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The Unspectacular, Unsophisticated Algerian Hostage Crisis – Stratfor

The  Unspectacular, Unsophisticated Algerian Hostage Crisis is republished with  permission of Stratfor.”

Read more:  The Unspectacular, Unsophisticated Algerian Hostage Crisis | Stratfor

By Scott Stewart Vice  President of Analysis, Stratfor

The recent jihadist attack on the Tigantourine natural gas facility near In  Amenas, Algeria, and the subsequent hostage situation there have prompted some  knee-jerk discussions among media punditry. From these discussions came the  belief that the incident was spectacular, sophisticated and above all  unprecedented. A closer examination shows quite the opposite.

Indeed, very little of the incident was without precedent. Mokhtar  Belmokhtar, who orchestrated the attack, has employed similar tactics and a  similar scale of force before, and frequently he has deployed forces far from  his group’s core territory in northern Mali. Large-scale raids, often meant to  take hostages, have been conducted across far expanses of the Sahel. What was  unprecedented was the target. Energy and extraction sites have been attacked in  the past, but never before was an Algerian natural gas facility selected for  such an assault.

A closer look at the operation also reveals Belmokhtar’s true intentions. The  objective of the attack was not to kill hostages but to kidnap foreign workers  for ransom — an objective in keeping with many of Belmokhtar’s previous forays.  But in the end, his operation was a failure. His group killed several hostages  but did not destroy the facility or successfully transport hostages away from  the site. He lost several men and weapons, and just as important, he appears to  have also lost the millions of dollars he could have gained through ransoming  his captives.

Offering Perspective

Until recently, Belmokhtar  and his group, the Mulathameen Brigade, or the “Masked Ones,” which donned  the name “Those Who Sign in Blood” for the Tigantourine operation, were  associated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Prior to their association with  al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, they were a part of Algeria’s Salafist Group  for Preaching and Combat, which operated in the Sahel. As part of these groups,  Belmokhtar led many kidnapping raids and other operations throughout the region,  and these past examples offer perspective for examining the Tigantourine  operation and for attempting to forecast the groups’ future activities.

In April 2003, Belmokhtar was one of the leaders of the Salafist Group for  Preaching and Combat operation that took 32 European tourists hostage in the  Hoggar Mountains near Illizi, Algeria, which is roughly 257 kilometers (160  miles) southwest of the Tigantourine facility. Seventeen hostages were freed  after an Algerian military raid, and the rest were released in August 2003 —  save for one woman, who died of sunstroke.

 

Prior to 2006, when the  Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat essentially became al Qaeda in the  Islamic Maghreb, kidnappings and attempted kidnappings occurred roughly once  a year. But after 2006, the operational tempo of kidnappings  in the Sahel quickened, with about three to five operations conducted per  year. According to U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary for Terrorism and  Financial Intelligence David Cohen, al Qaeda earned approximately $120 million  in ransoms from 2004 to 2012. Cohen added that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb  had become the most proficient kidnapping unit of all al Qaeda’s franchise  groups.

Examples of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s proficiency abound. In  September 2010, the group took seven hostages from a uranium mine in Arlit,  Niger, and kidnapped four European tourists in Mali in January 2009. More  recently, it kidnapped three aid workers in Tindouf, Algeria, in October  2011.

Typically the group prefers to kidnap more than one person. Having multiple  hostages allows the captors to kill one or more of them to ratchet up pressure  for the ransom of the others. Guarding multiple hostages requires more  resources, but Belmokhtar has plenty of human resources, and the additional  ransom makes guarding them worth the extra effort.

Holding multiple hostages also enables the kidnappers to make political  statements — often connected to outrageous demands. In the Tigantourine attack,  much attention was paid to the militants’ demands to the U.S. government to  release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, also known as “The  Blind Sheikh,” and Aafia  Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist convicted of terrorism  charges. But again, such demands are not unprecedented. Edwin Dyer, one of the  four European tourists kidnapped in January 2009, was beheaded in June 2009  after the British government refused al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s demand to  release imprisoned jihadist cleric Abu Qatada. The group again demanded the  release of Abu Qatada in April 2012 in exchange for British-South African  citizen Stephen Malcolm, who was kidnapped in Timbuktu, Mali, in November 2011.  Certainly the militants had no realistic expectation that the British would meet  their demands; the demands and Dyer’s subsequent execution were meant as  political statements, not realistic objectives.

Botched Missions

Tactically, how the Tigantourine attack transpired remains unclear. What we  do know is that the amount of militants used in the attack is not unprecedented.  While serving as a unit leader for the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat  in 2005, Belmokhtar led a group of 150 militants in a raid on a military outpost  in Lemgheiti, Mauritania, that left 15 Mauritanian soldiers dead and another 17  wounded.

According to a Jan. 21 statement made by Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek  Sellal on Jan. 21, it appears that Belmokhtar’s Tigantourine operation was  a two-pronged attack. One team appears to have been tasked with intercepting a  bus taking Western employees from the facility to the airport. Militants  reportedly used vehicles marked as oil company security or as belonging to the  Algerian government. Sellal noted that the objective of the operation was to  take a group of the hostages out of the country, presumably transporting them to  northern Mali’s Kidal region, where in recent years al Qaeda in the Islamic  Maghreb has held its foreign hostages.

Notably, the Tigantourine facility is located only about 32 kilometers from  the Libyan border. The attackers probably took advantage of the chaos in Libya  to gather weapons and prepare for the attack and then came across the border  from Libya to conduct the attack. They could have covered very quickly the  distance from the Libyan border to the facility, and this likely provided them  an element of tactical surprise.

The second prong of the attack was directed against the facility itself.  Heavily armed attackers surprised the security forces at the facility and  subdued them by concentrating their forces and using overwhelming firepower.  Algerian forces recovered from the assailants a recoilless rifle,  rocket-propelled grenade launchers and several medium and light machine guns. We  are currently unsure if this group was tasked with taking additional hostages at  the facility and fleeing with them, staging a  drawn-out hostage drama, as in Beslan, or sabotaging the facility and  fleeing. Such an operation may have meant to divert attention from the group of  militants that was transporting hostages out of the country. Having a group of  hostages in custody outside Algeria could have helped them extract the second  team from the facility.

In any case, the first unit apparently failed to achieve its objective, and  it does not appear that the militants were able to take hostages from the bus  and quickly transport them out of the country. (Currently, not all of the  hostages are accounted for, but they are most likely among the unidentified  dead. It will take time for forensics teams to identify them.) Moreover, on the  second day helicopter gunships thwarted the escape efforts of some militants,  who had used foreign hostages as human shields.

Some reports indicate that the attackers set explosive charges around the  plant and attempted to destroy it Jan. 19, an action that apparently triggered  the final assault to neutralize the militants at the facility. We have not seen  photos of any demolition charges or any other indication that the attackers  employed any sort of sophisticated improvised explosive devices in the  operation. If the attackers went to the trouble to bring large quantities of  explosives with them on the raid, they likely did so intending to use the  explosives to damage the plant or to facilitate a drawn-out hostage drama — or  both. The militants wouldn’t need large quantities of explosives to seize  hostages, and they would not have spent the money to buy them or the effort to  transport them unless they are critical to their mission.

But tactically, both missions — stopping a vehicle to kidnap foreigners and  storming a facility — are within the demonstrated capabilities of Sahel-based  jihadist militants. In addition to numerous vehicular ambushes al Qaeda in the  Islamic Maghreb has conducted to steal cargo or grab hostages, it has also  raided hotels, homes and clinics to seize hostages. Perhaps the attack most  similar to Tigantourine was the September 2010 raid on the Areva uranium mining  facility near Arlit, Niger. The facility was more than 320 kilometers from the  Malian border and more than 160 kilometers from the border with Algeria. The  militants demonstrated their ability to operate hundreds of kilometers from  their bases in northern Mali, successfully storm a facility and return to  northern Mali with Western hostages. These militant groups have also staged  large-scale raids on military bases across the Sahel.

Several indicators suggest the Tigantourine operation was intended to seize  hostages, not kill hostages. According to a June 2007 classified cable released  by Wikileaks, the U.S. Embassy in Algiers said that Belmokhtar had criticized al  Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s suicide operations that mean to kill civilians.  Moreover, the attackers did not immediately begin to shoot foreigners as they  did during the November 2008 Mumbai  attack and the June  2004 attack against foreign energy workers in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. They  failed to hold these hostages for any period of time, and by all accounts they  failed to take Western hostages back to northern Mali. This amounts to a  significant loss for Belmokhtar.

Avoiding Complacency at Energy Sites

Despite a long history of militant activity in Algeria, energy facilities had  largely escaped unscathed — until last week. When al Qaeda in the Islamic  Maghreb began to conduct  large vehicle bombings in Algiers and roadside bombing attacks against buses  carrying foreign energy workers in or near the capital, energy companies  countered the threat by flying workers directly into airports near energy  facilities like the one in In Amenas.

This lack of attacks led to some complacency on the part of Algerian  officials and security forces at Tigantourine. But in the wake of the recent  attack, security at such facilities will be increased, and any sense of  complacency will disappear — at least for a while. And because militants prefer  to hit softer targets, we are unlikely to see follow-on attacks at similar  facilities in the region in the immediate future. It may also take Belmokhtar  some time to replace the leaders and materiel unexpectedly lost in the  attack.

However, with targets in the region becoming scarcer and harder to attack,  these groups will likely continue to extend their range of operations for new  kidnapping victims. Doing so would not only replace the resources they lost in  the attack but would also circumvent the French and African military offensive  in Mali, where their traditional smuggling activities will be disrupted.

Another lingering concern is the presence of large  quantities of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles in the region. If  Belmokhtar or other militants decide to attack Westerners working at energy  facilities in the region instead of merely kidnapping them, and if increased  security prevents them from other direct assaults, like Tigantourine, these  militants could attack aircraft used to ferry Westerners to airports near these  remote sites.

As Mali becomes a more difficult environment in which to operate, these  groups likely will retreat, at least initially, to Mali’s  Kidal region and possibly Niger’s Air region. Once those areas face the  French-backed African intervention forces, a retreat farther back into southern  Libya is likely, due to the vacuum of authority there and the close links they  have with Libyan militants.

Contrary to what has been widely discussed, the Tigantourine attack fit well  within the range and capability of Sahel-based jihadist militants like those of  Belmokhtar’s group. Thus the attack was more of a reminder of the region’s  chronic problems and less a startling new threat. Militancy and banditry were  fixtures in the Sahel well before the jihadist ideology entered the region. This  history — combined with the vacuum of authority in the region brought on by the  Malian coup and the overthrow  of Gadhafi, the prospect of millions of dollars in ransom and the large  quantities of available weapons — means we will see more kidnappings and other  attacks in the years to come.

Editor’s Note: A comprehensive assessment on al Qaeda in  the Islamic Maghreb can be found here.

Read more:  The Unspectacular, Unsophisticated Algerian Hostage Crisis | Stratfor

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Avoiding the Wars That Never End

Republished from Stratfor.

Avoiding the  Wars That Never End is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Read more:  Avoiding the Wars That Never End | Stratfor

By George Friedman Founder  and Chief Executive Officer, Stratfor.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States would  transfer the primary responsibility for combat operations in Afghanistan to the  Afghan military in the coming months, a major step toward the withdrawal of U.S.  forces. Also last week, France began an  intervention in Mali designed to block jihadists from taking control of the  country and creating a base of operations in France’s former African  colonies.

The two events are linked in a way that transcends the issue of Islamist  insurgency and points to a larger geopolitical shift. The United States is not  just drawing down its combat commitments; it is moving  away from the view that it has the primary responsibility for trying to  manage the world on behalf of itself, the Europeans and its other allies.  Instead, that burden is shifting to those who have immediate interests  involved.

Insecurity in 9/11’s Wake

It is interesting to recall how the United States involved itself in  Afghanistan. After 9/11, the United States was in shock and lacked clear  intelligence on al Qaeda. It did not know what additional capabilities al Qaeda  had or what the group’s intentions were. Lacking intelligence, a political  leader has the obligation to act on worst-case scenarios after the enemy has  demonstrated hostile intentions and capabilities. The possible scenarios ranged  from additional sleeper cells operating and awaiting orders in the United States  to al Qaeda having obtained nuclear weapons to destroy cities. When you don’t  know, it is both prudent and psychologically inevitable to plan for the  worst.

The United States had sufficient information to act in Afghanistan. It knew  that al Qaeda was operating in Afghanistan and that disrupting the main cell was  a useful step in taking some action against the threat. However, the United  States did not immediately invade Afghanistan. It bombed the country extensively  and inserted limited forces on the ground, but the primary burden of fighting  the Taliban government was in the hands of anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan  that had been resisting the Taliban and in the hands of other forces that could  be induced to act against the Taliban. The Taliban gave up the cities and  prepared for a long war. Al Qaeda’s command cell left Afghanistan and shifted to  Pakistan.

The United States achieved its primary goal early on. That goal was not to  deny al Qaeda the ability to operate in Afghanistan, an objective that would  achieve nothing. Rather, the goal was to engage al Qaeda and disrupt its  command-and-control structure as a way to degrade the group’s ability to plan  and execute additional attacks. The move  to Pakistan at the very least bought time, and given continued pressure on  the main cell, allowed the United States to gather more intelligence about al  Qaeda assets around the world.

This second mission — to identify al Qaeda assets around the world —  required a second effort. The primary means of identifying them was through  their electronic communications, and the United States proceeded to create a  vast technological mechanism designed to detect communications and use that  detection to identify and capture or kill al Qaeda operatives. The problem with  this technique — really the only one available — was that it was impossible to  monitor al Qaeda’s communications without monitoring everyone’s. If there was a  needle in the haystack, the entire haystack had to be examined. This was a  radical shift in the government’s relationship to the private communications of  citizens. The justification was that at a time of war, in which the threat to  the United States was uncertain and possibly massive, these measures were  necessary.

This action was not unique in American history. Abraham Lincoln violated the  Constitution in several ways during the Civil War, from suspending the right to  habeas corpus to blocking the Maryland Legislature from voting on a secession  measure. Franklin Roosevelt allowed the FBI to open citizens’ mail and put  Japanese-Americans into internment camps. The idea that civil liberties must be  protected in time of war is not historically how the United States, or most  countries, operate. In that sense there was nothing unique in the decision to  monitor communications in order to find al Qaeda and stop attacks. How else  could the needle be found in the haystack? Likewise, detention without trial was  not unique. Lincoln and Roosevelt both resorted to it.

The Civil War and World War II were different from the current conflict,  however, because their conclusions were clear and decisive. The wars would end,  one way or another, and so would the suspension of rights. Unlike those wars,  the war in Afghanistan was extended indefinitely by the shift in strategy from  disrupting al Qaeda’s command cell to fighting  the Taliban to building a democratic society in Afghanistan. With the second  step, the U.S. military mission changed its focus and increased its presence  massively, and with the third, the terminal date of the war became very far  away.

But there was a broader issue. The war in Afghanistan was not the main war.  Afghanistan happened to be the place where al Qaeda was headquartered on Sept.  11, 2001. The country was not essential to al Qaeda, and creating a democratic  society there — if it were even possible — would not necessarily weaken al  Qaeda. Even destroying al Qaeda would not prevent new  Islamist organizations or individuals from rising up.

A New Kind of War

The main war was not against one specific terrorist group, but rather against  an idea: the radical tendency in Islamism. Most Muslims are not radicals, but  any religion with 1 billion adherents will have its share of extremists. The  tendency is there, and it is deeply rooted. If the goal of the war were the  destruction of this radical tendency, then it was not going to happen. While the  risk of attacks could be reduced — and indeed there were no further 9/11s  despite repeated attempts in the United States — there was no way to eliminate  the threat. No matter how many divisions were deployed, no matter how many  systems for electronic detection were created, they could only mitigate the  threat, not eliminate it. Therefore, what some  called the Long War really became permanent war.

The means by which the war was pursued could not result in victory. They  could, however, completely unbalance U.S. strategy by committing massive  resources to missions not clearly connected with preventing Islamist terrorism.  It also created a situation where emergency intrusions on critical portions of  the Bill of Rights — such as the need to obtain a warrant for certain actions  — became a permanent feature. Permanent war makes for permanent temporary  measures.

The break point came, in my opinion, in about 2004. Around that time, al  Qaeda was unable to mount attacks on the United States despite multiple efforts.  The war in Afghanistan had dislodged al Qaeda and created the Karzai government.  The invasion of Iraq — whatever the rationale might have been — clearly  produced a level of resistance that the United States could not contain or could  contain only by making agreements with its enemies in Iraq. At that point, a  radical rethinking of the war had to take place. It did not.

The radical rethinking had to do not with Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather  with what to do about a permanent threat to the United States, and indeed to  many other countries, posed by the global networks of radical Islamists prepared  to carry out terrorist attacks. The threat would not go away, and it could not  be eliminated. At the same time, it did  not threaten the existence of the republic. The 9/11 attacks were atrocious,  but they did not threaten the survival of the United States in spite of the  human cost. Combating the threat required a degree of proportionality so the  fight could be maintained on an ongoing basis, without becoming the only goal of  U.S. foreign policy or domestic life. Mitigation was the only possibility; the  threat would have to be endured.

Washington found a way to achieve this balance in the past, albeit against  very different sorts of threats. The United States emerged as a great power in  the early 20th century. During that time, it fought three wars: World War I,  World War II and the Cold War, which included Korea, Vietnam and other, smaller  engagements. In World War I and World War II, the United States waited for  events to unfold, and in Europe in particular it waited until the European  powers reached a point where they could not deal with the threat of German  hegemony without American intervention. In both instances, it intervened heavily  only late in the war, at the point where the Germans had been exhausted by other  European powers. It should be remembered that the main American push in World  War II did not take place until the summer of 1944. The American strategy was to  wait and see whether the Europeans could stabilize the situation themselves,  using distance to mobilize as late as possible and intervene decisively only at  the critical moment.

The critics of this approach, particularly prior to World War II, called it  isolationism. But the United States was not isolationist; it was involved in  Asia throughout this period. Rather, it saw itself as being the actor of last  resort, capable of acting at the decisive moment with overwhelming force because  geography had given the United States the option of time and resources.

During the Cold War, the United States modified this strategy. It still  depended on allies, but it now saw itself as the first responder. Partly this  could be seen in U.S. nuclear strategy. This could also be seen in Korea and  Vietnam, where allies played subsidiary roles, but the primary effort was  American. The Cold War was fought on a different set of principles than the two  world wars.

The Cold War strategy was applied to the war against radical Islamism, in  which the United States — because of 9/11 but also because of a mindset that  could be seen in other interventions — was the first responder. Other allies  followed the United States’ lead and provided support to the degree to which  they felt comfortable. The allies could withdraw without fundamentally  undermining the war effort. The United States could not.

The approach in the U.S.-jihadist war was a complete reversal from the  approach taken in the two world wars. This was understandable given that it was  triggered by an unexpected and catastrophic event, the reponse to which flowed  from a lack of intelligence. When Japan struck Pearl Harbor, emotions were  at least as intense, but U.S. strategy in the Pacific was measured and cautious.  And the enemy’s capabilities were much better understood.

Stepping Back as Global Policeman

The United States cannot fight a war against radical Islamism and win, and it  certainly cannot be the sole actor in a war waged primarily in the Eastern  Hemisphere. This is why the French  intervention in Mali is particularly interesting. France retains interests  in its former colonial empire in Africa, and Mali is at the geographic center of  these interests. To the north of Mali is Algeria, where France has significant  energy investments; to the east of Mali is Niger, where France has a significant  stake in the mining of mineral resources, particularly uranium; and to the south  of Mali is Ivory Coast, where France plays a major role in cocoa production. The  future of Mali matters to France far more than it matters to the United  States.

What is most interesting is the absence of the United States in the fight,  even if it is providing intelligence and other support, such as mobilizing  ground forces from other African countries. The United States is not acting as  if this is its fight; it is acting as if this is the fight of an ally, whom it  might help in extremis, but not in a time when U.S. assistance is  unnecessary. And if the French can’t mount an effective operation in Mali,  then little help can be given.

This changing approach is also evident in Syria, where the United States has  systematically avoided anything beyond limited  and covert assistance, and Libya, where the United States intervened after  the French and British launched an attack they could not sustain. That was, I  believe, a turning point, given the unsatisfactory outcome there. Rather than  accepting a broad commitment against radical Islamism everywhere, the United  States is allowing the burden to shift to powers that have direct interests in  these areas.

Reversing a strategy is difficult. It is uncomfortable for any power to  acknowledge that it has overreached, which the United States did both in Iraq  and Afghanistan. It is even more difficult to acknowledge that the goals set by  President George W. Bush in Iraq and Obama in Afghanistan lacked coherence. But  clearly the war has run its course, and what is difficult is also obvious. We  are not going to eliminate the threat of radical Islamism. The commitment of  force to an unattainable goal twists national strategy out of shape and changes  the fabric of domestic life. Obviously, overwatch must be in place against the  emergence of an organization like al Qaeda, with global reach, sophisticated  operatives and operational discipline. But this is very different from  responding to jihadists in Mali, where the United States has limited interests  and fewer resources.

Accepting an ongoing  threat is also difficult. Mitigating the threat of an enemy rather than  defeating the enemy outright goes against an impulse. But it is not  something alien to American strategy. The United States is involved in the  world, and it can’t follow the founders’ dictum of staying out of European  struggles. But the United States has the option of following U.S. strategy in  the two world wars. The United States was patient, accepted risks and  shifted the burden to others, and when it acted, it acted out of necessity, with  clearly defined goals matched by capabilities. Waiting until there is no  choice but to go to war is not isolationism. Allowing others to carry the  primary risk is not disengagement. Waging wars that are finite is not  irresponsible.

The greatest danger of war is what it can do to one’s own society, changing  the obligations of citizens and reshaping their rights. The United States has  always done this during wars, but those wars would always end. Fighting a war  that cannot end reshapes domestic life permanently. A strategy that compels  engagement everywhere will exhaust a country. No empire can survive the  imperative of permanent, unwinnable warfare. It is fascinating to watch the  French deal with Mali. It is even more fascinating to watch the United States  wishing them well and mostly staying out of it. It has taken about 10 years, but  here we can see the American system stabilize itself by mitigating the threats  that can’t be eliminated and refusing to be drawn into fights it can let others  handle.

Read more:  Avoiding the Wars That Never End | Stratfor

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Intelligence and Human Networks – Stratfor

Another article re-produced from Stratfor.

Intelligence  and Human Networks is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Read more:  Intelligence and Human Networks | Stratfor

By Tristan Reed of Stratfor

Stratfor views the world through the lens of geopolitics,  the study of hard, physical constraints on man’s ability to shape reality.  Political decisions are limited by the geography in which they take place,  eliminating many of the options concocted by ideologues and making their human  decisions easier to predict. But the study of geopolitics only takes the  understanding of global affairs so far: It identifies the geographical  constraints but leaves an array of options open to human actors. So when  forecasting on a shorter time frame, analysis must go beyond geographical  constraints to more specific, temporal constraints. For this reason, predicting  the short-term activities of human actors requires an understanding of the  constraints they face in the human terrain within which they operate.

As a result, one task common to any intelligence organization is defining the  human network of a state, criminal organization, militant movement or any other  organization to better determine and understand a group’s characteristics and  abilities. A human network in this sense is a broad term used to describe the  intricate web of relations existing in an organization and within a specific  region. For anyone or any organization with interests in a given geographic  area, understanding the networks of individuals with influence in the region is  critical.

Intelligence and Analysis

People use human networks to organize the control of resources and geography.  No person alone can control anything of significance. Presidents, drug lords and  CEOs rely on people to execute their strategies and are constrained by the  capabilities and interests of the people who work for them. Identifying these  networks may be a daunting task depending on the network. For obvious reasons,  criminal organizations and militant networks strive to keep their membership  secret, and it is not always apparent who gives the orders and who carries out  the orders in a political body. To discern who’s who in a group, and therefore  whether an individual matters in a group, requires both intelligence and  analysis to make sense of the intelligence.

How intelligence is acquired depends on the resources and methods available  to an intelligence organization, while the analysis that follows differs  depending on the intent. For example, International Security Assistance Force  military operations aimed at disrupting militant networks in Afghanistan would  require the collection of informants and signals intelligence followed by  analysis to pinpoint the exact location of individuals within a network to  enable targeted operations. Simply knowing who belongs to a militant network and  their location is not enough; the value lies in the significance and  capabilities of an individual in the group. Detaining an individual who lays  improvised explosive devices on a road may result in short-term disruptions to  the target’s area of operations, but identifying and detaining a bombmaker with  exclusive experience and training will have a far greater impact.

The true value of analysis lies in understanding the significance of a  particular individual in a network. Mapping out a human network begins with the  simple question of who belongs to a particular network. Next, identify and  define relationships with other known individuals and organizations. For some,  this process takes the form of link analysis, which is a visual representation  of a network where each individual is represented in a diagram. Links between  the individuals who interact with one another are then depicted. These links  show an individual’s significance in a group and establish whether he is a lowly  scout within a transnational criminal organization who may only interact with  his paymaster. The paymaster, by contrast, could be linked to dozens of other  group members. Examining how many links within a group an individual has,  however, is just scratching the surface of understanding the network.

Every individual within a given human network has reasons to be tied to  others within the network. Understanding what unites the individuals in an  organization provides further depth of understanding. Whether it be ideology,  mutual interests, familial ties or paid services, why a relationship exists will  help determine the strength of such bonds, the motives of the network and the  limitations to what a network can accomplish. For example, when assessing the  strength of the Syrian regime, it is imperative to identify and examine the inner circle of President Bashar  al Assad. Analyzing these members can indicate which factions of the  Syrian population and which political and familial groupings support or reject  the al Assad regime. That key posts within the government are now occupied  primarily by Alawites indicates a combination of regime distrust of the Sunnis  and dwindling levels of support from even high-ranking Sunnis. Similarly,  examining the once-strong ties of inner circle members who have defected  indicates which factions no longer support the regime and points toward other  groups that might also have doubts about remaining loyal.

Rarely is there a completely isolated human network. Human relations  typically span multiple regions or even continents. Politicians can have their  own business interests, drug traffickers may have counterparts in another  country and militant groups may have the sympathy of other groups or even  members in a state’s government. There are no limits on how separate networks  may interact with one another. Understanding a group’s ties to other groups  further defines the original group’s influence. For example, a political leader  at odds with the powerful military of his state may find significant constraints  in governing (due to the limitations within the human network on figures linking  the military assets to political leaders). A drug trafficker with a law  enforcement officer on his payroll will likely find less resistance from  authorities when conducting illicit business (due to the capabilities that a  police officer would provide to the network).

The reasons for, and methods of, defining a human network will vary depending  on the intelligence organization. A nation with vast resources like the United  States has an exceptionally large focus on human networks around the world and a  full array of intelligence disciplines to gather the necessary information. At  Stratfor, our reasons to map the intricate web of human relations within an  organization differ as we look to understand the constraints that human networks  place on actors.

Challenges of Tracking Human Networks

The individuals in an organization are constantly changing. This means the  job of mapping the driving forces in an organization never ends, since relations  shift, roles change and individuals often are taken out of the picture  altogether. As a result, intelligence collectors must continually task their  intelligence assets for new information, and analysts must continually update  their organizational charts.

Logically, the more fluid the membership of an organization, the more  difficult it is for an intelligence organization — or rival organization — to  follow it. As an example, take Los Zetas, who dominate the Mexican border town  of Nuevo Laredo. The group always will have individuals in the city in charge of  running daily criminal operations, such as coordinating gunmen, drug shipments,  money laundering and retail drug sales. Within a Mexican transnational criminal  organization, the person filling this role is typically called a “plaza boss.”  Several alleged Zetas plaza bosses of Nuevo Laredo were killed or captured  during 2012 in Mexican military operations. With each kill or capture, an  organization must replace the former plaza boss. This frequent succession of  plaza bosses obviously reshapes the human network operating in Nuevo Laredo.

It is no simple matter for a collector to ask his informants about, or to  eavesdrop through surveillance, for information about the personnel changes. It  takes time for a new plaza boss to assume his new responsibilities. A new office  manager must get to know his employees and operations before making critical  decisions. Additionally, an intelligence collector’s assets may not be able to  provide updates right away. In the case of an informant, does the informant have  the same access to the new plaza boss as the former? Roles are more constant  within an organization and can be split up among individuals. Thus, a person who  had handled both gunmen and drug shipments may be replaced by two people to  break up the responsibilities. Therefore, collectors and analysts must seek to  understand the roles of the new plaza boss and whether he has the same influence  as the prior one.

What We Do

Understanding that the players within organizations change frequently, but  that the roles and constraints of an organization transform far more slowly, is  key to how Stratfor approaches human networks. For the leader of a nation, the  geopolitical imperatives of the nation serve as impersonal forces directing the  decisions of a rational individual. For a criminal or insurgent leader, there is  only so much that can be done while attempting to avoid notice by law  enforcement and the military, and the organization’s imperatives will likely  remain in place. In determining the constraints and imperatives, we can better  identify the significance and courses of actions of an organization without  necessarily knowing the details about the individuals serving specific  roles.

Particularly with more clandestine human networks, we continually examine the  external effects of known personnel changes. For example, how has the death of a  Taliban leader in Pakistan affected the operations of the Tehrik-i-Taliban  Pakistan as a whole, such as in the case of the Jan. 3 death  of Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir in South Waziristan? Nazir commanded a  relatively benign faction of the Pakistani Taliban that kept more aggressive,  anti-government factions out of South Waziristan. His removal, and the nature of  his removal, could invite militants waging an active fight against the Pakistani  government to return to South Waziristan. Ultimately, Nazir was a distinct  figure in the Pakistani militant network due to his alliance with Islamabad.  While his removal won’t change the fact that militants will thrive on the  Pakistani-Afghan border (which geography dictates), it does marginally tilt the  balance away from Islamabad and toward the militants.

With the example of Los  Zetas in Nuevo Laredo, we know Nuevo Laredo is a critical location for the  transnational criminal organization. As a border town with one of the  highest volumes of cross-border commercial shipping to the United States, the  city serves as one of the principal sources of revenue for Zetas drug  traffickers. For this reason, Los Zetas will certainly continue to replace  figures who are removed by military and law enforcement.

Using this known behavior and the imperatives, we can learn about Los Zetas  elsewhere in Mexico: By observing the group at a broader geographic level, we  can deduce the significance of a capture or death in a specific locale. If the  losses of personnel in Nuevo Laredo have had a significant impact on the  organization, operations would likely suffer in other geographic areas as the  group accommodates its losses in Nuevo Laredo.

In forecasting the political, economic or security climate of a geographic  region, understanding human networks must be incorporated into any analysis.  Areas such as Mexico and Syria have geographic elements that define conflicts.  Mexico’s location between the cocaine producers of the northern Andes and  cocaine consumers in the United States ensures that groups will profit off the cocaine flow from south  to north. The Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre Oriental divide  trafficking corridors between the east and west coasts of Mexico. But geography  alone can’t be used to predict how groups will organize and compete with each  other within those trafficking corridors. Predicting the spread and scope of  violence depends on knowledge of the human network and of who controls the  resources and terrain. Similarly, the geographic significance of the Levant to  Iran and Iraq determines the importance of Syria as an access point to the  Mediterranean, but that alone doesn’t determine the future of al Assad’s regime.  Understanding who his most trusted confidants are, what their relationships are  based on and watching their moves enables us to filter the constant news of  death and destruction coming out of Syria and to focus on the individuals who  directly support al Assad and determine his immediate fate.

Inasmuch as humans can overcome geography, they can do so through  organizations that control terrain and resources. Understanding the nature of  those organizations and how they control those assets requires knowledge of the  human network.

Read more:  Intelligence and Human Networks | Stratfor

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The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power – Stratfor

This article from George Friedman of Stratfor is a follow up to his recent one on Europe’s current problems, especially unemployment.

The  Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power is republished with permission  of Stratfor.”

Read more:  The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power | Stratfor

By George Friedman Founder  and Chief Executive Officer, Stratfor,

Last week I wrote about the crisis of unemployment in Europe. I  received a great deal of feedback, with Europeans agreeing that this is the core  problem and Americans arguing that the United States has the same problem,  asserting that U.S. unemployment is twice as high as the government’s  official unemployment rate. My counterargument is that unemployment in the  United States is not a problem in the same sense that it is in  Europe because it does not pose a geopolitical threat. The United States  does not face political disintegration from unemployment, whatever the number  is. Europe might.

At the same time, I would agree that the United  States faces a potentially significant but longer-term geopolitical problem  deriving from economic trends. The threat to the United States is the persistent  decline in the middle class’ standard of living, a problem that is reshaping the  social order that has been in place since World War II and that, if it  continues, poses a threat to American power.

The Crisis of the American Middle Class

The median household income of Americans in 2011 was $49,103. Adjusted for  inflation, the median income is just below what it was in 1989 and is $4,000  less than it was in 2000. Take-home income is a bit less than $40,000 when  Social Security and state and federal taxes are included. That means a monthly  income, per household, of about $3,300. It is urgent to bear in mind that half  of all American households earn less than this. It is also vital to consider not  the difference between 1990 and 2011, but the difference between the 1950s and  1960s and the 21st century. This is where the difference in the meaning of  middle class becomes most apparent.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the median income allowed you to live with a single  earner — normally the husband, with the wife typically working as  homemaker — and roughly three children. It permitted the purchase of modest  tract housing, one late model car and an older one. It allowed a driving  vacation somewhere and, with care, some savings as well. I know this because my  family was lower-middle class, and this is how we lived, and I know many others  in my generation who had the same background. It was not an easy life and many  luxuries were denied us, but it wasn’t a bad life at all.

Someone earning the median income today might just pull this off,  but it wouldn’t be easy. Assuming that he did not have college loans to pay off  but did have two car loans to pay totaling $700 a month, and that he could buy  food, clothing and cover his utilities for $1,200 a month, he would have $1,400  a month for mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance, plus some funds for  fixing the air conditioner and dishwasher. At a 5 percent mortgage rate, that  would allow him to buy a house in the $200,000 range. He would get a refund back  on his taxes from deductions but that would go to pay credit card bills he had  from Christmas presents and emergencies. It could be done, but not  easily and with great difficulty in major metropolitan areas. And if his  employer didn’t cover health insurance, that $4,000-5,000 for three or four  people would severely limit his expenses. And of course, he would have to have  $20,000-40,000 for a down payment and closing costs on his home. There would be  little else left over for a week at the seashore with the kids.

And this is for the median. Those below him — half of all households —  would be shut out of what is considered middle-class life, with the house, the  car and the other associated amenities. Those amenities shift upward on the  scale for people with at least $70,000 in income. The basics might be available  at the median level, given favorable individual circumstance, but below that  life becomes surprisingly meager, even in the range of the middle class and  certainly what used to be called the lower-middle class.

The Expectation of Upward Mobility

I should pause and mention that this was one of the fundamental causes of the 2007-2008 subprime lending  crisis. People below the median took out loans with deferred interest with  the expectation that their incomes would continue the rise that was traditional  since World War II. The caricature of the borrower as irresponsible misses the  point. The expectation of rising real incomes was built into the American  culture, and many assumed based on that that the rise would resume in five  years. When it didn’t they were trapped, but given history, they were not making  an irresponsible assumption.

American  history was always filled with the assumption that upward mobility was  possible. The Midwest and West opened land that could be exploited, and the  massive industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries opened  opportunities. There was a systemic expectation of upward mobility built into  American culture and reality.

The Great Depression was a shock to the system, and it wasn’t solved by the  New Deal, nor even by World War II alone. The next drive for upward mobility  came from post-war programs for veterans, of whom there were more than 10  million. These programs were instrumental in creating post-industrial America,  by creating a class of suburban professionals. There were three programs that  were critical:

  1. The GI Bill, which allowed veterans to go to college after the war, becoming  professionals frequently several notches above their parents.
  2. The part of the GI Bill that provided federally guaranteed mortgages to  veterans, allowing low and no down payment mortgages and low interest rates to  graduates of publicly funded universities.
  3. The federally funded Interstate Highway System, which made access to land  close to but outside of cities easier, enabling both the dispersal of  populations on inexpensive land (which made single-family houses possible) and,  later, the dispersal of business to the suburbs.

There were undoubtedly many other things that contributed to this, but these  three not only reshaped America but also created a new dimension to the upward  mobility that was built into American life from the beginning. Moreover, these  programs were all directed toward veterans, to whom it was acknowledged a debt  was due, or were created for military reasons (the Interstate Highway System was  funded to enable the rapid movement of troops from coast to coast, which during  World War II was found to be impossible). As a result, there was consensus  around the moral propriety of the programs.

The subprime fiasco was rooted in the failure to understand that the  foundations of middle class life were not under temporary pressure but something  more fundamental. Where a single earner could support a middle class family in  the generation after World War II, it now took at least two earners.  That meant that the rise of the double-income family corresponded with the  decline of the middle class. The lower you go on the income scale, the more  likely you are to be a single mother. That shift away from social pressure for  two parent homes was certainly part of the problem.

Re-engineering the Corporation

But there was, I think, the crisis of the modern corporation. Corporations  provided long-term employment to the middle class. It was not unusual to spend  your entire life working for one. Working for a corporation, you received yearly  pay increases, either as a union or non-union worker. The middle class had both  job security and rising income, along with retirement and other benefits. Over  the course of time, the culture of the corporation diverged from the realities,  as corporate productivity lagged behind costs and the corporations became more  and more dysfunctional and ultimately unsupportable. In addition, the  corporations ceased focusing on doing one thing well and instead became  conglomerates, with a management frequently unable to keep up with the  complexity of multiple lines of business.

For these and many other reasons, the corporation became increasingly  inefficient, and in the terms of the 1980s, they had to be re-engineered —  which meant taken apart, pared down, refined and refocused. And the  re-engineering of the corporation, designed to make them agile, meant that there  was a permanent revolution in business. Everything was being reinvented. Huge  amounts of money, managed by people whose specialty was re-engineering  companies, were deployed. The choice was between total failure and radical  change. From the point of view of the individual worker, this frequently meant  the same thing: unemployment. From the view of the economy, it meant the  creation of value whether through breaking up companies, closing some of them or  sending jobs overseas. It was designed to increase the total efficiency, and it  worked for the most part.

This is where the disjuncture occurred. From the point of view of the  investor, they had saved the corporation from total meltdown by redesigning it.  From the point of view of the workers, some retained the jobs that they would  have lost, while others lost the jobs they would have lost anyway. But the  important thing is not the subjective bitterness of those who lost their jobs,  but something more complex.

As the permanent corporate jobs declined, more people were starting over.  Some of them were starting over every few years as the agile corporation grew  more efficient and needed fewer employees. That meant that if they got new jobs  it would not be at the munificent corporate pay rate but at near entry-level  rates in the small companies that were now the growth engine. As these companies  failed, were bought or shifted direction, they would lose their jobs and start  over again. Wages didn’t rise for them and for long periods they might be  unemployed, never to get a job again in their now obsolete fields, and certainly  not working at a company for the next 20 years.

The restructuring of inefficient companies did create substantial value, but  that value did not flow to the now laid-off workers. Some might flow to the  remaining workers, but much of it went to the engineers who restructured the  companies and the investors they represented. Statistics reveal that, since 1947  (when the data was first compiled), corporate profits as a percentage of gross  domestic product are now at their highest level, while wages as a percentage of  GDP are now at their lowest level. It was not a question of making the economy  more efficient — it did do that — it was a question of where the value  accumulated. The upper segment of the wage curve and the investors continued to  make money. The middle class divided into a segment that entered the  upper-middle class, while another faction sank into the lower-middle class.

American society on the whole was never egalitarian. It always accepted that  there would be substantial differences in wages and wealth. Indeed, progress was  in some ways driven by a desire to emulate the wealthy. There was also the  expectation that while others received far more, the entire wealth structure  would rise in tandem. It was also understood that, because of skill or luck,  others would lose.

What we are facing now is a structural shift, in which the middle class’  center, not because of laziness or stupidity, is shifting downward in terms of  standard of living. It is a structural shift that is rooted in social change  (the breakdown of the conventional family) and economic change (the decline of  traditional corporations and the creation of corporate agility that places  individual workers at a massive disadvantage).

The inherent crisis rests in an increasingly efficient economy and a  population that can’t consume what is produced because it can’t afford the  products. This has happened numerous times in history, but the United States,  excepting the Great Depression, was the counterexample.

Obviously, this is a massive political debate, save that political debates  identify problems without clarifying them. In political debates, someone must be  blamed. In reality, these processes are beyond even the government’s ability to  control. On one hand, the traditional corporation was beneficial to the workers  until it collapsed under the burden of its costs. On the other hand, the  efficiencies created threaten to undermine consumption by weakening the  effective demand among half of society.

The Long-Term Threat

The greatest danger is one that will not be faced for decades but that is  lurking out there. The United States was built on the assumption that a rising  tide lifts all ships. That has not been the case for the past generation, and  there is no indication that this socio-economic reality will change any time  soon. That means that a core assumption is at risk. The problem is that social  stability has been built around this assumption — not on the assumption that  everyone is owed a living, but the assumption that on the whole, all benefit  from growing productivity and efficiency.

If we move to a system where half of the country is either stagnant or  losing ground while the other half is surging, the social fabric of the United  States is at risk, and with it the massive global power the United States has  accumulated. Other superpowers such as Britain or Rome did not have  the idea of a perpetually improving condition of the middle class as a core  value. The United States does. If it loses that, it loses one of the pillars of  its geopolitical power.

The left would argue that the solution is for laws to transfer wealth from  the rich to the middle class. That would increase consumption but, depending on  the scope, would threaten the amount of capital available to investment by the  transfer itself and by eliminating incentives to invest. You can’t invest what  you don’t have, and you won’t accept the risk of investment if the payoff is  transferred away from you.

The agility of the American corporation is critical. The right will argue  that allowing the free  market to function will fix the problem. The free market doesn’t  guarantee social outcomes, merely economic ones. In other words, it may give  more efficiency on the whole and grow the economy as a whole, but by itself it  doesn’t guarantee how wealth is distributed. The left cannot be indifferent to  the historical consequences of extreme redistribution of wealth. The right  cannot be indifferent to the political consequences of a middle-class life  undermined, nor can it be indifferent to half the population’s inability to buy  the products and services that businesses sell.

The most significant actions made by governments tend to be unintentional.  The GI Bill was designed to limit unemployment among returning serviceman; it  inadvertently created a professional class of college graduates. The VA loan was  designed to stimulate the construction industry; it created the basis for  suburban home ownership. The Interstate Highway System was meant to move troops  rapidly in the event of war; it created a new pattern of land use that was  suburbia.

It is unclear how the private sector can deal with the problem of pressure on  the middle class. Government programs frequently fail to fulfill even minimal  intentions while squandering scarce resources. The United States has been a  fortunate country, with solutions frequently emerging in unexpected ways.

It would seem to me that unless the United States gets lucky again, its  global dominance is in jeopardy. Considering its history, the United States can  expect to get lucky again, but it usually gets lucky when it is frightened. And  at this point it isn’t frightened but angry, believing that if only its own  solutions were employed, this problem and all others would go away. I am arguing  that the conventional solutions offered by all sides do not yet grasp the  magnitude of the problem — that the foundation of American society is at risk  — and therefore all sides are content to repeat what has been said before.

People who are smarter and luckier than I am will have to craft the solution.  I am simply pointing out the potential consequences of the problem and the  inadequacy of all the ideas I have seen so far.

Read more:  The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power | Stratfor

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Europe in 2013: A Year of Decision – Stratfor

 

By George Friedman Founder  and Chief Executive Officer Stratfor

The end of the year always prompts questions about what the most important  issue of the next year may be. It’s a simplistic question, since every year sees  many things happen and for each of us a different one might be important. But it  is still worth considering what single issue could cause the world to change  course. In my view, the most important place to watch in 2013 is Europe.

Taken as a single geographic entity, Europe has the largest economy in the  world. Should it choose to do so, it could become a military  rival to the United States. Europe is one of the pillars of the global  system, and what happens to Europe is going to define how the world works. I  would argue that in 2013 we will begin to get clarity on the future of  Europe.

The question is whether the European Union will stabilize itself, stop  its fragmentation and begin preparing for more integration and expansion.  Alternatively, the tensions could intensify within the European Union, the  institutions could further lose legitimacy and its component  states could increase the pace with which they pursue their own policies,  both domestic and foreign.

The Embattled European Project

It has been more than four years since the crisis of 2008 and about two years  since the problems spawned by 2008 generated a sovereign debt crisis and a  banking crisis in Europe. Since that time, the crisis has turned from a  financial to an economic crisis, with Europe moving into recession and  unemployment across the Continent rising above 10 percent. More important, it  has been a period in which the decision-making apparatus created at the founding  of the European Union has been unable to create policy solutions that were both  widely acceptable and able to be implemented. EU countries have faced each other  less as members of a single political entity than as individual  nation-states pursuing their own national interests in what has become  something of a zero-sum game, where the success of one has to come at the  expense of another.

This can be seen in two ways. The first dimension has centered on which  countries should bear the financial burden of stabilizing the eurozone. The  financially healthier countries wanted the weaker countries to bear the burden  through austerity. The weaker countries wanted the stronger countries to bear  the burden through continued lending despite the rising risk that the loans  will not be fully repaid. The result has been constant attempts to  compromise that have never quite worked out. The second dimension has been  class. Should the burden be borne by the middle and lower classes by reducing  government expenditures that benefit them? Or by the elites through increased  taxation and regulation?

When you speak with Europeans who support the idea that Europe is in the  process of solving its problems, the question becomes: What problem are they  solving? Is it the problem of the banks? The problem of unemployment? Or the  problem of countries’ inability to find common solutions? More to the point,  European officials have been working on this problem for years now, and they are  among the best and brightest in the world. Their inability to craft a solution  is not rooted in a lack of good ideas or the need to think about the problem  more. It is rooted in the fact that there is no political agreement on who will  pay the price geographically and socially. The national tensions and the class  tensions have prevented the crafting of a solution that can be both agreed upon  and honored.

If the Europeans do not generate that sort of solution in 2013, it is time to  seriously doubt whether a solution is possible and therefore to think about the  future of Europe without the European Union or with a very weakened one. If,  however, Europe does emerge with a plan that has general support and momentum  behind it, then we might say that Europe is beginning to emerge from its crisis,  and that, in turn, would be the single most important thing that happens in  2013.

At this point, a reasonable person will argue that I am ignoring the United  States, which has different but equally significant economic problems and is  also unable to generate consensus on how to solve them, as we have seen during  the recent “fiscal cliff” affair, which will have many more iterations. But as  valid as the comparison is on the financial level, it is not valid on the  political level. The  United States does not face the dissolution of the republic if it follows  contradictory policies. The United States is more than two centuries old and has  weathered far worse problems, including the Civil War and the Great Depression.  The European Union is only about 20 years old in its current form, and this is  its first significant crisis. The consequences of mismanaging the U.S. financial  system are significant to say the least. But unlike Europe, the consequences are  not an immediate existential threat.

The Other Costs of the Crisis

It is the political dimension that has become the most important, not the  financial. It may well be that the European Union is in the process of dealing  with its banking problems and might avoid other sovereign debt issues, but the  price it has paid is both a recession and, much more serious, unemployment at a  higher rate than in the United States overall, and enormously higher in some  countries.

We can divide the European Union into three categories by measuring it  against the U.S. unemployment rate, which stands at about 7.7 percent. There are  five EU countries significantly below that rate (Austria, Luxembourg,  Germany, Netherlands and Malta). There are seven countries with unemployment  around the U.S. rate (Romania, Czech Republic, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the  United Kingdom and Sweden). The remaining 15 countries  are above U.S. unemployment levels; 11 have unemployment rates between  10 and 17 percent, including France at 10.7 percent, Italy at 11.1 percent,  Ireland at 14.7 percent and Portugal at 16.3 percent. Two others are  staggeringly higher — Greece at 25.4 percent and Spain at 26.2 percent. These  levels are close to the unemployment rate in the United States at the height of  the Great Depression.

For advanced industrialized countries — some of the most  powerful in Europe, for that matter — these are stunning numbers. It is  important to consider what these numbers mean socially. Bear in mind that the  unemployment rate goes up for younger workers. In Italy, Portugal, Spain  and Greece, more than a third of the workforce under 25 is reportedly  unemployed. It will take a generation to bring the rate down to an  acceptable level in Spain and Greece. Even for countries that remain at about 10  percent for an extended period of time, the length of time will be substantial,  and Europe is still in a recession.

Consider someone unemployed in his 20s, perhaps with a university degree. The  numbers mean that there is an excellent chance that he will never have the  opportunity to pursue his chosen career and quite possibly will never get a job  at the social level he anticipated. In Spain and Greece, the young — and the  old as well — are facing personal catastrophe. In the others, the percentage  facing personal catastrophe is lower, but still very real. Also remember  that unemployment does not affect just one person. It affects the immediate  family, parents and possibly other relatives. The effect is not only financial  but also psychological. It creates a pall, a sense of failure and dread.

It also creates unrooted young people full of energy and anger. Unemployment  is a root of anti-state movements on the left and the right. The extended and  hopelessly unemployed have little to lose and think they have something to gain  by destabilizing the state. It is hard to quantify what level of unemployment  breeds that sort of unrest, but there is no doubt that Spain and Greece are in  that zone and that others might be.

It is interesting that while Greece has already developed a radical right  movement of some size, Spain’s political system, while experiencing stress  between the center and its autonomous regions, remains  relatively stable. I would argue that that stability is based on a belief  that there will be some solution to the unemployment situation. Its full  enormity has not yet sunk in, nor the fact that this kind of unemployment  problem is not fixed quickly. It is deeply structural. The U.S.  unemployment rate during the Great Depression was mitigated to a limited degree  by the New Deal but required the restructuring of World War II to really  address.

This is why 2013 is a critical year for Europe. It has gone far to solve the  banking crisis and put off a sovereign debt crisis. In order to do so, it has  caused a serious weakening of the economy and created massive unemployment in  some countries. The unequal distribution of the cost, both nationally and  socially, is the threat facing the European Union. It isn’t merely a question of  nations pulling in different directions, but of political movements emerging,  particularly from the most economically affected sectors of society, that will  be both nationalist and distrustful of its own elites. What else can happen in  those countries that are undergoing social catastrophes? Even if the  disaster is mitigated to some degree by the shadow economy and  emigration reducing unemployment, the numbers range from the painful to the  miserable in 14 of Europe’s economies.

Europe’s Crossroads

The European Union has been so focused on the financial crisis that it is not  clear to me that the unemployment reality has reached Europe’s officials and  bureaucrats, partly because of a growing split in the worldview of the European  elites and those whose experience of Europe has turned bitter. Partly, it has  been caused by the fact of geography. The countries with low unemployment tend  to be in Northern Europe, which is the heart of the European Union, while those  with catastrophically high unemployment are on the periphery. It is easy to  ignore things far away.

But 2013 is the year in which the definition of the European problem must  move beyond the financial crisis to the social consequences of that crisis.  Progress, if not a solution, must become visible. It is difficult to see how  continued stagnation and unemployment at these levels can last another year  without starting to generate significant political opposition that will create  governments, or force existing governments, to tear at the fabric of Europe.

That fabric is not old enough, worn enough or tough enough to face the  challenges. People are not being asked to die on a battlefield for the European  Union but to live lives of misery and disappointment. In many ways that is  harder than being brave. And since the core promise of the European Union was  prosperity, the failure to deliver that prosperity — and the delivery of  poverty instead, unevenly distributed — is not sustainable. If Europe is in  crisis, the world’s largest economy is in crisis, political as well as  financial. And that matters to the world perhaps more than anything else.

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The Benghazi Report and the Diplomatic Security Funding Cycle – Stratfor

The  Benghazi Report and the Diplomatic Security Funding Cycle is republished  with permission of Stratfor.”

By Scott Stewart Vice President of Analysis

On Dec. 18, the U.S. State Department’s Accountability Review Board released  an unclassified version of its investigation into the  Sept. 12 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador to  Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack,  so the report was widely anticipated by the public and by government officials  alike.

Four senior State Department officials have been reassigned to other duties  since the report’s release. Among them were the assistant secretary of state for  diplomatic security; two of his deputy assistant secretaries, including the  director of the Diplomatic Security Service, the department’s most senior  special agent; and the deputy assistant secretary responsible for Libya in the  State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

The highly critical report and the subsequent personnel reassignments are not  simply a low watermark for the State Department; rather, the events following  the attack signify another  phase in the diplomatic security funding cycle. The new phase will bring  about a financial windfall for the State Department security budgets, but  increased funding alone will not prevent future attacks from occurring. After  all, plenty of attacks have occurred following similar State Department  budgetary allocations in the past. Other important factors therefore must be  addressed.

Predictable Inquiries

The cycle by which  diplomatic security is funded begins as officials gradually cut spending on  diplomatic security programs. Then, when major security failures inevitably  beset those programs, resultant public outrage compels officials to create a  panel to investigate those failures.

The first of these panels dates back to the mid-1980s, following attacks  against U.S. facilities in Beirut and Kuwait and the systematic bugging of the  U.S. Embassy in Moscow. These security lapses led to the formation of the  Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security, chaired by former  Deputy CIA Director Adm. Bobby Inman. The law that passed in the wake of the  Inman Commission came to be known as the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and  Antiterrorism Act of 1986, which requires that an accountability review board be  convened following major security incidents.

There are a few subsequent examples of these panels. Former Chairman of the  U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. William Crowe chaired an Accountability Review  Board following the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998. And after  the Benghazi attacks, an Accountability Review Board was chaired by former U.S.  Ambassador Thomas Pickering. The Dec. 18 report was the findings of the  Pickering board.

Predictably, the review boards, including Pickering’s, always conclude that  inadequate funding and insufficient security personnel are partly to blame for  the security breaches. In response to the reports, Congress appropriates more  money to diplomatic security programs to remedy the problem. Over time, funds  are cut, and the cycle begins anew.

Funding can be cut for several reasons. In times of financial austerity,  Congress can more easily cut the relatively small foreign affairs budget than it  can entitlement benefits budgets. Cuts to the overall State Department budget  generally result in cuts for security programs.

Moreover, rivalries among the various State Department entities can affect  spending cuts. The Diplomatic Security Service’s budget falls under the main  State Department budget, so senior diplomats, rather than Diplomatic Security  Service agents, represent the agency’s interests on Capitol Hill. Some within  the security service do not believe that senior diplomats have their best  interests at heart when making the case for their budgets — at least until a  tragedy occurs and Congressional hearings are held to air these problems. For  their part, others in the department resent the Diplomatic Security Service for  the large budgetary allocations it receives after a security failure.

More than a Matter of Funding

With Congress and the presumed next Secretary of State John Kerry now calling  for increased spending on diplomatic security, the financial floodgates are  about to reopen. But merely throwing money at the problems uncovered by the  accountability review boards will not be enough to solve those problems. Were  that the case, the billions of dollars allocated to diplomatic security in the  wake of the Inman and Crowe commission reports would have sufficed.

Of course, money can be useful, but injecting large sums of it into the  system can create problems if the money provided is too much for the bureaucracy  to efficiently metabolize. Government managers tend to spend all the money  allocated to them — sometimes at the expense of efficiency — under a “use it  or lose it” mentality. Since there is no real incentive for them to perform  under budget, managers in a variety of U.S. government departments spend massive  amounts of money at the end of each fiscal year. The same is true of diplomatic  security programs when they are flush with cash. But the inevitable reports of  financial waste and mismanagement lead to calls for spending cuts in these  programs.

If the U.S. government is ever going to break the cycle of funding cuts and  security disasters, the Diplomatic Security Service will need to demonstrate  wisdom and prudence in how it spends the funds allocated to them. It will also  be necessary for Congress to provide funding in a consistent manner and with an  initial appropriation that is not too big to be spent efficiently.

Beyond money management and a consistent level of funding, the State  Department will also need to take a hard look at how it currently conducts  diplomacy and how it can reduce the demands placed on the Diplomatic Security  Service. This will require asking many difficult questions: Is it necessary to  maintain large embassies to conduct diplomacy in the information age? Does the  United States need to maintain thousands of employees in high-threat  places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan at the expense of smaller  missions, or can the critical work be done by hundreds or even dozens? Is a  permanent U.S. presence even required in a place like Benghazi, or can the  missions in such locations be accomplished by a combination of visiting  diplomats, covert operatives and local employees?

At the very least, the State Department will need to review its policy of  designating a facility as a “special mission” — Benghazi was designated as such  — to exempt it from meeting established physical security standards. If the  questions above are answered affirmatively, and if it is deemed necessary to  keep a permanent presence in a place like Benghazi, then security standards need  to be followed, especially when a facility is in place for several months.  Temporary facilities with substandard security cannot be allowed to persist for  months and years.

Host Countries

As they consider these issues, officials need to bear in mind that the real  key to the security of diplomatic facilities is the protection provided by the  host country’s security forces as dictated by the Vienna Convention. If the host  country will not or cannot protect foreign diplomats, then the physical security  measures mandated by security standards can do little more than provide slight  delay — which is what they are designed to do. No physical security measures  can stand up to a prolonged assault. If a militant group armed with heavy  weaponry is permitted to attack a diplomatic facility for hours with no host  government response — as was the case in Benghazi — the attack will cause  considerable damage and likely cause fatalities despite the security measures in  place.

The same is true of a large mob, which given enough time can damage and  breach U.S. embassies that meet current department security standards. The U.S.  Embassy in Tripoli, a state-of-the-art facility completed in 2009, was heavily  damaged by a mob of pro-Gadhafi supporters in May 2011 and rendered  unserviceable.

In another example, a  large crowd caused extensive damage to the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and the  adjacent American School just three days after the Benghazi attack. In that  incident, Tunisian authorities responded and did not provide the attacking mob  the opportunity to conduct a prolonged assault on the embassy. Though the mob  caused millions of dollars worth of damage to the compound, it was unable to  breach the main embassy office building. Without host country security support,  there is little that can be done to assure the safety of U.S. diplomats, no  matter what happens to security budgets.

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In Pakistan, Mixed Results from a Peshawar Attack from Stratfor

In  Pakistan, Mixed Results From a Peshawar Attack is republished with  permission of Stratfor.”

By Ben West

The Pakistani  Taliban continue to undermine Pakistan’s government and military  establishment, and in doing so, they continue to raise questions over the  security of the country’s nuclear arsenal. On Dec. 15, 10 militants armed with  suicide vests and grenades attacked Peshawar Air Force Base, the site of a third  major operation by the Pakistani Taliban since May 2011. Tactically, the attack  was relatively unsuccessful — all the militants were killed, and the perimeter  of the air base was not breached — but the Pakistani Taliban nonetheless  achieved their objective.

The attack began the night of Dec. 15 with a volley of three to five mortar  shells. As the shells were fired, militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised  explosive device near the perimeter wall of the air base. Reports indicate that  all five militants inside the vehicle were killed. The other five militants  engaged security forces in a nearby residential area and eventually were driven  back before they could enter the air base. The next day, security forces acting  on a report of suspicious activity confronted the militants, who all died in the  resultant shootout.

Pakistani security forces came away from the incident looking very good. They  prevented a large and seemingly coordinated team of militants from entering the  confines of the base and thus from damaging civilian and military aircraft. Some  of Pakistan’s newly  acquired Chinese-Pakistani made JF-17s, are stationed at the air base, and  worth roughly $20 million each, they were probably the militants ultimate  targets.

Another reason the militants may have chosen the base is its location.  Peshawar Air Force Base is the closest base to the northwest tribal areas of  Pakistan, where Pakistani and U.S. forces are clashing with Taliban militants  who threaten Islamabad and Kabul. The air base is most likely a hub for  Pakistan’s air operations against those militants. The Dec. 15 attack killed one  police officer and a few other civilians, but it did no damage to the air base,  the adjacent civilian airport or their respective aircraft. Flights were  postponed for only a couple of hours as security forces cleared the area.

Tactics and Previous Attacks

Major military bases in Pakistan have been attacked before. In May 2011,  Pakistani Taliban militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and firearms  destroyed two  P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft and killed 10 soldiers during an  attack on Mehran  Naval Air Base in Karachi. The militants entered the base by cutting through  the fence.

More recently, seven Pakistani Taliban militants scaled the walls of Minhas  Air Force Base in Kamra before killing a soldier and damaging a  Ukrainian transport aircraft. They were pushed back before they could damage the  squadron of F-16 fighter aircraft stationed at the base.

The Dec. 15 attack was not nearly as destructive as these other attacks,  probably because half the militants were killed immediately in the explosion at  the perimeter. Their deaths suggest the device detonated earlier than expected  or that they were not far enough from the device when it exploded. It is unclear  why they died, but the device could have detonated prematurely for several  reasons. There could have been a glitch in the construction or detonation  of the device. Otherwise, it could have been the result of the security  forces’ countermeasures (something officials have not yet claimed). Had the  militants survived the explosion and breached the perimeter, they might have  been more successful against security.

The Dec. 15 attack also differs from the previous two attacks tactically.  Whereas militants stealthily entered the bases in Kamra and Karachi, the  militants who attacked the base in Peshawar used mortars and explosives because  the wall — roughly eight feet high and topped with barbed wire — could not be  cut or climbed easily. These tactics are much more aggressive than the two  previous air base attacks, and therefore they immediately caught the attention  of security forces. Indeed, security forces in the vicinity would have heard  mortar shells and explosions. But just as important, mortar shells and  explosions create flames that security forces can use to pinpoint the attack and  respond quickly.

It is hard to say whether the combination and coordination of mortar fire,  explosives and a direct ground assault with firearms would have resulted in a  successful attack even if half the militants had not died in the initial  explosion. They certainly would have been greatly outnumbered. The few mortar  shells fired at the base may have suppressed forces momentarily, but the  militants did not sustain their indirect cover fire, which eventually allowed  security forces more mobility in responding. In any case, breaching the wall  with an explosion sacrifices the element of surprise too early — outside the  base rather than inside — reducing the amount of time the assailants have to  find their targets before security could respond.

A final reason the attack failed may have been the fact that the threat was  known about weeks earlier. In late November, authorities apprehended a would-be  suicide bomber and his handler entering Peshawar on a motorcycle. The suspect  later confessed that they were targeting the airport. Peshawar airport was  already on high alert after the attack on the Kamra base in August. The November  arrests heightened security, which lessened the militants’ chance of surprise.  Moreover, the arrests were made publicly available in open-source materials, so  the militants should have known that security forces were on high alert.

As for the security forces, the protective  intelligence available was obvious, and the attack came when they were  most prepared to repel it. Yet they benefited greatly when the explosion did  half their work for them. It appears that they just got lucky.

Strategic Value

The Dec. 15 attack appears to have been carried out by militants who intended  to replicate the damage caused by their comrades’ attacks in Karachi and Kamra.  Tactically, they failed.

But that does not mean the operation wasn’t valuable. Like previous attacks  on Pakistani military installations, the Peshawar attack grabs headlines because  of its high profile. Put simply, the sensitivity of the target demands media  attention.

As in the Karachi and Kamra attacks, the Dec. 15 attack involves the security  of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. There are no indications that there are nuclear  weapons stored at the Peshawar base, and there is no evidence that the nuclear  weapons that may have been stored at the Karachi and Kamra bases were  compromised. But the attack nonetheless raises questions about the security of  Pakistan’s military installations and by extension their nuclear  arsenal. For the United States and India, such attacks compel lawmakers to  revisit debates over whether the United States should intervene to protect the  weapons.

These headlines and discussions benefit the Pakistani Taliban because they  call into question Islamabad’s ability to rule. Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban  will continue to try to destabilize the military, one of the strongest pillars  of the state, and provoke  fear of external involvement from the United States.

In fact, the Pakistani Taliban would benefit from U.S. involvement, which  would create huge public backlash and chaotic conditions in which the militants  could thrive. The Pakistani Taliban do not necessarily need to destroy aircraft  or kill military personnel to raise these doubts in Pakistan and the wider  world. From the perspective of the insurgents, all the coordination and  firepower they brought to the attack was a strategic success if this attack  nurtures that doubt, even if it wasn’t as tactically successful as previous  attacks.

Read more:  In Pakistan, Mixed Results From a Peshawar Attack | Stratfor

 

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