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Kabul Suicide Bomb Kills 31 and Injures over 80

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Via multiple news sources

On January 10th a Taliban insurgent wearing a Suicide Vest (SVEST) and a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) detonated near the Afghan Parliamentary Building in Kabul, killing 31 and injuring over 80 people.  The attack began with the SVEST detonation near a van followed with a VBIED detonation after Afghan police arrived on scene.

An Afghan Police spokesman said the attackers targeted Afghan Intelligence Officials.  Officials believe both Afghan Intelligence personnel and civilians are among the dead.

This is the bloodiest attack in Kabul in recent months.

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7 Facts You Might Not Know About GEN. James “Mad Dog” Mattis

SECWAR Poster

Our new SECDEF or as we like to refer to him, Secretary of War, General James Mattis isn’t your typical political figurehead. In fact, without trying, he’s still twice the candidate compared to the other ones.

Here are a few facts about Mad Dog that you may not have known.

  1. He’s a bachelor, a lifelong bachelor – Referred to as the Warrior Monk, the good general has never been married and never had kids (that he knows of.) While there may be some little barrel-chested Mattis minions running around Thailand, Mattis devoted his life to slaying bodies rather than Saturday morning soccer games and alimony payments. If he were to have a wife, the Marines would have issued him one.

2. He served four decades in the Marines, joining in 1969 and retiring in 2013.

General Mattis’ Reading List For Leaders

3. Mattis started out as enlisted and later transferred over to the officer ranks in 1972, Apparently, LCPL Mattis wasn’t appealing for the future Secretary of War.

New Rules of Engagement from Mattis

4. He once pulled Christmas Duty for another officer – In 1998, Mattis was seen pulling duty for a Major who he sent home to spend the holiday with his family. We have yet to hear of another General Officer pulling duty on Christmas Day.

5. General Mattis has over 7,000 books in his personal library and often carries books with quotes from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius into combat.

Trump’s Appointment of Mattis is All We Want for Christmas

6. He served in three wars; Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Persian Gulf War.

7. He has the most savage ass quotes that will make your pants tight. Some of his quotes include

  • “I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential of failure. I cannot even spell the word.”
  • “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”reft16_generalmattis_shirtback
  • There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”
  • You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s quite fun to fight them you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling. 
  • Demonstrate to the world there is ‘No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy’ than a U.S. Marine. 

 



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.

The Aberration of War and its Impacts on Planning

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.



Estonia Prepares for War

Soldiers with the Estonian Defense Force practice assembling an M2 .50-caliber machine gun during a combined preliminary marksmanship class Aug. 27, at Tapa Army Base. The training was part of Operation Atlantic Resolve an ongoing series of training events and exercises designed to build relationships, trust and interoperability between the U.S. and its NATO allies. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)
Soldiers with the Estonian Defense Force practice assembling an M2 .50-caliber machine gun during a combined preliminary marksmanship class Aug. 27, at Tapa Army Base. The training was part of Operation Atlantic Resolve an ongoing series of training events and exercises designed to build relationships, trust and interoperability between the U.S. and its NATO allies. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)

It’s no secret that Eastern European countries worry about Russia’s intentions.  They have good reason to.  Between cyber and physical attacks, Russia’s activities in its former sphere of influence aren’t exactly an extension of the hand of friendship.  Add to that a little bit of uncertainty about the United States’ dedication level to its NATO allies, and you have some valid concerns building up.  These countries remember what it was like to be in Russia’s orbit, and they have no intention of ending up there again.

The New York Times ran an article in early November that profiled an aspect of Estonia’s response to this uncertainty – they are openly preparing for a guerilla war.  The Estonian Defense League, a sanctioned paramilitary organization, trains, and drills civilian volunteers to prepare them for guerilla operations.  The Times profiled the “Jarva District Patrol Competition, a 24-hour test of the skills useful for partisans, or insurgents, to fight an occupying army, and an improbably popular form of what is called ‘military sport’ in Estonia.  The competitions, held nearly every weekend, are called war games but are not intended as fun. The Estonian Defense League, which organizes the events, requires its 25,400 volunteers to turn out occasionally for weekend training sessions that have taken on a serious hue since Russia’s incursions in Ukraine two years ago raised fears of a similar thrust by Moscow into the Baltic States…

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…Since the Ukraine war, Estonia has stepped up training for members of the Estonian Defense League, teaching them how to become insurgents, right down to the making of improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.s, the weapons that plagued the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another response to tensions with Russia is the expansion of a program encouraging Estonians to keep firearms in their homes.”

A member of the Estonian Women's Home Defense team applies first aid to an Estonian Defense League soldier role playing as a casualty during the second annual Admiral Pitka Recon Challenge Aug. 8 near Tapa, Estonia. Hosted by the Estonian Defense League, the challenge tested the strength, speed, endurance, intelligence and willpower of 26 teams from six countries to include eight Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the Maryland National Guard through a series of obstacles and simulations along an 81-mile route through the Estonian countryside. The Women's Home Defense team placed 20th in the three-day event hosted by the Estonian Defense League.
A member of the Estonian Women’s Home Defense team applies first aid to an Estonian Defense League soldier role playing as a casualty during the second annual Admiral Pitka Recon Challenge Aug. 8 near Tapa, Estonia. Hosted by the Estonian Defense League, the challenge tested the strength, speed, endurance, intelligence and willpower of 26 teams from six countries to include eight Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the Maryland National Guard through a series of obstacles and simulations along an 81-mile route through the Estonian countryside. The Women’s Home Defense team placed 20th in the three-day event hosted by the Estonian Defense League.

Essentially, the Estonians are acknowledging that their 6,000 member army isn’t going to be capable of stopping the Russians (or whoever else may be a threat), but they plan to make any invaders pay dearly and thereby make the idea of an invasion unpalatable.  Lest we consider this strategy to be foolhardy, keep in mind that it is essentially the Swiss defense strategy.  So let’s take a look at the two:

The Swiss

There are significant differences in how the Swiss would execute their strategy versus the Estonians.  As far as manpower is concerned, the Swiss have compulsory service in the armed forces for all males.  This produces an entire populace that is well-acquainted with conventional and mountain warfare.  The Swiss have built their entire defensive strategy around being able to mobilize the population for a conventional war.  They purchase equipment with enough parts to sustain it throughout its planned service life.  They have agreements with major manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs that allows the government to maintain stockpiles, then return the goods to the manufacturer for sale after a set time.  The government only pays for the goods if they use them, and the manufacturer still gets to sell the items and realize a profit.  In case of invasion, the populace would report to conventional military units such as infantry, armor, and air; would blast bridges, tunnels, and factories into uselessness; and then would fight a conventional battle of attrition until the invader loses the will to fight.

Swiss Army soldiers cross a checkpoint during the 49th Annual Marche Internationale de Diekirch, Diekirch, Luxembourg, May 22, 2016. This is an annual international marching event hosted by the Luxembourg Army and the city of Diekirch. Military participants must complete 80 kilometers during a two day period around the vicinity of Diekirch, Luxembourg. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph Cathey/released)
Swiss Army soldiers cross a checkpoint during the 49th Annual Marche Internationale de Diekirch, Diekirch, Luxembourg, May 22, 2016. This is an annual international marching event hosted by the Luxembourg Army and the city of Diekirch. Military participants must complete 80 kilometers during a two day period around the vicinity of Diekirch, Luxembourg. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph Cathey/released)

An interesting development in the Swiss military system is the creation of private military associations that conduct voluntary training in between required military drills.  Members pay a small fee that helps fund the association and use their issued arms and equipment for the drills.

The Estonians

The Estonian population also has compulsory military service for males, with an active force of around 6,000.  The objective of the Defense League is to train volunteers that are either not subject to compulsory service or are past their service age, to conduct unconventional warfare and civil defense missions.  Essentially, they function almost like a State Guard in the United States, but with a war-fighting capability.  The current Estonian plan seems to assume that the invader will achieve conventional victory, but would then be forced to maintain an expensive occupation force that would sap its will to fight.  To that end, “[t]he number of firearms, mostly Swedish-made AK-4 automatic rifles, that Estonia has dispersed among its populace is classified. But the league said it had stepped up the pace of the program since the Ukraine crisis began. Under the program, members must hide the weapons and ammunition, perhaps in a safe built into a wall or buried in the backyard.”

Pvt. Kalmer Simohov, of Parnu, a volunteer with the Estonian Defense League, receives his U.S. Army Airborne wings following the joint airborne operations exercise July 23, at a drop zone in Nurmsi, Estonia. The event was part of Operation Atlantic Resolve an ongoing series of training exercises designed to build relationships, trust and interoperability between the U.S. and its NATO allies. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)
Pvt. Kalmer Simohov, of Parnu, a volunteer with the Estonian Defense League, receives his U.S. Army Airborne wings following the joint airborne operations exercise July 23, at a drop zone in Nurmsi, Estonia. The event was part of Operation Atlantic Resolve an ongoing series of training exercises designed to build relationships, trust and interoperability between the U.S. and its NATO allies. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)

Unlike Switzerland (which is neutral), Estonia is a NATO member and would be eligible under Article 5 to call for collective self-defense.  What many people forget when they talk about Article 5’s collective defense, though, is that Article 3 specifically states that members “will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.”

We all hope that Estonia’s preparations won’t be necessary and that the threat of NATO’s collective self-defense will maintain the border sanctity of the former Russian satellites.  But hope is not a plan, and as long as the sabers keep getting rattled, the Estonians will prepare to make an occupation untenable.

About the author

Joel is a 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.



Use of Force and Total War in Cyberspace: Part II

This is the second part of a paper I wrote for the Naval War College.  In part one, we discussed whether or not a cyber attack can rise to the same level of use of force as a kinetic attack.  The contents of this paper reflect my own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by the Naval War College or the Department of the Navy.  I am by no means an expert on the cyber realm.  This is a conceptual argument, nothing more.

Total War

The theories of absolute war and total war cause a great deal of confusion.  Absolute war (or ideal war) is a theoretical construct raised by Carl von Clausewitz in his treatise On War.  Clausewitz views absolute war as a war without limitations to means of victory.  He does note, however, that absolute war is a purely theoretical premise and acknowledges that in reality, political considerations will limit military commanders in their conduct of war (Clausewitz, 1976).

Use of Force and Total War in Cyberspace: Part I

Total war, on the other hand, is a war conducted short of absolute war that involves the full mobilization of the nation’s civilian populace and infrastructure in support of the war effort.  Because the populace and infrastructure fully mobilize as part of the war effort, they become valid targets for the opposing army.  An example of total war is the pillaging of Confederate states during the American Civil War under the justification of breaking the will of the people to fight while depriving the Confederate Army of needed war supplies (Janda, 1995).  More recent examples of total war include the deliberate carpet-bombing of both British and German targets during World War II, along with the conversion of civilian production lines to tank or bomber production.

 

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In the cyber world, everything is connected.  The hard distinction between a military target and a civilian target does not exist.  In order to target the power to a military base, attackers could target a nearby power generation plant or a power grid.  However, taking down that power plant or grid could “bleed” into blackouts in surrounding critical infrastructure.  That bleed could have severe effects on the local civilian population, especially if done during extreme weather conditions or on a grid with a hospital or other emergency services nexus.

Spc. Isaiah Anderson, an Information Management Officer with U.S. Army Alaska updates the anti-virus software on a stand-alone, off-network computer in the signals section of USARAK headquarters. Cyber security is important on both military and civilian networks.
Spc. Isaiah Anderson, an Information Management Officer with U.S. Army Alaska updates the anti-virus software on a stand-alone, off-network computer in the signals section of USARAK headquarters. Cyber security is important on both military and civilian networks.

Scenario

Cyber-attacks offer an opportunity for substantial effects at relatively low cost.  Take, for example, a future conflict between China and the United States.  China is rising, and its goals are not clear.  If they choose to pursue regional hegemony, they must push out the American influence from their sphere in the Pacific.  If they pursue great power status, conflict may be inevitable, a possibility foreshadowed by the conflict between Athens and Sparta between 500 and 400 B.C. (Allison, 2015).  From the perspective of a modernized military, China lags significantly.  They certainly possess a numerical superiority, but they also suffer from an inability to move those numbers the distance required to use them to affect the continental United States.  China knows this, and they must seek a way to defeat the United States in a deniable way that avoids a physical battle.  As Sun Tzu said, “Thus, those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle.  They capture his cities without assaulting them and overthrow his state without protracted operations.” (Tzu, 1963)  Cyber may prove to be the key.

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China could pursue a dual-pronged strategy that would first destroy the people’s will to fight, while also impeding any military response to the attack.  Targeting the economic, technological, electrical, and logistical structure of the United States creates an opportunity to distract the American leadership while China makes moves that would normally merit a military response.  A simple glitch in the system provides no benefit, it must be a sustained outage that deprives the American people of necessities and conveniences long enough to cause pain, not mere discomfort.  It need not rise to the level of physical death to people, although once power and supply chains are attacked, the death toll will rise as the duration of the shortages lengthen.  As American General Philip Sheridan once said: “Death is popularly considered the maximum of punishment in war, but it is not; reduction to poverty brings prayers for peace more surely and more quickly than does the destruction of human life, as the selfishness of man has demonstrated in more than one great conflict” (Sheridan, 2004).    A simultaneous, or closely following, attack on the military’s command and control and logistical systems would disrupt the military’s ability to provide a cogent response, whether kinetic or cyber.

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This strategy is not without serious danger, however.  First, it plainly falls within the category of both a use of force and armed attack.  Under the United Nations Charter, the United States would be well within its right to respond either kinetically or in the cyber realm.  Second, due to the international connections of the financial sector, an attack on the economic structure of the United States could easily affect many more nations than originally targeted.  While this may cause further confusion under which China could move, it would also broaden the number of countries eligible to respond under the Charter, and possibly forge them into an alliance.  Third, and closely related to the second point, China requires a market for the goods it produces.  Causing massive economic harm could backfire rapidly unless China has a well thought out strategy for the aftermath of the attack.

Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force and sailors with 553 Cyber Protection Team, monitor network activity during I MEF Large Scale Exercise 2016 (LSE-16) at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Aug 22, 2016. The overall purpose of the exercise was to practice the deployment of a fighting force of more than 50,000 military personnel to a partner nation and incorporate both live-fire and simulated combat scenarios against a near-peer enemy force. 553-CPT is a team of cyber defense specialists with Fleet Cyber Command. The team advised I MEF while setting up the command element’s networks.
Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force and sailors with 553 Cyber Protection Team, monitor network activity during I MEF Large Scale Exercise 2016 (LSE-16) at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Aug 22, 2016. The overall purpose of the exercise was to practice the deployment of a fighting force of more than 50,000 military personnel to a partner nation and incorporate both live-fire and simulated combat scenarios against a near-peer enemy force. 553-CPT is a team of cyber defense specialists with Fleet Cyber Command. The team advised I MEF while setting up the command element’s networks.

Conclusion

Though the gap diminishes with every passing year, the United States remains the world’s most powerful military.  However, weaknesses in our cyber infrastructure provide an opportunity for an adversary willing to wage a total war and suffer its backlash.  A massive attack aimed at both military and civilian targets could provide the “shock and awe” and disruption necessary to prevent a kinetic or cyber response, or at least minimize it.  Total war in the cyber realm involves many of the same risks as kinetic war, and could be every bit as devastating to the belligerents and the international order.  The advantage to cyber-attack lies in its ability to strike far beyond the range of kinetic weapons and avoid attribution.  It could prove to be the equalizer between nations with extreme disparity in kinetic forces, allowing weaker countries to assert their areas of influence without ever firing a shot.

Bibliography

Allison, G. (2015, September 24). The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War. The Atlantic. Retrieved October 11, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/united-states-china-war-thucydides-trap/406756/

Clausewitz, C. v. (1976). On War. (M. Howard, P. Paret, Eds., M. Howard, & P. Paret, Trans.) Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Janda, L. (1995, January). Shutting the Gates of Mercy: The American Origins of Total War, 1860-1880. The Journal of Military History, 59(1), 7-26. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2944362?origin=JSTOR-pdf

Schmitt, M. (Ed.). (2013). Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyberspace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from https://issuu.com/nato_ccd_coe/docs/tallinnmanual?e=0/1803379

Sheridan, P. H. (2004, June 7). The Memoirs of General P. H. Sheridan, Volume 1. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from Grant Under Fire: http://www.grantunderfire.com/civil-war-resources/various-memoirs/sheridans-memoirs-vol-2/

Tzu, S. (1963). The Art of War. (S. B. Griffith, Trans.) New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

United Nations. (2016, October 5). Charter of the United Nations: Chapter VII. Retrieved from United Nations Web Site: http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-vii/index.html

United Nations. (2016, October 5). United Nations Charter: Chapter I. Retrieved from United Nations Web Site: http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-i/index.html

About the author

Joel is a 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.

Will There Be A U.S. and Russia Alliance?

There is a decided difference between the cohesion of a single army, led into battle under the personal command of a single general, and that of an allied force extending over 250 or 500 miles, or even operating against different fronts.  In the one, cohesion is at its strongest and unity at its closest.  In the other, unity is remote, frequently found only in mutual political interests, and even then rather precarious and imperfect; cohesion between the parts will usually be very loose, and often completely fictional.
– Carl von Clausewitz, circa 1832

On September 12th, the United States and Russia announced a ceasefire in Syria.  While certainly not the first attempted ceasefire in the war, this one involved a particularly interesting promise: if the ceasefire held, the United States and Russia might begin sharing intelligence and targeting data.  Both sides laid out very specific details regarding intelligence sharing.  The United States would be required to discourage rebels it backs from joining Fath al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra or the Nusra Front).  The Russians would be required to exert pressure on the Syrian government to limit their attacks to Daesh.  Neither side would agree to the sharing until after the ceasefire held for seven days.

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U.S. Marines with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command 16.2, disarm ordnance on an F/A-18D Hornet returning from a mission at an undisclosed location in southwest Asia, June 8, 2016. VMFA(AW)-533 operates and conducts strikes as part of the Aviation Combat Element of SPMAGTF-CR-CC in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert/ Released)
U.S. Marines with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 16.2, disarm ordnance on an F/A-18D Hornet returning from a mission at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, June 8, 2016. VMFA(AW)-533 operates and conducts strikes as part of the Aviation Combat Element of SPMAGTF-CR-CC in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert/ Released)

After this week’s events, it seems incredibly unlikely that intelligence sharing will move forward.  Hostilities flared over the weekend, including barrel bomb attacks by Syrian forces and the mistaken bombing of Syrian forces by American warplanes.  Russia called an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the American bombing (but made no mention of the Syrian bombing).  Aid supplies destined for starving and injured civilians still have not made it to their intended destinations.

So what difference, at this point, does it make?  As Clausewitz said, cohesion in alliances “will usually be very loose, and often completely fictional.”  When you examine the lay of the land in Syria, who stands to gain more from this alliance?  What are the possible pitfalls of this alliance, not just in Syria, but internationally?  I’m not a professional State Department type, so these observations are based primarily on reading a lot of talking heads and formulating my own opinion…

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Putin longs for the days when Russia (then Soviet Russia) was the big kid on the block.  What’s more, he’s not afraid to take what he thinks will get him there.  He’s already invaded two countries in Europe in the name of “protecting Russian citizens;” and the fact that both of those countries were seeking alliances with the West just prior to the invasions was a total coincidence, per his propaganda machine.  In each case, he’s gotten something out of it – in the case of Georgia, he set a precedent and chilled the desire of former Soviet republics to seek out NATO and the West.  In the case of Ukraine, he gained a permanent home for the Black Sea Fleet.  He used the chemical weapons crisis in Syria to show that he is a player on the world stage, negotiating a deal when the United States sat around issuing “red lines” with no real consequences to back them up.  Since then, he’s  sponsored the International Syria Support Group.  The ISSG facilitates negotiations to bring peace to Syria, and Putin is racking up his creds as a world player yet again.

The United States and Russia support very different sides in the civil war.  Russia supports the Assad regime, and has been conducting offensive operations against any and all rebel factions, including Daesh, al-Nusra, and the “moderate” Free Syrian Army.  The United States, on the other hand, supports the FSA in their fight against Daesh and al-Nusra/al-Sham.  However, since you really can’t support the FSA solely in their fight against extremists without them also using their training and weapons against the Syrian regime, the United States finds itself in the de facto position of fighting the Assad regime.  Russia wants the regime to continue because Syria currently hosts the Russian naval base that allows Putin’s navy to operate in the Mediterranean and the Gulf.  Officially, the United States has no position on regime change, and just wants Daesh and al-Sham gone.

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So why would Russia be willing to share intel for targeting now?  Simply put, Putin thinks he’s going to get something out of it.  In the world of international relations, Putin falls under the category of realist, someone who acts out of self-interest (as opposed to a constructivist, who acts out of respect for an international construct).  If Putin is ready to share intel and targeting, he thinks that sharing is going to get him somewhere.  So let’s look at the conditions outlined above.  First, the Syrian government would only be allowed to target Daesh.  That benefits Russia, as Daesh has long been the strongest force fighting Assad, and they haven’t suffered near the defeats in Syria that they have in Iraq (at least not yet).  The United States is to discourage FSA members from joining al-Sham.  This also benefits Russia, as despite their infighting with Daesh, al-Sham has worked together with Daesh, and still boasts more victories than the FSA.  The United States will obviously continue to push the FSA to attack Daesh, as that remains our stated goal.  So now, with the Syrian government no longer in danger of falling (thanks to Putin), Putin is ready to turn the screws on

160913-M-MK246-006 MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Sept. 13, 2016) An AV-8B Harrier II with 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), launches from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) on Sept. 13, 2016. The 22nd MEU, embarked on Wasp, is conducting precision air strikes in support of the Libyan Government of National Accord-aligned forces against Daesh targets in Sirte, Libya, as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John A. Hamilton Jr.)
160913-M-MK246-006 MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Sept. 13, 2016) An AV-8B Harrier II with 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), launches from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) on Sept. 13, 2016. The 22nd MEU, embarked on Wasp, is conducting precision air strikes in support of the Libyan Government of National Accord-aligned forces against Daesh targets in Sirte, Libya, as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John A. Hamilton Jr.)

the opposition.  Putin may not necessarily want total annihilation of the opposition, but he wants enough concessions at the end to make it worth his while.  With the two most successful opposition groups out of the way, the FSA probably won’t be looking at any roaring success on its own when the Syrian government turns its full might towards the FSA.

So, in the end, if this agreement were to go forward, Russia comes off as the winner.  Would Daesh be pushed out of Syria, giving the United States a win?  Possibly.  But Daesh has already started moving operations to other countries.  We’ll whack a Daesh here, and it’ll pop up over there.  Daesh also continues to encourage homegrown terrorism and has quite a few claimed attacks to their name – including one this weekend in Minnesota.  Would it be a total loss for the United States?  No, but it wouldn’t really be a win either.

About the author

Joel is a 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.

Daesh’s Global Presence and Homeland Threats

The smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would if you were with us.  If one of you hoped to reach the Islamic  State, we wish we were in your place to punish the Crusaders day and night.
ABU MOHAMMED AL-ADNANI
ISIS Audio Recording
May 2016

Following up on my last article regarding new research about the typical patterns of radicalization of lone and solo actor terrorists, this week I’m bringing you the House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security’s August “Terror Threat Snapshot.”

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Their recent report Terror Gone Viral: Overview of the 100+ ISIS-Linked Plots Against the West.  Yes, there’s a connection, it’s not just me trying to plug the last article.  First off, some stats – according to the report, since 2014, there have been 103 plots to attack the “West,” which is  “countries  located  in  Europe  and  North  America,  as  well  as Australia, or targets affiliated with those countries outside of the conflict zone in Syria and Iraq.”  The report does not cover

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies before Congress.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies before Congress.

Daesh attacks within Syria or Iraq, Africa, or Asia unless there was an affiliation to the countries mentioned above, meaning that there are many attacks not considered.  In 2016, Daesh was successful in 44% of their plots, up 13% from last year.  Of those plots, 47% were directed Vice inspired, up 12% from last year.  Back to the previous article, this 47 % fit the profile of a solo actor versus a lone actor (the “lone wolf” tag in its truest sense it refers to lone actor terrorists, meaning an attacker who is inspired by but receives no assistance from, a terrorist group).  The successful attacks are also more deadly, with an average of 58 casualties per attack in 2016, up to an average of 10 per attack over 2015.  Those numbers only run through July.  40% of the 103 plots targeted the United States and its interests.

Amazing Photos of Pre-war Afghanistan

Apparently, Daesh continues to globalize their operations, which U.S. intelligence has been warning would happen as Daesh continues to lose ground.  While recent success in Iraq is certainly fantastic news for those who have suffered under Daesh’s direct rule, it doesn’t mean the threat is anymore neutralized.

Reports estimate that Daesh has 34 groups pledging allegiance and eight official branches, located in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories (Gaza), Pakistan, Philippines, Russia (North Caucasus region), Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.  Of these, the Libyan group is considered the most dangerous outside of the Iraq/Syria theater.

What Would a War With North Korea Look Like?

Their reach isn’t limited to faraway lands.  In the span of seven days in July, three U.S. citizens were arrested for planning attacks.  Each was either actively receiving direction from Daesh, had previously met with Daesh representatives, or was actively seeking direction from Daesh.  Referring back to the research in the last article, at least one of these individuals had friends who knew of his allegiance, and he had posted on Facebook of his intentions.  FBI Director James Comey testified in May that as many as 800 of the FBI’s over 1,000 active “homegrown terror investigations” are linked to Daesh.  The threat isn’t just limited to active attack plots.  Since 2014, 105 individuals had either been arrested or charged in absentia for plots, traveling to join Daesh, or providing material support to Daesh.  For those of you who follow the news, it’s no surprise, but in those same years we’ve seen seven terrorists killed

Incoming Commanding General Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend (second left) chats with Commanding Officer Training Task Unit Task Group Taji Lieutenant Colonel David McCammon, DSM (right) and Commander Task Group Taji Colonel Andrew Lowe (second right) during his visit to the Taji Military Complex in Iraq. Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is a multinational effort to weaken and destroy Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant operations in the Middle East region and around the world. (Australian Defence Force photo by LSIS Jake Badior)
Incoming Commanding General Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend (second left) chats with Commanding Officer Training Task Unit Task Group Taji Lieutenant Colonel David McCammon, DSM (right) and Commander Task Group Taji Colonel Andrew Lowe (second right) during his visit to the Taji Military Complex in Iraq. Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is a multinational effort to weaken and destroy Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant operations in the Middle East region and around the world. (Australian Defence Force photo by LSIS Jake Badior)

carrying out five attacks in four states.  According to the reporting, “(n)early 90 percent of the ISIS supporters charged in the U.S. are male and approximately 35 percent of them are converts to Islam; their average age is 26.”

Six months into 2016, and almost eighteen months into the military battle against Daesh, gains have been made on the ground, thanks to U.S.-supported Iraqi forces; however, Daesh continues to be a threat around the world and has demonstrated its ability to strike globally and with deadly effect.

Further Reading:

https://homeland.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/100-ISIS-Linked-Plots-Report-.pdf

https://homeland.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/August-Terror-Threat-Snaphot.pdf

About the author

Joel is a 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served in 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 many 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 views of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

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.

Terrorism Strikes Bangladesh

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, every time.  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.

Military Readiness In The Age of Terrorism

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?  Often 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?

How to Identify Terrorist Profiles and Radicalization paths

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 the 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 the 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 responsibly 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 a 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.

How to Identify Terrorist Profiles and Radicalization paths

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.

Military Readiness In The Age of Terrorism

About the author

Joel is a 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.