LNR/LPR)[4].  While the Novorossiya project by and large turned out fruitless, it had come to hold great cultural value ever since the beginning of the conflict early 2014.  The very concept of Novorossiya stipulates a regional type of brotherhood in the region of Ukraine spanning from Odessa to Kharkov, regions with larger Russian ethnic populations.  This concept has come to have not only great cultural significance for inhabitants in regions controlled by rebel authorities, but has also come to dictate cooperation between the two rebel entities LNR and DNR.  This cooperation primarily comes in military support from DNR, which has lended its 7th Separate Mechanized Brigade[5] to LNR, and assisted in providing security and rapid reaction forces to internal instability in LNR[6].

In part, at least on a broader grassroots level, these factors have contributed to the chilled reception that the notion of an analogous Malorossiya project experienced.  The concept of Novorossiya and its flag had come to symbolize separatism in the east, for which many had given their lives, but would now be scrapped in favor of a unification project.  This combined with the lack of progress made with the Novorossiya project over the past three years left Zakharchenko with a skeptical population.  Denis Pushilin, chairman of the People’s Soviet (Council) of the ‘DNR’ also came out reserved on the topic of Malorossiya, stressing the need for parliamentary process, but also that there was no legal or normative basis for what Zakharchenko planned to carry out [7].  Igor Plotnitsky, head of ‘LNR’, was not enamored with the idea of ‘Malorossiya’ either, claiming that ‘LNR’ had not been notified of Zakharchenko’s plans prior to the press conference.  The Kremlin also denied involvement in the project [8], and while it is hardly a reliable source for this conflict, it is difficult to imagine that they would have any stake in a power struggle between the two rebel ‘republics.’

At first it seemed that the project could yield some positive results for Zakharchenko and solidify his personal power within ‘DNR.’  As it was planned, the project would have thrown the participating states into what was referred to as a “transitional period” for three years[9].  Possibly a motivating factor for announcing the proposition, this transitional period clause could have helped Zakharchenko put off elections even further, enabling a perpetual state of deferral.  Neither ‘DNR’ nor ‘LNR’ are strangers to putting off elections, something which each have done twice the past three years[10].  The constitutional act also speculates denying political parties to act as ‘political subjects’, and proposes transitioning to personal representations.  Other positives for Zakharchenko in this proposal are the political points he likely hopes to win with it.  For one, pushing for a ‘Malorossiya’ encompassing all of Ukraine (Crimea included) sends a signal of reconciliation, albeit on his terms, enabling him to further the narrative of an uncooperative and unreasonable Kyiv, these notions are echoed by Vladislav Surkov, advisor to president Vladimir Putin[11].  Secondly, Zakharchenko effectively brought up the notion of Donetsk having sovereignty over ‘LNR’, which had seen its fair share of instability and coup attempts in the past.

Zakharchenko soon became aware of the criticism that the proposition had received, and clarified that he was never establishing a new state, but merely proposing one shortly after the announcement[12].  Not even a month had passed before, on August 9, 2017, Zakharchenko officially abandoned the proposal as a result of the early resistance he had faced with regards to the name “Malorossiya” especially[13].  Nonetheless, Zakharchenko maintained that the proposal had not been in vain, as it had given way to a range of new interesting proposals.  Moving forward, it will be pertinent to keep an eye on similar proposals relating to a federal Ukraine under rebel control, undoubtedly other a different name.  Whether this would mean a revival of the Novorossiya project or a similar project under a new name is uncertain, but it is likely that Zakharchenko will continue to push for the underlying notions of the Malorossiya proposition.  This would entail a confederation of Ukrainian states under a pro-Russian leadership in Donetsk.  While such an undertaking is virtually impossible outside of rebel territory, it is possible that a Donetsk-led DNR-LNR confederation could gain enough local support to be feasible.  If one can ignore the overarching theme of Ukrainian unification, the proposal of a Malorossiya project serves as an important glance into the intentions of ‘DNR’ head Zakharchenko.


Endnotes:

[1] DAN-news. (2017, July 18). Представители ДНР, ЛНР и регионов Украины объявили в Донецке о создании государства Малороссия (Representatives of the DNR, LNR and regions of Ukraine announced in Donetsk the creation of the Malorossiya state). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://dan-news.info/politics/predstaviteli-dnr-lnr-i-regionov-ukrainy-obyavili-v-donecke-o-sozdanii-gosudarstva-malorossiya.html

[2] DNR-Pravda News Editor (2017, July 18). Декларация и Конституционный акт государственного образования Малороссия (Declaration and Constitutional act of the state formation Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://dnr-pravda.ru/2017/07/18/deklaratsiya-i-konstitutsionnyiy-akt-gosudarstvennogo-obrazovaniya-malorossiya/

[3] DNR Official Website. (2014, May 14). Конституция ДНР (DNR Constitution). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://dnr-online.ru/konstituciya-dnr/

[4] Lenta. (2014, June 24). ДНР и ЛНР объединятся в конфедерацию с единой конституцией (DNR and LNR will join the confederation with a single constitution). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://lenta.ru/news/2014/06/24/novorossia/

[5] DNR People’s Militia, 1st Army Corps. (2015, October 20). VK post. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://vk.com/dnrarmy?w=wall-51146063_5569

[6] Andrey, G. (2016, September 22). Захарченко: Для предотвращения переворота в ЛНР был переброшен батальон “Спарта” (Zakharchenko: To prevent the coup in the LNR, “Sparta” battalion was sent). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://life.ru/t/новости/907002/zakharchienko_dlia_priedotvrashchieniia_pierievorota_v_lnr_byl_pieriebroshien_batalon_sparta

[7] DAN-News. (2017, July 18). Вопрос создания Малороссии целесообразно вынести на обсуждение парламента и общественности – Пушилин (The issue of creating Little Russia is expedient for discussion of the parliament and the public – Pushilin). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://dan-news.info/politics/vopros-sozdaniya-malorossii-celesoobrazno-vynesti-na-obsuzhdenie-parlamenta-i-obshhestvennosti-pushilin.html

[8] TASS. (2017, July 18). Malorossiya project is personal initiative of self-proclaimed republic’s leader. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://tass.com/politics/956825

[9] DNR-Pravda News Editor (2017, July 18). Декларация и Конституционный акт государственного образования Малороссия (Declaration and Constitutional act of the state formation Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from  http://dnr-pravda.ru/2017/07/18/deklaratsiya-i-konstitutsionnyiy-akt-gosudarstvennogo-obrazovaniya-malorossiya/

[10] 112.ua. (2016, July 24). “DNR” again postponed “elections” in the occupied Donbas. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://112.international/conflict-in-eastern-ukraine/dnr-again-postponed-elections-in-the-occupied-donbas-7515.html

[11] Denis, A. (2017, July 20). Реакция на Малороссию (Reactions to Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://cont.ws/@artemevsepar/668685

[12] Korrespondent.net. (2017, July 26). Захарченко рассказал о проблемах с “Малороссией” (Zakharchenko spoke about problems with Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://korrespondent.net/ukraine/3872258-zakharchenko-rasskazal-o-problemakh-s-malorossyei

[13] av-zakharchenko.su. (2017, August 9). Переформатирование Украины. Дискуссия продолжается… (Reform of Ukraine. The discussion continues…). Retreived August 16, 2017, from http://av-zakharchenko.su/inner-article/Zayavleniya/Pereformatirovanie-Ukrainy-Diskussiya-prodolzhaetsya2/

Assessment Papers Irregular Forces Michael Sheldon Russia Ukraine

Assessment of the Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Jeremiah Cushman is a senior analyst at Military Periscope, where he writes about weapons.  He holds an M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies from the George Washington University.  He can be found on Twitter @jdcushman.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 14, 2017.

Summary:  For much of the last 800 years, the natives of the Baltic States and Finland were ruled by others, whether Baltic Germans, Swedes, Russians or Hitler’s Germany.  History shows these countries that, to retain independence, they must be willing and able to fight for it, and possibly join collective security organizations.

Text:  Lithuania existed as an independent nation prior to 1918, in contrast to Estonia, Latvia and Finland.  In 1385, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined with the Kingdom of Poland via a dynastic marriage.  Although not specifically made for security purposes, the result was a great Central European power that eventually spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  This was, however, an unstable union, with divergent interests between the Lithuanian and Polish halves.  (Poland ultimately became the dominant power.)  Efforts were made to strengthen the union, culminating with the establishment of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569.  The commonwealth eventually succumbed to its own weaknesses and the machinations of neighboring powers, Austria, Prussia and Russia, which divided it among themselves in the partitions of 1772, 1790 and 1795.  If ultimately unsuccessful, the commonwealth nevertheless provided security for the Lithuanians for centuries.

Upon gaining independence in 1918, the Baltic States struggled to navigate their security environment.  For the most part, they sought refuge in the collective security arrangements of the League of Nations.  Different threat perceptions, a territorial dispute over Vilnius between Lithuania and Poland, and the maneuvers of the Germans and Soviets hindered trilateral defense efforts.  A proposed four-way alliance among Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Poland foundered on Finnish reservations.  Helsinki elected to focus on a Scandinavian orientation.  Estonia and Latvia managed to conclude a defense alliance in 1923.

The Soviet Union saw Baltic cooperation as a threat and worked to undermine it.  The Baltic States concluded their own treaty of cooperation and friendship in 1934, although little came from it.  Non-aggression pacts signed with Moscow and Berlin came to nought and the three nations were occupied by Soviet forces in 1940 and annexed.  While Finland fought for its independence and survived World War II, Baltic failures to prepare, and the overwhelming strength of the Soviet and German states that opposed them, ended their initial experiment with independence.

Finland was able to maintain its independence during and after World War II, fighting the Soviet Union twice in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and the Continuation War of 1941-1944.  The Finnish state was saved, though it lost the Karelia region to the Soviets.  Viewing Moscow as a direct threat, Helsinki allied with the Nazi regime as Berlin prepared its own attack on the Soviet Union.  The Finnish government took pains to portray its own war as separate from that of Germany’s, without much success.

At the end of the war, Finland was left with an 830-mile border with Russia and a difficult position between its preferred partners in the democratic West and the Soviet Union.  Moscow was able to dictate terms as the Finnish war effort collapsed in 1944 along with the fortunes of its German allies.  In 1948, the Finnish government concluded a mutual assistance treaty with Moscow, including military obligations to come to the Soviet Union’s assistance in the event of an attack by Germany or its allies, or an attack from Finnish territory.  The goal was to maintain independence and reduce the chance of conflict in Northern Europe.

By resolving Moscow’s security concerns, Finland was able to pursue trade with Western countries and play an active role in détente during the 1970s.  The Nordic country benefited from trade with its eastern neighbor, while holding off Soviet efforts to tighten military relations.  While this “Finlandization” policy ensured the nation’s sovereignty during the Cold War, it came at a cost to Finland’s freedom of action.  Habits formed over those decades continue to influence national policy, including hindering those who might prefer new security arrangements in light of Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture.

The Baltic States declared their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.  Remembering the lessons of 1940, they immediately focused on trilateral cooperation and integration with European security organizations to secure their freedom.  Their security bodies focused on developing modern, capable forces on the Western model with the object of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).  These goals were achieved in 2004.  NATO’s Article 5 pledge that an attack on one is an attack on all is seen as the cornerstone of Baltic security.  Accordingly, all three countries recognize the United States as their most important security partner.  The Baltic States also pursue regional cooperation with their Nordic neighbors.  These multilateral cooperation efforts have, in some cases, detracted from trilateral endeavors. Small countries have limited resources.

Accession to NATO and the EU, which has its own security mechanisms, seemed to resolve the security concerns of the Baltic States.  However, the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. has led to uncertainty about the wisdom of relying on Washington.  Trump has threatened to assist only those NATO members who meet the alliance’s defense spending goals and his commitment to Article 5 appears uncertain, despite efforts from other administration officials to reinforce American support for the Baltic allies.  Trump’s apparent ties to Russia cause additional discomfort in the region.

Officially, the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania emphasize the continued importance of security ties with the U.S. and a belief that Trump will live up to Washington’s NATO commitments should it become necessary.  So far, U.S. and NATO activities in the Baltic region have been unchanged from the previous administration, with multinational battalion task groups active in all three countries.

As for Finland, it has eschewed its former relationship with Moscow in favor of closer security relations with NATO and the U.S., and strengthened ties with neighboring Sweden.  Helsinki still sees a strong national defense capability as vital for its security.  NATO membership remains politically challenging, although Finland potentially benefits from E.U. mutual assistance mechanisms.

The lessons of history for this region are simple.  To retain independence, one must first be willing and able to fight for it.  States as small as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania must additionally find allies to bolster their own defense efforts.  If one cannot be a great power, joining a great power organization, such as NATO, is the next best thing.


Endnotes:

[1]  Kirby, David. (1998). Northern Europe In The Early Modern Period: The Baltic World 1492-1772. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[2]  Kirby, David. (1998). The Baltic World 1772-1993: Europe’s Northern Periphery in an Age of Change. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[3]  Kasekamp, Andres. (2010). A History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

[4]  Plakans, Andrejs. (2011). A Concise History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Aggression Assessment Papers Baltics Estonia European Union Finland Jeremiah Cushman Latvia Lithuania North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia Trump (U.S. President) United States

Great Power Interaction: United States Options Towards Iran

Phillip J. Giampapa is a personnel security assistant contracted with United States Customs and Border Protection.  Prior to that, Phillip was a civil affairs specialist with the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and is currently an Officer Candidate in the Washington, D.C. Army National Guard.  Phillip has operational experience in Afghanistan and Qatar, as well as familiarity with the Levant and Gulf Countries.  He can be found on Twitter at @phillipgiampapa.  The views expressed in this article do not represent the views or policies of his employer, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  


National Security Situation:  United States’ interactions with Iran under the Trump Administration.

Date Originally Written:  June 6th, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 7, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a United States policymaker advising the Trump Administrations on possible options towards Iran.

Background:  In the Middle East, the Trump Administration has signaled its preference to strengthen relationships with the Sunni Gulf states by way of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  By strengthening relationships with the Sunni Gulf states, as well as announcing an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the United States appears willing to continue isolating Iran.  This has the potential to exacerbate tensions with Iran, which if one views it through an international relations theory lens, Iran will attempt to counteract actual or perceived Saudi (read: Sunni) influence gains to maintain balance in the region, as well as prevent loss of Iranian influence.

Iran has a variety of proxies, as well branches of its armed services serving in countries throughout the Middle East.  This is illustrated through the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, as well as deployment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria and Yemen.  This does not include the activities of the IRGC in other countries that include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan[1].  Iran’s military adventurism throughout the Middle East serves to advance the foreign policy agenda of its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei[1].  Put succinctly, the foreign policy agenda of the Supreme Leader is the expansion of Iranian (read: Shia) influence throughout the Middle East to serve as an ideological counterweight against the expansion of Saudi/Wahhabi ideology.

Recently, on May 20, 2017, Iran held a presidential election.  The incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, won re-election by receiving 57% of the vote[2].  Mr. Rouhani is seen as a reformer in Iran, and he is expected to attempt most of his proposed reforms now that he is in his second term.  How many reforms will actually take place is anyone’s guess, as is the influence Mr. Rouhani will have on IGRC policy, but it will be a factor that should be considered when considering the United States’ approach to great power interactions.

Significance:  The Middle East will continue to be a region that perplexes United States policymakers.  United States’ Allies will continue to be confused as to policy direction in the Middle East until more fidelity is provided from Washington.  Iranian meddling will continue in sovereign nations until it is addressed, whether diplomatically or militarily.  Furthermore, Iranian meddling in the region, and interference in the affairs of sovereign nations, will continue to destabilize the Middle East and exacerbate tensions in areas where conflict is occurring, such as Syria and Yemen.  A complete withdrawal of the United States’ presence in the region would likely create a stronger vacuum potentially filled by an adversary.  As such, the United States must choose the option that will provide the strongest amount of leverage and be amicable to all parties involved in the decision.

Option #1:  Maintain the status quo – the United States continues to strengthen Sunni states and isolate Iran.  Through maintaining the status quo, the United States will signal to its allies and partners in the Middle East that they will continue to enjoy their relationship with the United States as it exists in current form.  President Trump’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia signals this intent through proposed arms sales, announcing the establishment of a center to combat extremism, and the use of negative language towards Iran.

Risk:  The risk inherent in pursuing Option #1 is that the window of opportunity on having a moderate, reform-minded person as President of Iran will eventually close.  Through isolating Iran, it is likely they will not be keen on attempting to make overtures to the United States to reconsider the relationship between the two countries.  Since the United States is not going to pursue a relationship with Iran, other countries will seek to do so.  The risk of missed economic opportunities with an Iran that is an emerging market also has the possibility of closing the window for the United States to be involved in another area where it can exert its influence to change Iranian behavior.

Gain:  Through maintaining the status quo that exists in the Middle East, the United States can be sure that pending any diplomatic, political, or international incidents, it can maintain its presence there.  The United States can continue to nurture the preexisting relationships and attempt to maintain the upper hand in its interactions with Iran.  The United States will also remain the dominant player in the great power interactions with other countries in the Middle East.

Option #2:  The United States strengthens its relationship with Iran through moderate reformers and building relationships with moderates in Sunni states to provide shared interests and commonalities.  Given the propensity of nation-states to expand their power and influence, whether through political or military means, it is likely inevitable that conflict between Iran and the Sunni states will take place in the near future.  If a relationship can be built with moderates in the Iranian government as well as Sunni states, it is possible that commonalities will overlap and reduce tensions between the different powers.

Risk:  The risk exists that neither rival will want to have the United States attempting to influence matters that may be viewed as neighborly business.  The possibility also exists that neither nation would want to build a relationship with the other, likely originating from the religious leaders of Iran or Saudi Arabia.  Finally, the worst-case scenario would be that any type of relationship-building would be undercut through actions from independent and/or non-state actors (i.e. terrorist groups, minority religious leaders, familial rivals from ruling families).  These undercutting actions would destroy trust in the process and likely devolve into reprisals from both sides towards the other.

Gain:  Through interacting with Iran, the United States and other powers can establish relationships which could eventually allow the opportunity to address grievances towards existing policies that serve to inflame tensions.  It is also likely that by having a partner in Iran, instability in the Middle East can be addressed in a more effective manner than is currently being done right now.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] REPORT: Destructive role of Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the Middle East. (2017, March). Retrieved June 06, 2017, from http://www.eu-iraq.org/index.php/press-releases/item/851-report-destructive-role-of-iran’s-islamic-revolutionary-guard-corps-irgc-in-the-middle-east

[2] Erdbrink, T. (2017, May 20). Rouhani Wins Re-election in Iran by a Wide Margin. Retrieved June 06, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/20/world/middleeast/iran-election-hassan-rouhani.html?_r=0

Great Powers Iran Option Papers Phillip J. Giampapa United States

United States’ Options to North Korea Missile Development

Mike Dyer is a research assistant at a Washington-based international policy think tank.  He can be found on twitter @mikeysdyer.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  United States’ Options in response to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile developments.

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 31, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a senior defense/foreign policy advisor to the Trump Administration.

Background:  After decades of development, for the first time in the history of the Korean conflict, North Korea is nearing the capability to hold U.S. population centers on the continental United States at risk with a small nuclear weapon[1].  Nearing this inflection point requires a reexamination of U.S. policy vis-a-vis Northeast Asia.

Significance:  If North Korea’s Kim regime believes it has an effective deterrent against the United States, it may become emboldened to pursue more provocative and dangerous polices.  Such brinkmanship could lead to disaster.  This new fact threatens U.S. extended deterrence commitments to both Japan and South Korea (Republic of Korea (ROK)), depending on the Trump Administration’s policy response.  The Kim regime, while rational, is certainly volatile, and engages in behaviors well outside of international norms.

Option #1:  The United States accepts the reality of North Korea as a nuclear power while maintaining demands for denuclearization.  This option may require adjustments to U.S. defense posture, namely the reintroduction of tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula or the expansion of the ballistic missile defense programs.

Risk:  First, the most salient risk the United States would face is relying on deterrence against a regime for which it lacks an acute understanding.  Relying on deterrence to keep the peace on the Korean peninsula is risky because the Kim regime derives power and legitimacy from propping up the United States and others as an aggressive enemy.

Second, even if the United States does nothing, the Kim regime would still be incentivized to provoke the United States and the ROK if only for domestic reasons.

Third, as previously mentioned, North Korea could work to weaken U.S. extended deterrence commitments by credibly threatening the U.S. homeland.  The United States could work to reduce this risk by demonstrating the effectiveness of its missile defense shield.

Gain:  This option does not risk conflict in the near to medium terms, thus it continues to “kick the can down the road.”  This policy trades tactical and operational risk for increased strategic risk over the long-term.  Otherwise, this option gains nothing.

Option #2:  The United States conducts a pre-emptive strike on North Korea’s known nuclear and ballistic missile sites.

Risk:  First, this option risks large-scale retaliation against the ROK and Japan and the U.S. forces stationed there.  There is a significant chance a military strike would miss known or hidden weapons sites or leave North Korea with the capability to deliver a conventional counter strike[2].

Second, a military strike on North Korean nuclear sites is likely to cause an environmental and humanitarian disaster to some degree.  This could result in unnecessary civilian loss of life, increased pan-Korean nationalism at the expense of the U.S.-ROK alliance, and generally loss of support for U.S. leadership/presence in the region.  The illicit transfer of unaccounted for nuclear materiel could also result.

Gain:  If a strike were successful, the Kim regime would effectively be disarmed.  Such a blow to North Korea could lead to a coup against the Kim regime or to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) intervening to stabilize the situation.

Option #3:  The United States increases economic sanctions on the regime to either bring North Korea to the negotiating table or cause the regime to collapse.  This option is not possible without increased support from the PRC a because of its importance to the North Korean economy.

Risk:  First, sanctions need years to take full effect.  During this time, North Korea’s capabilities could grow and the regime would have opportunity to degrade the situation in its favor.

Second, it is unknown what the Kim regime would do if faced with collapse and loss of power.  Some North Korean interlocutors have made the point that North Korea did not build its nuclear weapons only to watch them go unused as the regime collapses.

Third, the regime values security, prestige, and power over a growing economy, it has effective control over its people and they are discouraged from speaking out against the regime even in private.

Gain:  If successful, sanctions have the potential to accomplish U.S. objectives without risking conflict.  Given the Kim regime’s hierarchy of values however, this option is unlikely to work.

Option #4:  The United States and the ROK negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea.  This option accepts the reality of North Korea’s newfound nuclear capability and gives up on past demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the North’s nuclear program prior to peace negotiations.

Risk:  First, for a durable peace to exist between the United States and North Korea, both sides would have to reach a mutually acceptable political solution, this may mean both North Korea and the ROK giving up on their objectives for reunification—something both states are unwilling to do.  Durable peace would also require security for all concerned and trust that does not currently exist.

Second, negotiating peace without denuclearization would weaken the nuclear nonproliferation regime and cause allies to lose faith in United States’ security commitments.  This option could result in greater nuclear proliferation across Northeast Asia.

Gain:  The gain is limited by the risk of failure, but a peaceful Korean peninsula would benefit regional security and ease the burden on U.S. defense commitments.

Option #5:  The United States undermines the Kim regime by encouraging the flow of information into and out of North Korea.  The United States works with the PRC and ROK to encourage the further development of independent (black) markets in North Korea at the expense of regime control on civil life.

Risk:  First, this policy would require years to fully carry out, allowing North Korea to expand its weapons program in the meantime.

Second, this policy may just raise the quality of life of the North Korean people and expand the regime’s tax base while not convincing the people to push-back against the regime.

Third, as previously mentioned, destabilizing the regime raises the risks of conflict.

Gain:  If successful, this policy could chance the character and policies of the North Korean regime, ultimately leading to peace and reconciliation.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ackerman, S., & Jacobs, B. (2017). US commander not confident North Korea will refrain from nuclear assault. the Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/26/north-korea-nuclear-attack-south-korea-us-navy

[2]  Your Bibliography: Peters, R. (2017). A New Approach to Eliminating North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction Is Needed. Washington: The U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Retrieved from http://www.38north.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/NKIP-Peters-WMDE-062017.pdf  Also see, Bennett, B. (2013). Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse. Rand Corporation.

China (People's Republic of China) Mike Dyer North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Nuclear Issues Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea)

People’s Republic of China Options Toward North Korea

Paul Butchard is a graduate student in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London in the United Kingdom, where he is pursuing his master’s degree in Intelligence and International Security.  He also holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Options for the foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) toward North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK).

Date Originally Written:  July, 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 24, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of foreign policy advisor to the PRC government.

Background:  Since January 2016, the DPRK has conducted two nuclear weapons tests and ten missile tests.  Such actions, coupled with increasingly bombastic rhetoric, displays a more aggressive posture for the DPRK than previous years[1].

Significance:  For the PRC, their relationship with the DPRK is a regional policy issue and a central element of PRC-United States relations.  President Xi Jinping is forging an outgoing, “Striving for Achievement” foreign policy for the PRC[2].  Simultaneously, the PRC has displayed more public disapproval of Pyongyang’s destabilising behaviour than previous years[3].  The course of action the PRC adopts towards the DPRK will play a major role in the relationship between Beijing and Washington in years to come, influencing events globally.

Option #1:  The PRC maintains/increases military, economic and diplomatic aid to the DPRK.  This option sees the PRC continuing or building upon its current course of action, providing vast military and economic aid and diplomatic protection to bring the DPRK’s behaviour in line with the PRC’s wishes.

Risk:  The PRC risks appeasing the DPRK, encouraging it to continue along its current path, one that is increasingly casting the PRC as a suzerain unable to rein in a vassal state, to the casual observer.  The DPRK would view such action as capitulation and an acknowledgment by Beijing that Pyongyang cannot be penalised for actions and policies even when they harm the PRC’s interests[4].  The DPRK is conscious of its strategic importance to Beijing and able to take PRC aid without granting concessions.  The PRC risks escalating confrontation with the United States if the latter perceives the PRC as unwilling to act or enabling the DPRK’s current destabilising behaviour, a possibility given recent remarks by President Trump[5].

Gain:  This option enables the PRC to sustain the DPRK regime, avoiding a humanitarian crisis on its border because of regime collapse, maintaining the tense but peaceful status quo.  The PRC avoids being labelled a United States puppet as the DPRK has previously implied[6].  United States’ sanctions related to the DPRK have so far been limited to private companies and individuals, not the PRC government[7].  This option thus avoids igniting military, diplomatic or economic confrontations with the United States.

Option #2:  The PRC decreases/ceases military, economic and diplomatic aid to the DPRK.  This option sees the PRC ‘sanction’ the DPRK by reducing or halting military, economic or diplomatic aid to alter its behaviour to suit PRC preferences.

Risk:  This option risks the collapse of the DPRK regime due to the PRC being its main economic trading partner.  The PRC also risks economic self-harm due to the vast natural resources it imports from the DPRK[8].  The collapse of the DPRK brings unparalleled security concerns for the PRC from uncontrolled nuclear materials and mass immigration to the potential of a United States ally on its border.

Gain:  By reducing aid the PRC would be acting against the DPRK’s unpredictable actions, potentially slowing its development of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), increasing its international standing, a cornerstone of President Xi’s foreign policy.  Such action would be seen favourably by the Trump administration increasing the likelihood of favourable trade deals or relative acquiescence to PRC actions in the South China Sea.

Option #3:  Regime change.  This option would see the PRC pursue regime change within the DPRK by means of supporting a coup d’état or palace coup of some description rather than overt military action of its own.

Risk:  The DPRK government and society revolves fully around the Kim dynasty, the removal of the deity that is Kim Jong Un and the Kim lineage risks the total collapse of the state.  There is no clear successor to Kim due to the autocratic nature of the DPRK and any successor would likely be considered a PRC puppet and usurper.  Subsequent destabilisation would result in the aforementioned humanitarian and security crisis’ posing a grave national security threat to the PRC.  Such action would be logistically and strategically difficult to accomplish, requiring multiple sections of the DPRK military and governmental apparatus being coordinated by a vast human intelligence network operated by the PRC.  As such, and due to pervasive North Korean surveillance even of its elites, a coup risks discovery long before execution.  United States and South Korean forces may see any attempt at regime change as an opportunity to launch their own military offensive or as evidence of PRC expansionism and a threat to the South.

Gain:  Replacing Kim Jong Un could lead to increased stability for the PRC’s regional development objectives.  The PRC could avoid total DPRK state collapse due to external pressure and avert the potential national security threats to the PRC mainland.  This option also raises the possibility of enhancing United States-PRC relations, buying the PRC the aforementioned political capital.  A new DPRK regime, allied with the PRC, that tempers its actions toward the United States, also raises the possibility of the removal of the United States’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system from South Korea, which the PRC views as a national security threat.  This option also presents the potential for the reduction of United States troop numbers in South Korea due to increased stability and a reduced threat from the DPRK.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Council on Foreign Relations, (2017) North Korea Crisis. Retrieved July 13, 2017 from https://www.cfr.org/global/global-conflict-tracker/p32137#!/conflict/north-korea-crisis

[2] Yan, X. (2014). From Keeping a Low Profile to Striving for Achievement. The Chinese Journal of International Politics,7(2), 153-184.

[3] Perlez, J. (2017, February 24). China and North Korea Reveal Sudden, and Deep, Cracks in Their Friendship. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/world/asia/china-north-korea-relations-kim-jong-un.html

[4] Pei, M. (2017, March 14). North Korea: What Is China Thinking? Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/china-north-korea-kim-jong-un-nuclear-beijing-pyongyang-thaad/519348/

[5] Weaver, M., Haas, B., & McCurry, J. (2017, April 03). Trump says US will act alone on North Korea if China fails to help. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/02/donald-trump-north-korea-china

[6] Sang-hun, C. (2017, February 23). North Korea Accuses China of ‘Mean Behavior’ After It Tightens Sanctions. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/world/asia/north-korea-china.html

[7] Aleem, Z. (2017, June 29). Why Trump just slapped new sanctions on Chinese banks. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.vox.com/world/2017/6/29/15894844/trump-sanctions-china-north-korea-bank

[8] Perlez, J., & Huang, Y. (2017, April 13). China Says Its Trade With North Korea Has Increased. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/world/asia/china-north-korea-trade-coal-nuclear.html 

[9] Reuters. (2017, February 28). China reacts with anger, threats after South Korean missile defense decision. Retrieved July 15, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-usa-thaad-china-idUSKBN16709W

China (People's Republic of China) Leadership Change North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers Paul Butchard South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States

Options for a Future Strategy for the Afghan Taliban

Paul Butchard is a graduate student in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London in the United Kingdom, where he is pursuing his master’s degree in Intelligence and International Security.  He also holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Options for a future strategy for the Afghan Taliban.

Date Originally Written:  July, 12, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 17, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of someone with influence over strategic policy making within the Afghan Taliban, possibly a member of the Quetta Shura.

Background:  The Taliban has seen continuous conflict for over two decades now and despite its overthrow in 2001 by the United States and the 2013 death of its founder Mullah Omar, remains a potent force within Afghanistan.  The Taliban is currently estimated to hold more territory than at any time since 2001[1].

Significance:  Given the territorial degradation being suffered by Daesh in Iraq and Syria and the presence of a Daesh affiliate in Afghanistan, the Taliban may once again find itself in the crosshairs of an international anti-terrorism coalition.  There are also increasing levels of international training and advisory support being given to the Afghan government[2] to counter the Taliban.  These developments raise the prospect of United States and international re-engagement in Afghanistan.  As such, the Taliban must constantly assess their future direction should they hope to survive and thrive.

Option #1:  Enter negotiations with the Government of Afghanistan (GOA).  Although announcing their intentions not to participate in peace talks, the Taliban, or factions within it, have previously indicated a willingness to engage in negotiations to achieve political goals.  This is evidenced by their opening of a political office in Doha, Qatar and engagement in talks in 2014 among other events.

Risk:  The Taliban risks giving up the 86 districts they currently estimate themselves to fully or partially control, potentially for few guarantees[3].  This option risks the support afforded to the Taliban by Pakistan’s military, as identified by a recent United States Defense Department report, among numerous other sources[4].  Pakistan would not approve a deal in which it loses influence or operational control over the Taliban or subsidiaries like the Haqqani Network.  Pakistan would also oppose subsequent warming of Afghan-Indian relations.  Military demobilisation of any kind leaves the Taliban potentially vulnerable to United States and allied forces reorienting to Afghanistan post-Daesh, a risk when the Trump administration centres its national security policy on the confronting of “[T]he crisis of Islamic extremism, and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds[5].”

Gain:  The GOA has continuously reaffirmed its willingness to enter peace talks with the Taliban and the pardon issued to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is evidence of a willingness to provide concessions[6].  This option has the support, even if understated, of the British and United States governments[7].  The Taliban enjoyed considerable military success against Afghan forces (ANSF) in 2015-16[8].  Thus, it is in a strong position to push for concessions such as autonomy within its strongholds such as the Pashtun region.  This option enables the Taliban to avoid the ire of the United States coalition turning toward Afghanistan after Daesh in Iraq and Syria are defeated.  This option also points to the possibility of restoration of the notion of the Taliban as a sociopolitical not just militant movement.  Should the right deal be reached, this option also provides chances to increase Pakistani influence in the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan and thus sustain or increase support from the ISI to the Taliban even against international pressure.

Option #2:  The Taliban continues the insurgent war against the ANSF.  This course of action is the one currently favoured and being pursued by Taliban senior command.

Risk:  Although gaining considerable ground since coalition forces withdrew, the Taliban, like the ANSF, has been unable to break the stalemate in Afghanistan.  The Taliban is unlikely to win back Afghanistan through force of arms alone.  By continuing military operations, the Taliban risk attracting the attention of the United States military, which may soon turn to combating the Daesh presence in Afghanistan more directly after the Daesh territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria are eliminated.  By persisting primarily with a military strategy, the Taliban remain somewhat hostage to the whims and machinations of their Pakistani patrons, should the future political environment change, due to domestic or international pressure, the Taliban could theoretically find themselves short on friends and overwhelmed by enemies.

Gain:  The Taliban is enjoying a military resurgence since the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2014.  There are few prospects of an outright ANSF victory.  Operation Mansouri, the recent spring offensive by the Taliban has combined guerrilla tactics, conventional assaults and an increasing number of suicide operations to devastating effect[9].  The Taliban have also seemingly learnt from both coalition successes in Iraq and Afghanistan and from Daesh in their use of small, mobile special operations type units with advanced equipment carving inroads to populations centres and forming of human intelligence networks and sleeper cells, rather than full frontal attacks.  The Taliban’s efforts have culminated in the appearance of the Sara Khitta, or Red Group, a Taliban commando force[10].  Such successes display that the Taliban remain militarily capable and it may be unwise to sacrifice such capability.  The fact that the Taliban have sustained a war of attrition against coalition and ANSF forces shows they have no pressing need to cease military operations, the poppy cultivation it protects, and the goal of conquering the Afghan government it is working toward.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] O’Donnel, L (2016, June 16) The Taliban now hold more ground in Afghanistan than at any point since 2001. Retrieved July 11, 2017, from http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2016/06/16/afghanistan-nicholson-commander-pentagon-report-war/85972056/

[2] Associated Press (2017, June 16) US sending almost 4,000 extra forces to Afghanistan, Trump official says. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/15/us-troops-afghanistan-trump-administration

[3] Roggio, B (2017, March 28) Afghan Taliban lists ‘Percent of Country under the control of Mujahideen’. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/03/afghan-taliban-lists-percent-of-country-under-the-control-of-mujahideen.php

[4] United States Department of Defense (2017, June) Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from: https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/June_2017_1225_Report_to_Congress.pdf

[5] Talev, M (2017, May 22) Donald Trump drops phrase ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ on Saudi Arabia trip to soften tone on Muslims. Retrieved July 12, 2007, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/donald-trump-saudi-arabia-radical-islamic-terrorism-muslims-soften-tone-iran-palestinians-israel-a7748541.html

[6] Rasmussen, S.E (2016, September 22) ‘Butcher of Kabul’ pardoned in Afghan peace deal. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/22/butcher-of-kabul-pardoned-in-afghan-peace-deal

[7] Yousafzai et al. (2016, October 18) Taliban and Afghanistan restart secret talks in Qatar. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/18/taliban-afghanistan-secret-talks-qatar

[8] Koven, B.S (2017, July 09) The End of Afghanistan’s Spring Fighting Seasons and the Demise of the Afghan National Security Forces? Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-end-of-afghanistan%E2%80%99s-spring-fighting-seasons-and-the-demise-of-the-afghan-national-secu

[9] Roggio, B (2017, April 28) Taliban announces start of ‘Operation Mansouri’. Retrieved July 11, 2017, from http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/04/taliban-announce-start-of-operation-mansouri.php

[10] Snow, S (2016, August 12) Red Group: The Taliban’s New Commando Force. Retrieved on July 11, 2017, from: http://thediplomat.com/2016/08/red-group-the-talibans-new-commando-force/

Afghanistan Islamic State Variants Option Papers Paul Butchard Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan)

Options for United States Military Assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq

Brandon Wallace is a policy wonk who spends his time watching Iraq, Kurdish borders, data, and conflict in the Middle East of all varieties.  Brandon can be found on Twitter at @brandonwallacex and at his website www.brandonlouiswallace.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) looms closer and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG) ponders its future relationship with greater Iraq, the United States must decide what, if any, military assistance it will provide to the Kurds.

Date Originally Written:  July 7, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 10, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This options paper is written from the hypothetical perspective of a senior policy advisor for a policy maker in the United States government.

Background:  The KRG, a semi-autonomous region in Northern Iraq with intentions of secession, requires both intrastate and external sponsors to sustain functionality.  The KRG depends on resource allocations from the central Government of Iraq (GOI) in Baghdad, as well as assistance from the United States and other international partners.  The campaign to defeat ISIS requires a functioning KRG partnership, resulting in several partners providing additional capital and arms to the region.  Without such assistance, the KRG faces serious economic turmoil.  The GOI allocates 17 percent of the federal budget for the KRG, yet the budget does not balance KRG spending.  The KRG carries an inflated public sector wherein 70 percent of KRG public spending is devoted to payroll[1]. The KRG must also support internally displaced people (IDP).  This year, KRG debts exceeded US$22 billion[2].

Moreover, the KRG cannot sustain itself through oil sales.  It is estimated that the maximum output of KRG oil production is nearly 800 kbd (Thousand Barrels Per Day)[3].  To balance the budget, the KRG would need oil to sell at nearly US$105[4].  Today oil trades at roughly US$50.

Significance:  The KRG’s ability to receive independent assistance from the United States has profound implications for the United States’ relationship with the GOI, Kurdish commutes in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and relations between neighboring states.  Yet, the KRG has been a valuable non-state partner in the fight against ISIS.  The United States paid the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs (the military forces of the KRG) US$415 million for their role in the Mosul Operation to topple ISIS- this does not include military equipment and other forms of aid from the United States and international partners[5].

Option #1:  The United States sustains its current level of military assistance to the KRG.

Risk:  This option risks dissatisfaction with bordering countries of the KRG.  Sustained support implies United States complicit backing of the KRG to the GOI, Iran, Turkey, and a significantly crippled Syria.  Further, military assistance, specifically cash payments from the United States, contributes to the bloating KRG payroll.

Gain:  The KRG will continue to be an important partner in the campaign against ISIS.  As ISIS is driven out of its controlled territories, a well-supported Peshmerga and other Kurdish forces will be necessary for security operations post-Mosul.  No allied actor is so upset by United States support of the KRG as to dramatically obstruct the campaign against ISIS.  Option #1 carefully mitigates the reservations of other actors while accelerating counter-ISIS operations.

Option #2:  The United States diversifies and increases its assistance to the KRG.

Risk:  Significantly increasing independent assistance to the KRG, without involving the GOI, will likely be met with open hostility.  If the United States increases its support to Kurdish groups, anxious governments with Kurdish minorities may attempt to undermine United States’ interests in retaliation.

Conversely, the United States may choose to diversify its assistance to the KRG by changing its lending model.  Last July, an International Monetary Fund loan of US$5.25 billion conditionally reserved US$225 million for KRG road infrastructure and small projects[4].  However, adopting this model, setting conditions for KRG sharing with the GOI, opens the United States to risks.  The KRG may not have the stability to repay a loan, and it is likely the GOI, who may be better positioned to pay off the loan quickly, will insist on the KRG meeting a 17 percent repayment share.  The symbolism of any conditional loan or military transfer to the KRG will certainly strain relations with the GOI.

Gain:  United States’ Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Assistance (FMA) programs in Iraq require the approval of the GOI, even when agreements are specifically directed at the KRG.  Per United States law, the FMS and FMA are limited only to interaction with central governments.  To secure large-scale military sales directly to the KRG would require a congressional change to existing United States’ laws.  Option #2 would surely win the favor of the KRG, and it may expedite counter-ISIS operations across northern territories.  Expanding the scope of assistance to the KRG by lending conditionally or giving conditionally to the GOI, could force Erbil, capital of the KRG, and Baghdad to broaden collaboration in developing the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).  Option #2 ensures the KRG does not return to relative isolation from the international community in a post-ISIS future.

Option #3:  The United States ceases all military assistance to the KRG and relies on the GOI to allocate resources.

Risk:  This option to cease assistance to the KRG may hinder security operations in Northern Iraq, and it diminishes the United States’ presence in the region- a vacuum other countries may fill.  For example, this option will certainly please Iran.  Conversely, the KRG will likely interpret this move as aggressive.

Gain:  Providing the GOI full authority in distributing assistance communicates a strong faith in the central government and the Iraqi state.  Further, this consolidation of assistance to a single power center in Baghdad may simplify bureaucratic procedure and empower the ISF.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Coles, I (2016, February 16) Iraqi Kurdish deputy PM says deal with Baghdad ‘easy’ if salaries paid. Retrieved June 06, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-idUSKCN0VP22Z

[2]  Natali, D (2017, January 3) Is Iraqi Kurdistan heading toward civil war? Retrieved June 7, 2017, from http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/01/kurdistan-civil-war-iraq-krg-sulaimaniya-pkk-mosul-kurds.html

[3]  Jiyad, A. M (2015, July 7) Midyear Review of the State Budget and Oil Export Revenues. Retrieved June 5, 2017, from http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ahmed-Mousa-Jiyad-Mid-Year-Review-of-the-State-Budget-and-Oil-Export-Revenues.pdf

[4]  Grattan, M (2017, June 25) David Petraeus on US policy under Donald Trump, the generational war against Islamist terrorism, and dealing with China. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://theconversation.com/david-petraeus-on-us-policy-under-donald-trump-the-generational-war-against-islamist-terrorism-and-dealing-with-china-80045

[5]  Knights, M (2016, July 28) The U.S., the Peshmerga, and Mosul. Retrieved June 6, 2017, from http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-u.s.-the-peshmerga-and-mosul

Allies & Partners Brandon Wallace Capacity / Capability Enhancement Iraq Kurdistan Option Papers United States

Assessment of Libya-Trained Terrorists’ External Attack Capability

S. M. Carlson served as a terrorism expert with the U.S. government for more than twelve years, including with the Central Intelligence Agency and in Libya.  She can be found on Twitter @smcarls1.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Libya-Trained Terrorists’ External Attack Capability

Date Originally Written:  June 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 3, 2017.

Summary:  Libyan terrorism is not new, nor are attacks conducted outside the country by terrorists that trained in Libya. The external attack capability is evolving, however. The most recent attacks in the United Kingdom highlight the changing threat posed by Libyan terrorists, trained fighters, and their capability and intent to reach into Europe. That threat extends beyond a single group.

Text:  Libya-trained terrorists have conducted multiple deadly attacks in North Africa in recent years, but the May 2017 attack against a Manchester concert by a Briton of Libyan descent, who reportedly fought and possibly trained in Libya, was among the first major attacks with direct ties to Libya outside the region, since the 2011 intervention and death of Muammar al-Ghadafi.

Although a myriad of terrorist groups, extreme militias, and umbrella organizations operate in Libya due to the permissive environment there, the most well-known remains the Islamic State. Its fighters are capable of carrying out external attacks outside the region. The capability probably resides more with the trained fighters, rather than a single group, and likely does not require a top down structure.

Since 2011, other major external attacks specifically targeting Westerners include those in In Amenas, Algeria; Sousse, Tunisia; and Tunis, Tunisia. Terrorists reportedly staged or trained in Libya prior to all three attacks[1].

In January 2013, terrorists linked to al-Qa’ida conducted a multi-day siege, held hostages, and killed dozens in an attack against a gas plant in In Amenas, Algeria, close to the border with Libya[2]. In June 2015, gunmen opened fire on tourists at a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia, killing and injuring dozens, which the Islamic State claimed[3]. In March 2015, gunmen opened fire at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia, killing and injuring dozens, mostly tourists, which the Islamic State claimed[4].

The Islamic State, however, had gained a foothold in Libya prior to the attacks in Tunisia, announcing its presence there in late 2014. It quickly expanded and thrived in the lawlessness of Libya. Fighters flocked to the group. It created a stronghold in the city of Sirte.

The United Nations (UN)-backed Libyan government in late 2016 requested U.S. assistance in its fight against the group and it agreed, conducting hundreds of airstrikes against Islamic State targets in the city. The terrorists fled the city and set up training camps nearby, where the group’s external plotters were reportedly planning operations against Europe. Two U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bombers then dropped more than 100 munitions on those camps, killing more than 80 Islamic State members in January[5].

The UN-backed government declared defeat over the Islamic State in Libya, but while the group had lost its stronghold, the remaining fighters dispersed. In the intervening months, Islamic State fighters began efforts to regroup and many warned the Islamic State in Libya was attempting to consolidate once again.

It is no longer attempting. The Islamic State branch in Libya is active once more, proving yet again that airstrikes alone cannot defeat terrorism. Strikes may be a useful tool, but they are not a long-term solution. The strikes did not entirely disrupt the group or experienced fighters that already left the country.

In May 2017, the remaining Islamic State in Libya fighters made their continued presence known and then the branch’s reach became apparent later that month on a global scale.

The Islamic State’s branch in Libya claimed an attack in Southern Libya in early May that killed two[6][7]. Islamic State fighters also executed a man and clashed with a militia in the Bani Walid area in late May[8]. These were some of the first attacks claimed by the group’s Libya branch since the airstrikes in December.

The Islamic State then claimed attacks in the United Kingdom in late May and early June 2017, both of which had Libya connections. Salman Abedi and Rachid Redouane were of Libyan descent and fought in Libya. Redouane, who helped kill and injure dozens in London in early June, reportedly fought with a militia in Tripoli that later sent jihadist fighters to Syria[9]. Abedi, who killed and injured dozens at a concert in Manchester in May, reportedly met in Libya with Islamic State members also tied to the November 2015 Paris attack[10].

Abedi also reportedly fought in Ajdabiya in 2014, was injured, and taken to Turkey for treatment using a false passport[11]. Italian investigators in April believed that an unspecified number of Islamic State fighters from Libya had entered Europe, in a similar manner to Abedi, as wounded Libyan fighters seeking medical treatment[12].

Therefore, even if the Islamic State were truly defeated in Libya today, the fatal ripple effect of its experienced fighters will likely be felt for years to come. In addition, the Islamic State reportedly has 500 fighters remaining, and possibly training, in Libya, but there are an estimated 3,000 more jihadists in the country[13].

The Islamic State is not the only terrorism problem in Libya. Only in the last three years have fighters in the country begun using the title of “Islamic State.” There were many terrorists groups in Libya before that, and many will likely come after it. The fighters flow between them.

The fighters frequently change groups and alliances based on a variety of factors at play in Libya. The groups themselves also change names, often to conceal extremist affiliation, ideology, or intent. That makes terrorist groups and fighting networks difficult to untangle.

From al-Qa’ida to Ansar al-Sharia (the group responsible for the 2012 Benghazi attacks) to the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (an umbrella group) to the Benghazi Defense Brigades (a rebranding), extremist groups in Libya adapt to the ever-changing environment there[14].

Defeating the Islamic State in Libya does not solve the country’s terrorism problem, as its experienced fighters retain the intent and capability of carrying out terrorist attacks.


Endnotes:

[1] Brahimi, A. (2017, May 25). Why Libya is still a global terror threat. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/25/libya-global-terror-threat-manchester-attack-gaddafi

[2] (2013, January 21). Algeria hostage crisis: What we know. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-21087732

[3] Smith-Spark, L.; Paton Walsh, N.; & Black, P. (2015, June 27). Tourists flee Tunisia after resort attack. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/27/africa/tunisia-terror-attack/index.html

[4] Botelho, G. & Mullen, J. (2015, March 19). ISIS apparently claims responsibility for Tunisia museum attack; 9 arrested. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/19/africa/tunisia-museum-attack/index.html

[5] Dickstein, C. & Copp, T. (2017, 19 January). US bombers flew from Missouri and killed 80 Islamic State fighters in Libya. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.stripes.com/news/us-bombers-flew-from-missouri-and-killed-80-islamic-state-fighters-in-libya-1.449647#.WU2F5caZNsM

[6] Assad, A. (2017, May 7). IS militants attack Third Force fighters, kill two. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.libyaobserver.ly/inbrief/militants-attack-third-force-fighters-kill-two

[7] (2017, May 8). Libya: ISIS makes comeback by claiming attack south of Sirte. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://menastream.com/libya-isis-comeback-south-sirte/

[8] Assad, A. (2017, May 31). IS terrorists execute young man in Libya’s Bani Walid. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.libyaobserver.ly/news/terrorists-execute-young-man-libyas-bani-walid

[9] Farmer, B.; Nathan, A.; & Yorke, H. (2017, June 6). London attacker Rashid Redouane refused UK asylum in 2009. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/06/london-attacker-rachid-redouane-refused-uk-asylum-2009/

[10] Callimachi, R. & Schmitt, E. (2017, June 3). Manchester Bomber Met With ISIS Unit in Libya, Officials Say. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/03/world/middleeast/manchester-bombing-salman-abedi-islamic-state-libya.html

[11] Greenhill, S.; Malone, A.; Brown, L.; & Sears, N. (2017, May 25). How the Manchester bomber was ‘injured on the front lines in Libya while fighting with jihadis in his gap year’. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4543372/Manchester-bomber-injured-Libya-fighting-jihadis.html

[12] Tondo, L.; Messina, P.; & Wintour, P. (2017, April 28) Italy fears ISIS fighters slip into Europe posing as injured Libyans. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/28/islamic-state-fighters-infiltrate-europe-posing-injured-libyan-soldiers

[13] (2017, May 27). How Islamic State clings on in Libya. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21722630-jihadists-have-retreated-desert-where-they-are-potent-threat-how

[14] Thurston, A. (2017 May 7). Who Counts as al-Qaeda: Lessons from Libya. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.lawfareblog.com/who-counts-al-qaeda-lessons-libya

Assessment Papers Libya S. M. Carlson Violent Extremism

Options for Avoiding U.S. Complicity for Coalition War Crimes in Yemen

Michael R. Tregle, Jr. is a U.S. Army judge advocate officer currently assigned as the Brigade Judge Advocate for the 101st Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY).  A former enlisted infantryman, he has served at almost every level of command, from the infantry squad to an Army Service Component Command, and overseas in Afghanistan and the Pacific Theater.  He tweets @shockandlawblog and writes at www.medium.com/@shock_and_law.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  On January 31, 2017, the United Nations (U.N.) Panel of Experts on Yemen issued a report concluding that widespread violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL)[1] had occurred in the Yemeni armed conflict.  Noting numerous violations throughout 2016 alone, including targeting civilian persons and objects, excessive collateral damage, deprivation of liberty, and torture, the Panel concluded that some of these violations amounted to war crimes.  The U.S. provided billions of dollars in logistical support, munitions, and intelligence sharing to the Saudi-led coalition that was responsible for the IHL violations.  Such support could render the United States liable for Saudi violations under the law of state responsibility[2] or as an aider and abettor.

Date Originally Written:  May 19, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June 29, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty officer in the U.S. Army.  This article is written from the point of view of the United States toward continued support of the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemeni war in light of war crimes allegations made by the U.N. Panel of Experts on Yemen.

Background:  Until October 2016, U.S. support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen included the provision of munitions, including weapons and precision guidance kits, refueling capability, and other logistical support.  Following a coalition attack on a funeral in Sana’a that killed 132 civilians and injured nearly 700, which was carried out with a U.S.-supplied GBU-12 precision guided bomb, the United States denounced the attack and suspended further arms sales to Saudi Arabia[3].  The Trump Administration recently announced the resumption of over $100 billion in arms sales to the Saudis, much of which is likely to be used in Yemen[4].  More recently, another key coalition ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was accused of detainee abuse and disappearances, though the link between U.S. support and these accusations is less clear[5].

Significance:  Once the U.S. became aware of the violations, continued support to a Saudi coalition responsible for war crimes could render the U.S. vicariously liable for those crimes.  The principle of state responsibility renders states legally responsible for the wrongful acts of others when the state aids or assists in the wrongful act and knows of the circumstances making that act wrongful.  Similarly, aider and abettor liability could render the U.S. liable if it knew, or should have known, that the aid it provided could result in war crimes[6].  U.S. liability could take many forms, ranging from international condemnation to the indictment of key U.S. arms-sale decision makers in the International Criminal Court as principles to war crimes.  If nothing else, continued support of the Saudi-led coalition in light of the U.N. allegations would erode U.S. credibility as an advocate for human rights and the rule of law and empower other states to ignore international norms protecting civilians in conflict.

Option #1:  The U.S. ceases all arms sales and other support to the Saudi-led coalition until the coalition demonstrates improved compliance with IHL and greater protection of civilians in Yemen.  Such compliance can be ensured through neutral observers, assurances from coalition members, and the provision of U.S. trainers and advisors to improve coalition targeting procedures and detention and interrogation practices.

Risk:  This option risks damaging the longstanding security relationship with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, key allies in the region.  Furthermore, cutting off all support may well strengthen the Houthi opposition in Yemen and foster still worse humanitarian conditions on the ground.  If the U.S. fully absolves itself of supporting the Saudis in Yemen, very little international leverage to compel coalition compliance with IHL will remain, possibly leading to even more violations.

Gain:  This option seeks to maintain U.S. credibility as a world leader in protecting the victims of conflict and demonstrates a willingness to hold even its closest friends accountable for violations.  It further ensures that the U.S. will not be complicit in any way in continued war crimes or other IHL violations in Yemen, thereby avoiding international condemnation or legal liability.

Option #2:  The U.S. continues arms sales and logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition regardless of its compliance with international law.  This option represents maintaining the status quo, and has been implicitly endorsed by the Trump administration[7].

Risk:  As a result of this option, the U.S. will certainly face international condemnation and potential legal liability for supporting a Saudi regime that the U.S. knows is engaged in widespread IHL violations and potential war crimes.  At best, the U.S. reputation as a leader in upholding IHL and human rights norms will be damaged.  At worst, senior U.S. officials could be indicted as principles to war crimes under theories of state responsibility or aiding and abetting the coalition’s conduct.

Gain:  The U.S. cements its relationship with Saudi Arabia as a key ally in the region and makes clear that defeating the Houthi rebellion, and by extension denying Iranian influence in the region, is of greater import than compliance with IHL.  This option signals to coalition allies that they have U.S. support in imposing their will on Yemen, whatever the cost.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  International Humanitarian law refers to the international law of war or law of armed conflict.  The three terms are synonymous.

[2]  See also Ryan Goodman & Miles Jackson, State Responsibility for Assistance to Foreign Forces (aka How to Assess US-UK Support for Saudi Ops in Yemen), Just Security, Aug. 31, 2016, https://www.justsecurity.org/32628/state-responsibility-assistance-foreign-forces-a-k-a-assess-us-uk-support-saudi-military-ops-yemen/; Ryan Goodman, Jared Kushner, the Arms Deal, and Alleged Saudi War Crimes, Just Security, May 20, 2017, https://www.justsecurity.org/41221/jared-kushner-arms-deal-alleged-saudi-war-crimes/.

[3]  Phil Stewart & Warren Strobel, U.S. to Halt Some Arms Sales to Saudi, Citing Civilian Deaths in Yemen Campaign, Reuters, Dec. 13, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudiarabia-yemen-exclusive-idUSKBN1421UK.

[4]  Jared Malsin, The Big Problem with President Trump’s Record Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia, Time, May 22, 2017, http://time.com/4787797/donald-trump-yemen-saudi-arabia-arms-deal/?xid=homepage.

[5]  Ryan Goodman & Alex Moorehead, UAE, a Key U.S. Partner in Yemen, Implicated in Detainee Abuse, Just Security, May 15, 2017, https://www.justsecurity.org/40978/uae-key-partner-yemen-implicated-detainee-abuse/.

[6]  Aiding and Abetting liability is described in U.S. Dep’t of Def., DoD Law of War Manual para. 18.23.4 (May 2016).  For a more detailed explanation, see Ryan Goodman, The Law of Aiding and Abetting (Alleged) War Crimes:  How to Assess US and UK Support for Saudi Strikes in Yemen, Just Security, Sep. 1, 2016, https://www.justsecurity.org/32656/law-aiding-abetting-alleged-war-crimes-assess-uk-support-saudi-strikes-yemen/; Ryan Goodman, Jared Kushner, the Arms Deal, and Alleged Saudi War Crimes, Just Security, May 20, 2017, https://www.justsecurity.org/41221/jared-kushner-arms-deal-alleged-saudi-war-crimes/.

[7]  See Malsin, supra note 3.