Tag Archives: World News

The Taliban says if we give them what they want, they will have peace talks with us.

Well, this came out of left field.

Business Insider reported today that someone from the Taliban says that they are ready to have peace talks with the United States if we meet their demands.

The two conditions the Taliban want is to have us remove the leader of the Taliban from the U.N. blacklist and getting rid of all foreign military from Afghanistan.

Not too sure how we feel about this but this is something we got to watch closely as more gets reported throughout the day.

If you want to read more of what’s happening in the world, check out more from our blog.



Once Again, France Finds Itself The Victim of Terrorism

Proving that terrorists can and will use any available means to achieve carnage, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel used a rental truck to kill 84 people on July 14th as they were celebrating Bastille Day.  Of the 84 victims, 10 were children.  A photo taken from the scene and shared widely around the world showed a doll laying next to a covered body.

France has responded by expanding its emergency declaration another three months (it was supposed to end later this month).  In addition, the French president has called upon “all patriotic citizens” to join the reserve forces.  France currently has 120,000 police and military members deployed around the country.  The reserves will add 12,000 to that number.

I personally find it interesting that the president is essentially calling for citizens to take responsibility for their security.  France’s gun laws prohibit the idea of citizens arming themselves for defense, but he’s essentially suggesting the same argument that pro-Second Amendment individuals make – there aren’t enough police (and military in their case, they don’t have Posse Comitatus) to adequately protect everyone, everywhere, everytime.  So let’s take a journey into the Good Idea Fairy’s cave for a bit.  Stick with me, it’s likely to get convoluted.  And yes, I realize that what I’m proposing below is a bit of pie-in-the-sky idealism – humor me.

Chesapeake Police Auxiliary
Chesapeake Police Auxiliary

Within the United States, if take a look at the tiers of our security system you have federal agencies at the national level (FBI, DEA, ATF, Border Patrol, HSI, etc), the National Guard (working under state control), state and local agencies, and the reserves and auxiliaries of the state and local agencies.  What I’m most concerned with is presence at the scene of an attack when the attack occurs.  As far as straight boots on the ground presence, we can pretty much discount the federal agencies.  Their mandate is primarily prevention via investigation, so they’re not likely to be walking a beat.  If you do happen to have a federal agent walking a beat in front of your house, you may want to consider lawyering up, or at least denying intent.

Now to the National Guard.  I see three issues with counting on the National Guard: first, no governor is going to call out (and pay for) the National Guard unless there is an incredibly specific threat.  Second, the National Guard can be federalized, meaning that at any given time, the National Guard might not even be physically present in their state.  There was actually a great deal of concern about this during the height of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as governors expressed their concern that their units were deployed and unavailable for disaster response.  Third, only very specific National Guard units are actually trained for anything resembling police action.  Can they be trained?  Absolutely.  Is anyone going to put in the effort given the other two issues?  I don’t know.

So now that we’ve eliminated two levels of security, we’re down to state and local agencies.  Once again we come to the same funding issue we had with the National Guard.  As we’ve seen in the last few weeks with cities responding to attacks on police by doubling up officers on calls, eventually you run out of overtime money or officers that can sustain the schedule.  Multiple police chiefs have been on the news alluding to this negative effect on their ability to respond.  And let’s be honest, for all the politicians’ talk about making their cities safer, hiring more police usually gets knocked down pretty quick when budgets get tight.  Please don’t take that as a knock on officers – they’re doing the best they can with what they have, but when cities still won’t issue carbines or level IV plates to their officers and force them to purchase their own, chances of a hiring spree are slim.  Realistically, without the ability to hire more officers, localities will be forced to rely on citizens to provide for their own security and assist in providing security for others.

Chesapeake Police Auxiliary
Chesapeake Police Auxiliary

So now we’re down to the reserves and auxiliaries of the police forces.  Right about now is when I’m going to get into the pie-in-the-sky stuff.  Reserves are much less expensive than regular officers.  They volunteer, meaning there is no recurring salary cost to the city or county.  They also don’t get the full medical coverage that regular officers get, so there’s more money saved.  Their inexpensiveness makes them ideal for working big events or just plussing up undermanned shifts.  In my mind, reserves are an underutilized asset to increase presence.

That’s not to say there aren’t possible issues.  First off, the quality of reserves varies widely from department to department.  Where I live, the reserve officers go through the same academy as the active officers, are required to work minimum hours each quarter, and are held to the same continuing education standards as regular officers.  On the other hand, you have small town sheriffs handing out badges to friends and donors.  That’s typically how someone gets shot.  Somewhere in the middle you have chiefs and sheriffs who allow highly qualified individuals (read “SOF guys with free time”) to work specialty details such as high-risk warrants.  Second, you have to get a really motivated person with free time who’s willing to give up making money to volunteer.  That’s not especially easy.  I’ve worked with volunteer disaster response and search and rescue organizations, and the roster is always longer than the roll call.  Third, there’s the issue of the gray areas.  What exactly happens to a reserve officer injured on the job?  Oftentimes he hasn’t paid into insurance, but I’ve seen promises of workman’s compensation.  How exactly does that work, and what are the limits to a claim?

So what could be done to make reserves a better option for departments?  Well, an obvious recruitment strategy is to offer benefits.  Not full pay, otherwise they’re no longer cheaper, but discounted health insurance could be a draw, especially as Affordable Care Act costs increase.  Departments could also offer a partial pay system, where officers are paid for any hours worked above the minimum, or paid in case of “emergency recall.”  Offering chances to work in specialty squads could also appeal to those looking for a challenge.  Chances to work detective, warrants, or even SWAT for deserving officers could make volunteers really want to put in the hours to gain the experience necessary to qualify.  Right now those opportunities vary widely between departments, even in the area I live in, with one department opening up all but two squads (Mounted and K-9), and the other only allowing patrol work (with both armed  single and accompanied patrols).

New York Naval Militia on patrol.
New York Naval Militia on patrol.

Now, since we’ve discussed recruiting, let’s talk about standards.  If you want this program to actually work, the reserve officers MUST be held to the same standards as regular officers, including initial academy, physical fitness, field training, and continuing education.  It ABSOLUTELY CANNOT become the fat old rich donor’s club.  Treat reserve officers like adults and not like children or specially entitled individuals, and I think the results might be surprising.

In the chaos that is my mind, this talk of standards leads me to one final option that we haven’t discussed at all as of yet – State Defense Forces (called by differing titles in the states that authorize them including Militia, Military Reserve, and State Guard).  Authorized in 1955 and currently governed by 32 USC 109, State Defense Forces (SDF) are essentially the reserves to the National Guard.  Members are subject to exclusively state jurisdiction (the governor), may only be called up within their own state, and may not be members of any military branch, reserve, or the National Guard.  As with police reserves, the rules governing SDFs vary widely state to state, as do training and standards.  Some states use SDFs as a backfill in professional roles (legal, medical, etc), and other states have actually established memorandum with federal agencies to augment active duty and National Guard forces.  Physical standards may or may not exist, and very few SDFs conduct weapons qualifications, at least from what I have found.  In Virginia, their primary role is to work disaster response

Virginia Defense Force
Virginia Defense Force

(communications, damage assessment, dispensing supplies) and light (unarmed) crowd control at scheduled events.

As with the police reserves, SDFs have a lot of potential, if their state actually wants to put the time and effort into training and using them.  Many SDFs do actually pay members when called to state active duty, so that is a draw.  Other recruitment programs could include discounted healthcare, or college loan payoffs and discounted tuition (the New York Naval Militia actually has a tuition assistance program in place).  Standards would have to be enforced.  SDFs have developed a reputation (probably unfairly, but not entirely unfounded) for being the place where retired service members go to relive the glory days.  There needs to be a real effort to recruit younger individuals with relevant skills – everything from IT to legal to medical to just a person who wants to get trained to help.  And there needs to be a real effort to develop useful qualifications and hold members accountable.  Maybe SDFs could even partner with community colleges and trade schools to train members in trade skills with free tuition in exchange for volunteer hours.

I still believe that the cornerstone of an effective national defense is a responsibly armed citizenry.  However, I also think there is a lot that state and local governments could be doing to effectively utilize the respnsibly armed citizenry within their jurisdictions to increase security without overwhelming their budgets.  Working with the populace instead of treating them like children that need to be monitored is in the best interest of both parties.

About the author

Joel is an 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

Terrorism Strikes Bangladesh

Holey Artisan Bakery's Facebook Page
Holey Artisan Bakery’s Facebook Page

On Friday, July 1st, five gunmen from a domestic Bangladeshi terrorist group known as Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB) stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery and Cafe in Dhaka

and took hostages, holding them for twelve hours before commandos from the Rapid Action Battalion successfully ended the siege.  Four of the attackers were killed, one is being questioned.  Twenty hostages were killed by the attackers – nine Italians, seven Japanese, an Indian, an American and two local men.  Two police officers were also killed during the response.

During the siege, the gunmen sorted the hostages – taking foreigners upstairs while leaving locals downstairs.  Hostages were told to recite verses from the Quran.  Those who could recite them survived, and were even fed by the attackers.  Those who could not were tortured and killed.  The sorting of hostages is not unusual, as it has been seen before in terror attacks, including Kenya (at least twice) and Mali.

Map of Bangladesh with Dhaka indicated. CIA World Factbook
Map of Bangladesh with Dhaka indicated. CIA World Factbook

While the government of Bangladesh continues to insist that this attack was entirely homegrown, media outlets affiliated with Daesh released pre-attack photos of the attackers standing in front of a Daesh flag, as well as photos of dead hostages taken during the siege, allegedly with their own phones.  JMB has previously pledged allegiance to Daesh, while a rival domestic group – Ansarullah Bangla Team – has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.

Two things are interesting to note: first, this attack, as well as other recent ones around the world, demonstrates a phenomenon that CNN has raised, and that I mentioned in an earlier article.  As Daesh continues to lose ground in Iraq (and to a significantly lesser extent Syria), instead of capitulating, they will merely flow to other regions to re-establish and re-assert themselves.  Second is that this particular attack furthers the trend of radical Islamic groups attracting higher educated, middle class recruits.  Four of the five attackers were from middle class or higher families, including one who had connections to the ruling political party.  None showed any indicators of radicalization until they disappeared prior to the attack.  A recent study by Queen Mary University of London demonstrated that three major risk factors for violent radicalization were youth, wealth, and being in full-time education.  Many of the recruits that attempted to travel from Europe to Syria and Iraq to fight for Daesh fit the profile, as do many of al-Qaeda’s founding members and leaders.  According to CNN, as

Female Peshmerga soldiers conduct a live fire exercise under the supervision and instruction of British and Dutch soldiers near Erbil, Iraq, March 7, 2016. Female Peshmerga soldiers attend a three-week basic infantry course intended to improve their tactical knowledge to aid in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and allow Peshmerga to work in an environment where a female presence is needed. Erbil is one of five Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity locations dedicated to training Iraqi Security Forces. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst/ Released)
Female Peshmerga soldiers conduct a live fire exercise under the supervision and instruction of British and Dutch soldiers near Erbil, Iraq, March 7, 2016. Female Peshmerga soldiers attend a three-week basic infantry course intended to improve their tactical knowledge to aid in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and allow Peshmerga to work in an environment where a female presence is needed. Erbil is one of five Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity locations dedicated to training Iraqi Security Forces. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst/ Released)

many as 70% of Daesh’s recruits are middle class, most with no real religious affiliation prior to radicalization.  Traditional models of terror recruitment suggest lower educated or religiously educated recruits.  The Obama administration has even alluded to the same in speeches, although that premise was challenged almost immediately.

Despite proclamations of loss of territory by Daesh, they are still alive, and they still have a global reach.  And while our focus is on Daesh currently, al-Qaeda is still out there kicking, and competing with Daesh for dominance.  While they may not have the reach they once did, several affiliates are actively plotting, and it’s only a matter of time before we hear from them again.  Both groups will continue to seek out opportunities to strike inside America, whether through a directed strike or an inspired one.  While our special operations forces take the fight to them overseas, our first responders and responsibly armed citizens must be ready to face them here as well.

About the author

Joel is an 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

Is NATO Still Worth It?

 

YAVORIV, Ukraine--Soldiers from thirteen different countries form-up for the opening ceremony of Rapid Trident 16 here June 27th. Exercise Rapid Trident is an annual multinational training exercise series held in Ukraine. It is designed to enhance joint combined interoperability between Ukraine, the United States, NATO allies, and other Partnership for Peace nations. (Photo by U.S. Army Capt. Scott Kuhn)
YAVORIV, Ukraine–Soldiers from thirteen different countries form-up for the opening ceremony of Rapid Trident 16 here June 27th. Exercise Rapid Trident is an annual multinational training exercise series held in Ukraine. It is designed to enhance joint combined interoperability between Ukraine, the United States, NATO allies, and other Partnership for Peace nations. (Photo by U.S. Army Capt. Scott Kuhn)

As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) heads into its summit in Warsaw, Poland, next week, questions continue to arise about the role of NATO in today’s threat environment. Everyone from Secretaries of Defense to Donald Trump have criticized NATO in the past few years, much of which has been focused about roles, cost-sharing, and purpose.

NATO History

First, why was NATO founded, and what was its original purpose? According to NATO’s website, NATO originally existed for three primary reasons:

– Deterring Soviet expansionism
 – Forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent
 – Encouraging European political integration

NATO originally had only twelve members, but today it has expanded to include twenty-nine. At the time of the original signing, Europe was in both political and economic shambles after World War II and the Soviet Union was tightening its grip on its newly controlled satellites while stirring up conflict elsewhere. Three articles of the NATO charter (out of fourteen) were especially relevant:

 – Article 5 allowed for a collective defense in case of an attack against alliance members (although Article 6 limited the scope of how an attack against an alliance member was defined)
 – Article 2 allowed for cooperation on non-military projects
 – Article 3 set the groudwork for military cooperation and required minimum levels of member military funding (set at 2% of gross domestic product)

In the entirety of NATO’s history, Article 5 has only been invoked once – in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, leading to the eventual NATO takeover of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. However, NATO has been involved in military operations throughout the world, including patrols against Somali pirates, intervention in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya, and refugee operations in the Aegean Sea.

Criticism of NATO

Criticism of NATO typically centers around two core arguments:

 – NATO is no longer relevant since the end of the Cold War and the rise of the European Union (EU), particularly as it relates to America’s security
 – NATO partners are not shouldering their part of the burden

The first criticism recognizes the fact that the world is a fundamentally different place than the world into which NATO was born. No longer is there a defined, fixed enemy that threatens to roll over or nuke Europe, per say (more on modern Russia later). Now we live in a world of asymmetric threats: terrorism (not just state-sponsored, but international fundamentalist organizations and home-grown extremists), cyber criminals, and many more. The European Union is now the primary vehicle for non-military cooperation amongst European nations, despite its occasional fragility. Europe has rebounded in economy, infrastructure, and unity, yet the United States still insists on being NATO’s leading member. NATO has also expanded to include states that are significantly less capable of defending themselves than the older members, and by doing so has essentially bound itself to being the “big brother” looking out for the little guys (http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/it-time-america-quit-nato-15615). NATO’s unnecessary expansion, critics argue, actually causes greater harm in terms of damaged diplomatic relations than it reaps in the benefits of additional allies.

A British soldier, left, of 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment gives a brief prior to conducting an attack during Swift Response 16 training exercise at the Hohenfels Training Area, a part of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, in Hohenfels, Germany, Jun. 22, 2016. Exercise Swift Response is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multi-national airborne forces in the world. The exercise is designed to enhance the readiness of the combat core of the U.S. Global Response Force – currently the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team – to conduct rapid-response, joint-forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside Allied high-readiness forces in Europe. Swift Response 16 includes more than 5,000 Soldiers and Airmen from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United States and takes place in Poland and Germany, May 27-June 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Seth Plagenza/Released)
A British soldier, left, of 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment gives a brief prior to conducting an attack during Swift Response 16 training exercise at the Hohenfels Training Area, a part of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, in Hohenfels, Germany, Jun. 22, 2016. Exercise Swift Response is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multi-national airborne forces in the world. The exercise is designed to enhance the readiness of the combat core of the U.S. Global Response Force – currently the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team – to conduct rapid-response, joint-forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside Allied high-readiness forces in Europe. Swift Response 16 includes more than 5,000 Soldiers and Airmen from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United States and takes place in Poland and Germany, May 27-June 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Seth Plagenza/Released)

The second criticism has been leveled at NATO members by a wide-ranging group that includes Donald Trump and Secretaries of Defense Gates, Panetta, and Hagel. It’s not all political grandstanding – historically, of the twenty-nine countries in NATO, very few actually rise to the levels of funding required by Article 3. In fact, only five members actually made the 2% mark in 2015. The United States accounted for over 72% of the NATO defense expenditures last year. Critics question why the United States is willing to spend so much on NATO when the members most directly threatened aren’t. Recent world economic downturns have further reduced already low military spending.

Arguments for NATO

While proponents of a continued NATO will rarely argue with the need for members to contribute more to their own security, they take issue with the idea that NATO is outdated and irrelevant. First, not all NATO members are members of the EU. Norway, Albania, Iceland, and Turkey (and maybe soon the United Kingdom) are all NATO members that are not included in the EU framework. Therefore, NATO still provides an avenue for economic and military cooperation between the United States, the EU NATO members, and the non-EU NATO members. Second, while the USSR is gone, Vladimir Putin’s Russia behaves an awful lot like Putin misses his KGB days. Russia’s actions in Georgia and Ukraine scare many of the USSR’s former satellite countries, and their actions in Syria and provocative air and sea intercepts and probing of NATO member countries’ patrols and territory are disconcerting to say the least. While critics rightly point out the dangers of accepting more and more countries under the Article 5 umbrella, they miss the training opportunity that this threat provides. New NATO members are frequently more willing to train and procure interoperably than older NATO members with an established, modern military and procurement chain.

Is NATO outdated as a purely military force? Quite possibly, but it’s worth as a relationship building tool remains. Poland recently agreed to deploy special operations trainers and surveillance aircraft in support of the fight against Daesh. The talks that led up to that agreement came during NATO discussions (http://www.dodbuzz.com/2016/06/22/kiwis-and-poles-bolster-non-combat-roles-against-isis-in-iraq/). Membership in NATO creates something of a quid pro quo situation, especially for newer, smaller members. The alliance agrees to protect the member, but in return there is an expectation that the member will provide resources to NATO missions, and new members are far more eager to meet that expectation than older ones, as they receive more perceived benefits.

As stresses on the EU grow, NATO may very well remain the more constant and stable of the two organizations, as well as the only one in which the United States has any official say. The EU has no military component, and member states

Ireland marks its end of mission at a flag-lowering ceremony on Sunday at Camp Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Ireland marks its end of mission at a flag-lowering ceremony on Sunday at Camp Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.

have resisted the idea of creating one, as they prefer the cooperative model of NATO to the idea of a centrally managed European Army. The United States could still manage its many European alliances individually, but losing the NATO framework would certainly make it more complicated.

Conclusion

While there are solid arguments to be made both for and against NATO in its current state, realistically there is very little chance of NATO dissolution. However, the world of 2016 is very different from the world of 1949, and NATO must remain open to evolution to confront the threats of today while preparing for the threats of tomorrow.

About the author

Joel is an 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.