Showing posts with label Counter Insurgency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Counter Insurgency. Show all posts

25 May 2017

Britain says it’s ‘likely’ attacker had accomplices as focus turns to his Libya visits

Griff Witte, Karla Adam and Souad Mekhennet
May 24, 2017
MANCHESTER, England — Britain’s top domestic security official said Wednesday it was “likely” that the bomber who killed 22 people at a concert on Monday night was not acting alone, a day after the nation’s threat level was raised and the military deployed to guard public events.
In an interview with the BBC, Home Secretary Amber Rudd did not provide details of who suspect Salman Abedi may have been working with when he detonated explosives in an attack that targeted teenage concertgoers, but she said security services — which had been aware of Abedi “up to a point” before the bombing — are focusing on his visits to Libya, at least one of which was very recent.

Her French counterpart, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, told broadcaster BFMTV that Abedi may have also gone to Syria, and had “proven” links with Islamic State.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Tuesday night announcement, which takes Britain’s alert level from “severe” to its highest rating, “critical,” clears the way for thousands of British troops to take to the streets and replace police officers in guarding key sites.
May announced the move after chairing an emergency meeting of her security cabinet and concluding that Abedi may have been part of a wider network that is poised to strike again. The decision, she said, was “a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face.”

On Wednesday, British Parliament announced that “due to the raised national security threat” all public tours would be stopped, with immediate effect. The Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace — a popular tourist attraction — was also cancelled.
The worst terrorist attack on British soil in over a decade was carried out by a British-born son of Libyan immigrants who was born and raised a short drive from the concert hall that he transformed from a scene of youthful celebration into a tableau of horror.

22 May 2017

Inclusive Peace Processes Are Key to Ending Violent Conflict

By Colette Rausch, Tina Luu for United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

Summary 
The number of armed conflicts reached a post–Cold War peak in 2015, exacting a terrible death toll and forcing millions to flee.
 
One key to reaching a sustainable peace is inclusivity, which can knit together a frayed social fabric and give all groups a stake in transforming their country. 

Conflicts have many levels, and peacebuilders need to create paths between them, creating opportunities for involvement and linking issues and groups. 

Various peacebuilding strands of issues or activities—such as building trust and consulting with affected groups—can be woven together to strengthen a peace process. 

Enabling marginalized groups to influence the content of a peace process increases the chances of a sustainable peace. 

Peacebuilders are sharpening their understanding of how to achieve inclusivity but knowledge gaps remain. Multidisciplinary e orts are required. 

21 May 2017

South Asia: Rising Extremism Opens Way for ISIS



Across South Asia, complex strains of extremism are opening the way for the Islamic State and destabilizing governments. From elements in the Afghan Taliban to the ascent of Hindu nationalism in India, extremists are drawing the region deeper into volatile internal and external conflicts, according to experts on religion and extremism speaking recently at the U.S. Institute of Peace. There are no quick ways to reverse the trend, they said. But steps that could slow radicalization include bolstering free speech, attacking terrorists’ financial networks and undermining the myth that a long-ago caliphate ruled over a perfect society.

The spread of the Islamic State is triggering particular concern. The extremist group is taking advantage of the “tumultuous mix” across South Asia to put down roots and attract new fighters to inflame the region, said Farid Senzai, the president of the Center for Global Policy (CGP), a research organization focused on issues in Muslim societies. CGP co-hosted the discussion at USIP. 

ISIS militants and commanders are beginning to appear in Afghanistan as it loses territory in Iraq and Syria, said Scott Worden, the director of USIP’s Afghanistan and Central Asia programs. In Bangladesh, extremist ideologies are taking hold among educated youth connecting with ISIS, according to Kamran Bohkari, the director of political affairs at CGP. 

Leftwing Extremism 2017: Sparks from a Flailing Revolution


Shrinking presence of the left-wing extremists, their reduced ability to orchestrate attacks and produce dead bodies of civilians and security forces; and the state's ability to find support among the traditional recruitment base of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) - all these are reasons for official optimism regarding the LWE situation in the country. A trend of declining violence that started in 2015 has been used by the state to reaffirm that it is on the threshold of a splendid triumph on what used to be the most serious internal security challenge. These affirmations continue to be repeated by the governments in New Delhi and other states that are affected by the problem. And yet, the extremists do manage to carry out intermittent major as well as small scale attacks. Sizeable territory of the country remains under the control of the extremists and the support for the 'revolution' among the tribals and marginalised population in the affected states remain significant. How is the LWE situation likely to evolve in the Bibhu Prasad Routray Director, Mantraya A trend of declining violence that started in 2015 has been used by the state to reaffirm that it is on the threshold of a splendid triumph on what used to be the most serious internal security challenge. How is the LWE situation likely to evolve in the country in 2017? This has been analysed from the three important perspectives - state attempts to quell the extremist rebellion, the extremists' attempts to revive and reorganise their fight, and the aspirations of the people- providing a c

19 May 2017

* What Drives Terrorism Part 1: Ideology And Theory


What drives terrorism? It's a question asked by governments and individuals, militaries and businesses. In an April 27 webinar in which Fred Burton and I discussed the evolution of terrorist threats toward soft targets, we briefly discussed this very topic. Knowing what these influential forces are is crucial to understanding how an attack is conducted, placing it in context and, perhaps most important, anticipating and even forecasting future changes in terrorism trends.

Tactics and tradecraft never stop changing, either: They are constantly evolving to respond to external forces that enable, constrain and otherwise shape them. And while the list may differ among experts, the main drivers the Stratfor Threat Lens team tracks are ideology and terrorist theory, political and economic developments, counterterrorism efforts, technology, and media coverage.

Based on public interest from the webinar, I'd like to pull back the curtain and provide a glimpse into how our methodology assesses these five driving forces. In this series, each one will be examined individually, but it's important to remember that not one factor operates in isolation - the world does not work that way. They are all interconnected, and almost always working together (or at cross purposes) to help transform terrorism dynamics.
Terrorist Ideology

There are many definitions of terrorism, but for our purposes we will loosely define it as politically motivated violence against noncombatants. While many groups and individuals practice terrorism, terrorism for the sake of terror is not their end goal. Instead, it's merely one tool that's used to achieve a greater purpose, whether that objective is launching a revolution that will bring about a "workers' paradise," providing animals the same rights as humans or establishing a global caliphate.

Perspectives on Terrorism, Volume 11, Issue 2 (2017)

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The contributions in this issue of Perspective on Terrorism focus on 1) the shifting content and style of two prominent extremist magazines (Dabiq and Rumiyah); 2) managing non-state threats, specifically by relying on cumulative deterrence-by-denial; 3) tracking radical opinions in US Muslim polls; 4) gauging the ambiguous effect of population size on the prevalence of terrorism; and 5) reviewing the pioneering, Saudi Arabian-based online counter-radicalization campaign known as ‘Sakinah’.

18 May 2017

Terrorist Use of Virtual Currencies: Containing the Potential Threat

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Will virtual currencies (VC) increasingly replace traditional methods of funding terrorism, including the halawa system? According to Zachary Goldman et al, extremists in the Gaza Strip have already used virtual currencies to fund their operations and members of the Islamic State have been particularly receptive to the new technology, at least at the local level. To prevent the spread of VC funding on a larger scale, our authors argue that counterterrorism communities should adopt three guiding principles to shape their future policies. Explore them here.

15 May 2017

Urban Naxalism: Strategy And Modus Operandi – Part 1

Vivek Agnihotri

The war in the jungles is fought openly. The war in cities, clandestinely.

Urban naxals are the ‘invisible enemies’ of India, some of them have either been caught or are under the police radar for working for the movement and spreading insurgency against the Indian state. One common thread amongst all of them is that they are all urban intellectuals, influencers or activists of importance.

A quick look into the accomplishments of all the urban naxals suggests that they have indoctrinated the youth by pretending to be concerned about social issues. However, my observation is that they never tried to find a solution to social problems. Dictated by the politburo strategy, they just exploit the situation by organising protests and mobilising masses which can be used for party building. They encourage students to take admission in different colleges and fail so that they can continue longer on the college campus.

For a student, from a poor or marginalised background, a subsidised stay in a government hostel, in a big city, is a luxury which he laps up without questioning the ulterior motives of his mentors. With the help of these students they attract new students and organise 'boot study camps'.

12 May 2017

Kashmir, Xinjiang, & terror


Nantoo Banerjee | 8 May 2017 9:40 PM | New Delhi China's development model in the last 25 years has left the world awe-struck and has been a major reference matter in local, regional, as well global economic forums. Few cared to know how the country's biggest province, Xinjiang, or Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region as it is officially known, progressed over the years and its contribution to China's phenomenal growth. Xinjiang, accounting for almost 50 per cent of China's total Muslim population of around 2.50 crore, has been China's most communally sensitive province and a hotbed of terrorist activities and religious extremism. Rich in natural resources, economic development in the region has been accompanied by large-scale immigration of Han Chinese. The planned immigration had sizeably reduced the share of the Muslim population as part of Xinjiang's total population. Many Uyghurs complain of discrimination and their marginalisation by the Chinese authorities. Anti-Han and separatist sentiment have become more prevalent since the 1990s, flaring into frequent violence in Xinjiang. Hans built their own civil resistance groups. Not many outside Xinjiang, not even those living in other regions of China, are aware of such incidences of violence and how ruthlessly China's military and security forces handle them. The media is under the total control of the government. Whatever little the world knows about the ethnic trouble involving Uyghurs is what the Chinese authorities officially states. Sharing borders with some six Islamic countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, it also has borders with predominantly Buddhist Mongolia, secularist Russia, and India. Similarly, few have knowledge about how China has been tackling the Islamic militancy in Xinjiang over the years. Few world human rights and religious groups credibly criticise relentless Chinese action to contain Islamist movements there. For instance, earlier this year, China strictly banned the use of names such as Islam, Quran, Saddam, and Mecca for Muslim children by their parents as well as references to the star and crescent moon symbol. They are unacceptable to the ruling Communist party. Children with those names are denied household registration, a crucial document that grants access to social services, healthcare, and education. The list of such banned Muslim names is not made public. It is unclear exactly what qualifies as a religious name. Earlier, Xinjiang Muslims were upset with China's one-child policy. Reportedly, Chinese troops often demonstrate force and vow to 'relentlessly beat' separatists in Xinjiang. It may not be wrong to assume that China's multi-billion-dollar infrastructure development deal with Pakistan is partly to contain the separatist Islamic elements in Xinjiang operating in connivance with Pakistani Islamist militants. The reference to Xinjiang and the tough Chinese approach to tackling Islamic separatist movement is drawn mainly to compare and capture India's weak-kneed policy towards handling separatists in the geographically small Kashmir Valley, bordering principally Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. J&K's Muslim population is only around 96 lakh as of March 2017. The Indian census of 2011 recorded J&K's Muslim population at 85.67 lakh or about 68.31 per cent of its total population of 125.41 lakh. Hindus numbered 35.66 lakh or 28.43 per cent of the total. If only India did even partly what China did in Xinjiang by migrating Han workers there, the non-Muslim population in Kashmir could have been substantially increased, especially after the partition of India and migration of Hindus and other non-Muslim communities from the west and east Pakistan. In the last century, Israel was created with migrant Jews from Europe, supported by the financially and politically US-backed International Zionist Organisation (IZO). For not entirely explicable reasons, Nehru's India stood firmly against building such religious equation in Kashmir. Today, J&K has 22 districts. Of them,17 have a Muslim majority. Hindus are the majority community only in four districts of the Jammu division. Buddhists are the majority in Leh. The government, had, instead, gone to protect the rights of Kashmiri Muslims over their land constitutionally. Even central public sector enterprises were not allowed to legally acquire land in Kashmir to set up units there which could have changed the total economic picture of Kashmir, providing better employment, better education and decent living to the local people and, also, the process, promote secular values of the country there. Out of India's 29 states and seven Union Territories, only J&K has a Muslim majority. And, its Muslim militant groups, mainly in collusion with Pakistan, are constantly fighting, under local and global media glare, to secede from India. Other religious majorities in other Indian states and territories have no problem to reside with minority population as it is expected in any civilised society. The latest spurt in Pakistan-backed separatist movements in Kashmir is substantially due to the continuing inept attitude of the government, since the Nehru era, to firmly handle the communal violence and separatist organisations and their leaders and build civil resistance groups to fight them, instead of frequently using uniformed security forces. Many expected the BJP-led Central government would show the guts to tame the situation in Kashmir and, if necessary, amend the Constitution to make J&K like any other Indian state. Instead of blaming Pakistan for fomenting violent separatist activities, including surreptitious military action, in Kashmir, India must constitutionally establish its stamp on Kashmir as its part under an integral state policy. In the interim period, the government of India can replicate a lesson or two from China on tackling religious extremism and separatist groups in Kashmir. Any political opposition to such steps will only expose such political parties and groups which are against a lasting peace and unity in the country. If much larger separatist groups and their leaders in Xinjiang can be substantially tamed by Beijing, without making it unpopular locally and among other Muslim countries, including Pakistan, there is no reason to believe that New Delhi's application of the Chinese medicine will not work in Kashmir. (The views are personal.)

Are Terrorists Using Cryptocurrencies?

by David Manheim, Patrick B. Johnston, Joshua Baron, Cynthia Dion-Schwarz

Over the past few years, several experts have voiced concerns that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and other terrorist groups could use cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin as a new funding stream to further their operations. But in spite of these fears, the use of digital currencies among terrorists is not widespread—yet. Neither terrorist financing methods nor cryptocurrency technology is static, however, and the world could soon see the worst-case scenario unfolding. Greater pressure on existing terrorist finance methods coupled with easier-to-use cryptocurrencies that give users greater anonymity may well lead to a large-scale adoption of the technology by extremists.

At present, cryptocurrencies are hardly a go-to solution for terrorist financiers. Most types afford only limited anonymity, and it is difficult to quickly transfer large amounts of money through these systems. Moreover, there is limited acceptance of digital cash in regions such as the Middle East and North Africa, where many terrorist groups are most active.

Yet as the U.S. Treasury Department and its partners have increasingly denied terrorists access to other parts of the international financial system, new cryptocurrency technologies could provide an attractive alternative. To be sure, gauging whether these new technologies will be adopted, and if so, how quickly, is difficult. The answer depends on a host of unknowns, such as what other technologies are around the corner, how the public uses the new cryptocurrencies, and how useful or safe they prove to be. Digital currencies could be used for general funding; for money laundering; or to pay the personnel, associates, and vendors that keep the terrorist machine running. But there can be barriers to use as well, depending on the type of group and how its operations are financed.

9 May 2017

*** What Drives Terrorism Part 1: Ideology and Theory


By Scott Stewart

What drives terrorism? It's a question asked by governments and individuals, militaries and businesses. In an April 27 webinar in which Fred Burton and I discussed the evolution of terrorist threats toward soft targets, we briefly discussed this very topic. Knowing what these influential forces are is crucial to understanding how an attack is conducted, placing it in context and, perhaps most important, anticipating and even forecasting future changes in terrorism trends. Tactics and tradecraft never stop changing, either: They are constantly evolving to respond to external forces that enable, constrain and otherwise shape them. And while the list may differ among experts, the main drivers the Stratfor Threat Lens team tracks are ideology and terrorist theory, political and economic developments, counterterrorism efforts, technology, and media coverage.

Based on public interest from the webinar, I'd like to pull back the curtain and provide a glimpse into how our methodology assesses these five driving forces. In this series, each one will be examined individually, but it's important to remember that not one factor operates in isolation — the world does not work that way. They are all interconnected, and almost always working together (or at cross purposes) to help transform terrorism dynamics.
Terrorist Ideology

Sukma attack: Chhattisgarh police cannot hold back and fight Naxals in their stronghold through proxies

KPS GILL

The Burkapal attack in Sukma District is disturbing not only because of the high number of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel (25) who lost their lives, but because a similar pattern of apparent neglect of basic procedure had resulted in the significant loss of 12 troopers on March 11, at Bhejji, less than 30 kilometres away from the location of the Burkapal incident, and in circumstances that were comparable on several parameters. Yet, this failed to alert forces in the wider region to the daily risks that confronted them.

Both incidents were avoidable, and there is an urgent need for the CRPF to study and understand what is going wrong, and to address the visible failures of orientation, training and leadership that lie at the source not just of these two, but of the long succession of incidents in which the Maoists have been able to successfully target our forces. Significantly, while other forces have also fallen to Maoist ambushes — for instance, in February, eight personnel of the Odisha Police were killed in a landmine blast in the Koraput district — CRPF losses have been disproportionate. This is only partly because the CRPF is, in fact, the largest force deployed for ‘anti-Naxalite’ operations. Structural and operational deficiencies of the force, including irrational and protracted deployments, inadequate training, almost no retraining, poor leadership, strategic and tactical stasis, fatigue and indiscipline, and an overwhelming posture of passive defence, have also played a crucial part.

Tactical Surprise In Small Wars: Lessons From French Wars In Afghanistan And Mali

by Rémy Hémez

In small wars, it seems that resorting to tactical surprise rarely benefits the strongest actor. Studying past ambushes illustrates this idea. Indeed, history shows the extent to which Western armies have proven incapable of surprising their adversaries and how, they have often been surprised in turn. French military history emphasizes this argument. Indeed, the “Dalat convoy” ambush during the Indochina war (1948)[2], the Palestro ambush (1956)[3] during the Algerian war, or more recently the Uzbeen ambush (2009)[4] in Afghanistan serve as prime examples. Have these events highlighted the fact that it is nearly impossible for the “strongest” actor to surprise its opponents during small wars? Or rather, is it simply more difficult to surprise during small wars?

These questions can partially be answered by looking into French interventions in Afghanistan (2001-2012)[5] and in Mali (2013-operation “Serval”)[6]. These are two very different small wars, in terms of their context and course of actions. Therefore, they offer a widespread overview of how to better surprise our future irregular adversaries.

“You’re so predictable. I knew something would go wrong[7]

Tactical surprise is dependent upon four main factors[8]
Speed, because a swift movement limits the adversary’s preparation time; 
Secrecy, which is key to maintain uncertainty about one’s intent; 
Deception, by forcing the opponent to misinterpret attitudes and intents; 
Intelligence, to not over- or underestimate the adversary’s strength in order to deploy the main effort at the appropriate time and place. 

Army to lead CRPF anti-Naxal ops soon

By Pradip R Sagar

NEW DELHI: The Indian Army could soon be playing big brother to the CRPF, with its officers leading the paramilitary force against the Naxalite menace.

After the Sukma attack killing 25 CRPF jawans on April 24, the Modi government is looking to revive a 2008 Army blueprint to fight Maoists, which had been shoved under the carpet by the Congress-led UPA government.

In Kashmir, the division in conflict management between the Army and the CRPF is clearly demarcated. The paramilitary handle conflict situations and the Army steps in only when the situation spins out of control. While training at a secret location earlier, Army officers realised paramilitary counter-insurgency capability was almost ‘nil’.

The proposal for joint anti-Naxal ops had come from Allahabad-based Central Command of the Indian Army, under whose jurisdiction the majority of Naxal-infested states falls.

6 May 2017

** The Roads to Power: The Infrastructure of Counterinsurgency

By Laleh Khalili 

Laleh Khalili has no doubts – the logistics and infrastructure of counterinsurgency are as significant as the actual fighting. Indeed, roads – and logistics provision more generally – don’t simply serve immediate or tactical military functions against opponents. They’re also instruments of social engineering, as illustrated in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

This article was originally published by World Policy Journal in Spring 2017.

In Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a Judean leader tries to stoke a rebellion against the Romans. He tells a small crowd, “They’ve bled us white, the bastards,” and asks his comrades, “What have the Romans done for us?”

The other men reply by cataloging Rome’s great building projects, transportation networks, and bureaucratic systems. The agitator, played by John Cleese, responds: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

I have always found the scene resonant yet deeply inadequate. The idea that an imperial power constructs the groundwork for civilization must have been familiar to the members of Monty Python—all of whom were educated at British institutions that once trained men to rule the colonies. In its celebration of empire, the scene says nothing about how these collateral benefits were first and foremost designed to extract resources and move the soldiers and materiel needed to control them. It ignores the way militaries use infrastructure to pacify intransigent populations and incorporate conquered peoples and places into global systems of rule.

Chhattisgarh: Blood in the Last Bastion


In the worst attack targeting the Security Forces (SFs), in terms of fatalities, across India, since the June 29, 2010, Jhadha Ghati attack, cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) killed at least 25 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and injured another six in an ambush at Kalapattar in the Burkapal area of the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh on April 24, 2017. According to details available, an estimated 200-300 Maoists attacked the CRPF personnel who were out to provide protection for road construction work in the area. Though the CRPF claimed that “a considerable number of Maoists are believed to have been eliminated (in retaliatory action by CRPF men) as the tell-tale sign indicate from the ground,” only one body of a Maoist fighter was recovered, in the night of April 27, “just 500 metres away from the spot where the gun battle had taken place”. The body was recovered during search operations in the area. The Maoists had also looted at least 21 weapons, ammunition and 22 bullet proof jackets from the possession of the slain CRPF personnel.

On June 29, 2010, 27 personnel of the CRPF, including Assistant Commandant Jatin Gulati, were killed in a CPI-Maoist ambush in Narayanpur District of Chhattisgarh. The attack took place near a hilly stretch known as the Jhadha Ghati, three kilometres from the CRPF’s Dhudhai base camp. However, the Maoist’s worst ever attack targeting the SFs was at the Tarmetla village near Chintalnad in the Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh, on April 6, 2010, in which 75 CRPF personnel and one State Policeman were killed. Significantly, this area now falls under the Sukma District after the bifurcation of Dantewada.

When the Indian Army needs a (human) shield

By Lt Gen H S Panag

Two and a half years is a fairly long time in an insurgency. Elections were due to be held in Jammu and Kashmir in five phases from November 25 to December 20, 2014. There had been relative calm in J&K since the protests following the Machil fake encounter in 2010. Election campaigning was on in full swing.

On November 3, 2014, at a checkpoint in Budgam area, manned by a Junior Commissioned Officer and eight OR of 53 Rashtriya Rifles (RR), a car was fired upon when it failed to stop for checking (as per the version of the soldiers). Two school students were killed and two others were injured. Protests broke out in the area. The J&K Police commenced investigations, and leaks pointed towards a high-handed approach of the soldiers manning the check point. 53 RR stuck to its story that they were acting upon specific information on movement of terrorists and fired only when the car failed to stop at two previous checkpoints despite being signaled to do so, and had tried to barge through the checkpoint.

Considering the SOPs for manning checkpoints, it appeared to be a clear case of violation of rules of engagement. In such cases, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) protects the soldiers from being charged with murder or manslaughter. But, they were guilty of violating the standing orders laying down the rules of engagement and were liable to be punished after due investigation.

5 May 2017

The Roads to Power: The Infrastructure of Counterinsurgency

By Laleh Khalili 

Laleh Khalili has no doubts – the logistics and infrastructure of counterinsurgency are as significant as the actual fighting. Indeed, roads – and logistics provision more generally – don’t simply serve immediate or tactical military functions against opponents. They’re also instruments of social engineering, as illustrated in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

In Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a Judean leader tries to stoke a rebellion against the Romans. He tells a small crowd, “They’ve bled us white, the bastards,” and asks his comrades, “What have the Romans done for us?”

The other men reply by cataloging Rome’s great building projects, transportation networks, and bureaucratic systems. The agitator, played by John Cleese, responds: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

I have always found the scene resonant yet deeply inadequate. The idea that an imperial power constructs the groundwork for civilization must have been familiar to the members of Monty Python—all of whom were educated at British institutions that once trained men to rule the colonies. In its celebration of empire, the scene says nothing about how these collateral benefits were first and foremost designed to extract resources and move the soldiers and materiel needed to control them. It ignores the way militaries use infrastructure to pacify intransigent populations and incorporate conquered peoples and places into global systems of rule.

3 May 2017

Lone-Actor vs Remote-Controlled Jihadi Terrorism: Rethinking the Threat to the West

By Sam Mullins

At approximately 2:40 in the afternoon of March 22nd, British-born Khalid Masood — a violent criminal who had previously been investigated by MI5 for links to extremists — deliberately drove into pedestrians making their way across Westminster Bridge. He killed a mother on her way to collect her children from school, a pensioner, and two tourists. After crashing the rented vehicle into the gates of Parliament, Masood ran into New Palace Yard and stabbed an unarmed policeman to death before being shot and killed by plainclothes officers. In contrast to other recent attacks in Western nations, which have frequently (sometimes incorrectly) been labeled acts of “lone-actor” terrorism, Masood’s assault was followed by a volley of articles with titles such as “Remote-Control Terror,” “Don’t Bet on London Attacker Being a Lone Wolf,” and “The Myth of the ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist.” Analysts were keen to point out that “lone-actors” are very rarely truly alone and that instead they tend to emerge from within broader, extremist milieus. Moreover, what sometimes seems like lone-actor terrorism at first glance turns out to be connected to, if not directed by, foreign terrorist organizations. Yet the official word on Masood is that, regardless of his associations, he acted “wholly alone.” To accurately understand the nature of terrorism today, patient, measured analysis and consistent use of terminology are necessary. It is therefore important to re-examine the concept of lone-actor terrorism and to try and appreciate where it fits within the overall spectrum of jihadist terrorist activity in the West.

2 May 2017

The Roads to Power: The Infrastructure of Counterinsurgency

By Laleh Khalili 

In Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a Judean leader tries to stoke a rebellion against the Romans. He tells a small crowd, “They’ve bled us white, the bastards,” and asks his comrades, “What have the Romans done for us?”

The other men reply by cataloging Rome’s great building projects, transportation networks, and bureaucratic systems. The agitator, played by John Cleese, responds: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

I have always found the scene resonant yet deeply inadequate. The idea that an imperial power constructs the groundwork for civilization must have been familiar to the members of Monty Python—all of whom were educated at British institutions that once trained men to rule the colonies. In its celebration of empire, the scene says nothing about how these collateral benefits were first and foremost designed to extract resources and move the soldiers and materiel needed to control them. It ignores the way militaries use infrastructure to pacify intransigent populations and incorporate conquered peoples and places into global systems of rule.