Category: Terrorism

Terrorism in Latin America (Part One): The Infiltration of Islamic Extremists

“The threat from Islamic extremists in Latin America remains an overlooked aspect of U.S. national security strategy. And the threat is worsening – not “waning” as the Obama administration claimed about Iran in 2013. The Trump administration should shift U.S. priorities in Latin America to strategies that preemptively disrupt the financial networks of Islamists, aid allied governments with legal and law enforcement support, and increase intelligence-gathering capabilities in the region.

The Process Began Decades Ago. Islamic extremists have used Latin America as a base of political and financial support since the immediate years preceding the formation of Israel in May 1948:

  • A handful of Arab officials and Arab-Palestinian sympathizers began fundraising efforts and circulated anti-Israeli literature throughout parts of Latin America not long after the first Arab-Israeli war (1948- 1949).
  • As networks developed and diplomacy turned to violent activism, more militant groups moved in; for instance, in the 1960s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) used established networks to build their own base of support among guerrilla factions, local anti-Semitic organizations and Arab civic groups in Argentina.
  • Furthermore, the PLO and others also collaborated with rebels in Nicaragua in the 1970s and with the Cuban government in the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict.

Aided by these local networks, Iran began settling its agents in Latin America in the early 1980s and operatives from Hezbollah ‒‒ a militant Islamist group based in Lebanon and proxy force of Iran ‒‒ soon followed.

Latin America Is Important for Relationships and Money. Today, international Islamists, especially Iran and Hezbollah, employ much more sophisticated fundraising and recruitment operations that reach far and wide. Former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States Roger Noriega told Congress in March 2012 that Iran now has 80 Hezbollah Islamist operatives in at least 12 Latin American nations –‒ including Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile. In fact, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the assets of Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami in February 2017 for his collaboration with drug organizations and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.

Separately, author and senior Pentagon consultant Edward Luttwak describes the lawless triborder region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, 800 miles north of Buenos Aires, as the most important base for Hezbollah outside of its headquarters in Lebanon. The $6 billion-a-year illicit economy in this Hezbollah stronghold has allowed a variety of terrorist organizations to earn an estimated $10 million to $20 million a year from arms trafficking, counterfeiting and drug distribution, among other illegal activities…”

See more here.

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America Should Be Ready, Venezuela Might Become the Next Syria

This originally appeared in Townhall. “Said former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Nazi buildup in Europe: “When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure.” The unwillingness to act when such action would have been simple and effective constitutes the “endless repetition of history,” he concluded.

Today, observers would rightly associate this statement with Syria. But Churchill did not make this proclamation so future generations would seek out examples that affirmed his logic. He made the statement so future generations would break that dreadful repetition. This is not just a quote of self reflection – it’s a call to action.

Syria is thoroughly out of hand and late remedies are now being applied. The cycle of historical inaction will not be broken in Syria. Pundits, politicians and military officials would be wise to stop reliving what could have been done there, and start looking at what can be done elsewhere. Therefore, the American government must determine the likelihood of Venezuela becoming another Syria – this time in the western hemisphere. The United States and its Latin American allies must then collectively decide whether to do anything about it.

In their quest for more and more power, Chavez and then Maduro made reliable access to basic necessities a virtual impossibility. Maduro then had the Supreme Court dissolve the Congress after the Venezuelan people stocked the legislature with opposition members through democratic elections. Although international outcry forced him to partially rescind that order, Maduro continues to issue tyrannical edicts that will have the same effect at a slower pace. Now the Maduro regime has armed loyalists to seek out and kill dissenters. Over twenty people have died in riots over the last few weeks.

This administration would rather starve its people than relinquish power. Maduro would rather dismantle government and assassinate opponents than keep the country viable. History tells us that such despotism and subsequent international inaction can lead to Assad-like levels of oppression.

Making matters worse, this regime has allowed international criminal networks and terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah, to thrive within the country’s borders. This permissive environment has thoroughly compromised the upper echelons of the Venezuelan government and allowed illicit behavior to permeate the economy and society.

Most important, the same actors in Russia and Iran that prevent Assad’s demise are the same players underwriting Venezuelan tyranny. Remember that Vice President Tareck El Aissami is Hezbollah’s go-to guy in the administration. Experts should not be fooled into thinking that geographic distance will dissuade Russia or Iran from intervening on Maduro’s behalf. Neither country will so easily cede such a strategic and lucrative relationship – one that each country has spent years cultivating.

President Trump must be prepared for the possibility of a Syria in the western hemisphere. The administration has already taken steps to sanction high-level Venezuelan officials for their work with cartels and known terrorist organizations. But they must also be prepared for preemptive action:

  • Anticipate and be prepared for the possibility that Russia, Iran and/or Hezbollah will help Maduro crush dissent, covertly or otherwise. Do not be caught off guard when they block U.N. resolutions, cripple Maduro’s adversaries through cyber attacks, or, in an extreme situation, deploy military assets.
  • Consider how and where to erect safe zones because a failing state may create a refugee crisis in a region already plagued by economic and social instability.
  • Work with Latin American allies to demand a democratic resolution. Don’t wait for collapse to be spurred into action.

This is not a call for military intervention. It is merely a reminder that the arc of history bends toward inaction – something we often come to regret.”

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Do World Leaders Actually Know How to Respond to Terrorism?

This first appeared in Townhall: “A vehicle attack in London. Another in Sweden. A subway bombing in Russia and attacks against Christians in Egypt. The attacks by jihadists just continue.

It seems like world leaders are completely out of ideas.

Here in America, Republican policymakers and terror experts told the public that we just needed a president willing to identify the threat. The Obama administration was the only obstacle to ultimate victory.

Now that the threat has been named (radical Islam), officials have been forced to fall back on their preferred method for action: engineer a solution that contains the exact ingredients necessary to please opposing opinions and inspire their political base – an answer that will lead to decisive action everywhere and avoid unintended consequences anywhere. An impossible standard that can never be met.

The war against radical Islam might well become Obamacare for national security. Americans will continue to suffer, while elected officials dither.

War hawks try to explain away the absence of a plan by claiming that delicate geniuses are test-tubing the most complete, well-rounded approach to defeating jihadists. Leaders bicker over who can render the broadest definition of terrorism – one that offends no one and saves everyone. When that’s settled, “allies” in the Middle East will act offended at what the government believes to be the most inoffensive title possible.

Meanwhile, this hubris then manifests itself in the defense sector, where experts and industry claim they can build weaponry that will literally sniff out a jihadist among civilians and explode the bad guy dead, all the while dispersing candy to the innocent within the blast zone. They just need $50 billion and a 20 year contract.

The modern liberal, especially the European variety, is even more useless in this regard. These secular overlords have the audacity to determine that a jihadist cannot be a Muslim or identify as one, but a 10-year-old boy can become a girl. Their only solution is to facilitate behavior that reflects their preconceived notions. Save Bill Maher, the progressive seems incapable of even admitting the threat might even be related to Islam, bastardized interpretation or otherwise. Instead, they draw moral equivalencies among all belief systems, only to lead us down another path of worthless strategy. No one can expect adequate protection from those that would cling to a conviction in the face of devastating evidence to the contrary.

Those willing to fight this war, regardless of party affiliation, should consider several things.

First, we must know our values and apply them without compromise. Strategy can change. Principles do not. Nikki Haley has put this practice to good use at the United Nations where the United States rightly refuses to continue to play along with the hypocrisy of those bashing Israel. The same unbalanced minds that attack the Jewish state for “human rights abuses,” are some of the same that fund, support or otherwise endorse Islamic terror. Standing firm here will have positive effects downstream.

Second, especially for Republican establishment types, appreciate the nuances but don’t fall into analysis paralysis. The two attacks against Christians in Egypt, for instance, are rooted in the Islamic State’s hyper-Sunni identity and its mission to spark wars along religious lines. They know that this puts western officials in a pinch because either the west responds and faces the inevitable accusations of being the crusades revisited. Or it responds tacitly, which allows terrorism to grow.

Do not concern yourself with trying to disprove an untrue statement. Do not respond to the frame that others create. Instead, just say you are the martyr-maker they’ve asked for, and be on your way.

Lastly, stop fighting the last war. Yes, it’s similar to communism but it cannot be addressed in the same way. The enemy requires quick, decisive action, applied relentlessly on multiple fronts. It requires investment in the less sexy areas of psychological warfare, financial interdiction, and intelligence gathering and requires a vision of what success looks like.

At least for now, President Trump cannot be held responsible for bringing in experts who claimed to have solutions or listening to elected officials who crowed for the past eight years. In fact, unsaddled by the typical worries of political careerists, President Trump has already made major changes to the national security team, clearly unfazed that some will call these early adjustments a sign of a troubled presidency.

Let’s just hope this war doesn’t become the “you can keep your doctor” moment for Republicans. The consequences are far more deadly.”

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Syrians Quietly Investigated During the Great Immigration Panic of 2017

This originally appeared in Townhall.com: “President Trump’s executive order to halt immigration from several Middle East countries comes at the same time Americans are learning of Syrians who may have slipped through the cracks.

The Los Angeles Times reports the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are reinvestigating several dozen Syrian refugees who have already resettled in the United States after derogatory information surfaced that may have disqualified them from entering the country. This development should come as no surprise since the government never had the capacity to handle such a task. President Obama admitted 15,479 Syrian refugees last year alone, an increase of over 600 percent from 2015. And the U.S. government has accepted more than 18,000 Syrians seeking asylum since the civil war began in their home country.

Those on the front lines should be commended for having to execute such a momentous and ultimately impossible order at the behest of an administration oddly intent on forcing through an inordinate amount of people from an area teeming with militant Islamists. The composition of the refugee population raises additional questions since nearly 99 percent of those admitted in 2016 were Muslim, out of a country where Christians make up approximately 10 percent of the population. All of this as jihadists repeatedly proclaimed their intent to embed fighters in refugee populations.

It’s hard to tune out conspiracy theorists while watching this unfold. But let’s give the former administration the benefit of the doubt. At best, this strategy told the American public that their safety came in second to that of the refugees, and that the Obama administration had determined, internally, some acceptable level of risk.

In essence, the administration and its supporters cannot deny the potential danger so they instead favored charity in light of the threat. They determined that welcoming of thousands in need of a better life outweighed the potential for American deaths. But how did they quantify that? Was there a minimal threshold of casualties? France had favorable risk probabilities. But now, 1,071 people have died or were injured between 2015 and 2016, partly due to its immigration policies.

The last gasp of justification I heard before the transition between administrations came from a misguided soul who pointed out that the Statue of Liberty says to “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” I gently reminded her that Lady Liberty and the words inscribed on the bronze plaque adorning her base have no constitutional authority. I then recalled for her the irony that the statue was a gift from France ?? the very country that faces a crisis in security as a result of its immigration policies.

Enter President Trump. He has temporarily suspended new immigration from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. But the Heritage Foundation published an interactive list of 93 terrorist plots and attacks in the United States since 9-11 back in September 2015 and a majority of those suspects were Pakistani. Several were even Uzbeks and Afghans. That trend has continued. If the objective was to stop the massive Syria influx, then do that. If the objective was immigration threats in general, the president should have modified the list to reflect the threat. Instead, we have mass panic from those who were silent about the same issue for eight years (no surprise) and a negligible improvement to American security.

Nevertheless, the two reactions explain two different realities – the United States was expected to endure the threat from militant Islam under former President Obama. The United States is expected to prevail under President Trump. That’s at least a good start.”

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Why Are We Ignoring Jihadists in Latin America

This originally appeared in Townhall: “Famed Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz said Obama will go down in history as the worst foreign policy president of all time, after the U.S. chose to abstain in the U.N. Security Council vote on the resolution condemning the construction of Israeli settlements. Cataloging the president’s foreign policy blunders and their consequences will keep scholars busy for some time. But his inability to craft a meaningful strategy for combating Islamic terrorism in Latin America with U.S. partners may be the most significant for U.S. national security. The American public will face the deadly consequences of Obama’s failure there unless Trump changes course.

The presence of Islamic terrorists in Latin America can be traced back decades to the Iranian-sponsored bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) headquarters in 1994 – together the attacks killed and injured over 650 people. The international community was reminded of those heinous events when, on January 18, 2015, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found murdered the day before he was to present evidence to the Argentine Congress that showed then-president Cristina Kirchner and other Argentine officials had conspired with the Iranian government to cover-up Iran’s involvement in the AMIA attack. Joseph Humire, an expert on Iran’s influence in Latin America, called it the “most important political assassination in Latin America of the 21st century.”

Eight hundred miles to the north, Hezbollah and Hamas maintain a robust presence in the virtually lawless tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. This largely ungoverned locale is considered a breeding ground for terrorism and is known as a busy transit point for the sale and smuggling of contraband, which generates billions of dollars annually for groups like Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Author and senior Pentagon consultant Edward Luttwak describes the area as the most important base for Hezbollah outside of Lebanon. North Carolina-based Hezbollah cells involved in cigarette smuggling during the 1990s relied on assets in the tri-border area.

Infiltration by international terrorists of a region known for transnational organized crime has resulted in marriages of convenience. A report from Spain’s Defense Ministry in December 2016 outlined how Islamic terrorists have teamed up with drug trafficking organizations like El clan Barakat in Paraguay and Joumaa in Colombia to launder cash used to support terrorist activities. In fact, law enforcement officials in the southwest United States reported a significant increase in Hezbollah tattoos and imagery among imprisoned gang members.

Immigration stories naturally dovetail. A source for the U.S. State Department revealed in 2010 that Mexican drug cartels were likely smuggling known Arab extremists across the border into Texas. A lesser known story involves Hezbollah operative Muhammad Ghaleb Hamdar, who was arrested in Peru in October 2014 for planning a terrorist attack. He used an actual “marriage of convenience” to one Carmen Carrión Vela as part of his cover. She was arrested in November 2015 for material support to terrorism. The truly frightening detail of this episode: The convicted wife was a dual-citizen of Peru and the United States, and had twice traveled to the U.S. before Hamdar was arrested in Lima.

The Islamic State is now in the mix. The aforementioned Spanish report found that rapidly expanding Muslim communities have given rise to recruitment where as many as 100 Latin Americans have joined ISIS — 70 alone allegedly came from Trinidad and Tobago. That island nation says today’s radical Islamic elements operate like the local Jamaat al Muslimeen group that tried to overthrow the government in 1990.

These stories only gloss over a much bigger problem that also involves nation-state collaboration between the likes of Venezuela and Iran, nuclear technology in Argentina and the spread of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Islam in Latin America.

Despite all of this, the president shies away from confronting radical Islam. Despite all of this, the president helped enrich Iran to the tune of $10 billion. “Often considered a foreign policy backwater for the United States,” Joseph Humire writes, “Latin America has become a top foreign policy priority for the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Others like ISIS and Al Qaeda are not far behind.

Trump must reverse course and team up with Latin American partners to fight this war. Failure here will pale in comparison to failures elsewhere.”

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The Potential Success of Trump’s Counterterrorism Strategy

President-elect Donald Trump has been criticized during the election process for maintaining the element of surprise in his strategy to defeat ISIS. He indicated that detailing his plan during the debate would allow the enemy to prepare accordingly. This discipline mirrors the teaching of military strategist Sun Tzu, “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

Hillary Clinton detailed her plan, and continued to propose no-fly zones in Syria; but there are many other tactics that can be used in war to defeat the opponent. The Syrian military would simply alter their maneuvers to those that do not involve air strikes.

President-elect Trump has since proposed a combination of strategies to defeat ISIS, and when deployed simultaneously, create a solid counterterrorism policy. Sun Tzu also taught “There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.” President-elect Donald Trump seems to understand the complexity of public policy and the ambiguity of terrorism; and this combination approach will win the war, rather than Hillary’s approach to win a battle.

The leadership of President-elect Trump combines tactical and strategic thinking through his plan to defeat terrorism.

  1. An organization cannot operate without financial assets; and ISIS is no different. President-elect Trump plans to destroy ISIS’ financial stability by eliminating their oil camps. While crippling their resources, the United States can also collect valuable intelligence through improve human source operations, which have proven successful at gathering critical information on our enemy.
  2. President-elect Trump is against nation-building. It does not help defeat ISIS to set up a democratic government in a country unable to sustain the efforts. But setting up safe zones for Syrian refugees will keep the Syrian population near their home state and prevent the tsunami of refugees flooding into Europe. Keeping the refugee population at their home is a strategic method to prevent displacement into a democracy that would eventually be exploited.
  3. International collaboration is a strategic plan to increase global resistance to terrorism. President-elect Trump values the U.S. partnership with British forces; and seeks to create partnerships with Russia, Syria, and Iran. By aligning anti-ISIS plans, this effective partnership is key to denying ISIS a geographic footprint and deters their ability to plan and organization operations. The partnership with Syria will support the Syrian government and defeat ISIS internally rather than arming the Syrian rebels. This long-term strategy will also prevent ISIS from obtaining more weapons, paid for by the U.S., since those supplies will by acquired from the Syrian forces we currently arm.

Identifying our enemy and creating a global leadership vision will defeat ISIS. President-elect Trump will wage an ideological war by achieving balance between direct and indirect action. Through collaboration, strategic and tactical visions and military strength, ISIS can be defeated!

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Cyber Threats to the Texas Electric Grid

“Texas plays a unique role in America’s infrastructure as the only state with a self-contained electric grid. The entire U.S. electric power system is a prime target of cyberattacks from hostile governments and terrorist organizations, but the Lone Star State is in a unique position to act.

The Consequences of a Vulnerable Grid. The Northeast blackout in 2003 left nearly 55 million residents of the United States and Canada temporarily without power. Crews traced the cause to a software error at a utility control room in Ohio and restored power after two days to most of those affected. But the blackout disrupted transportation in many areas, cut off city water in several locations, and hampered emergency services. Experts attributed 10 deaths to the blackout, which cost more than $10 billion.

Remember: For many, this blackout only lasted a few days. And there was no significant damage to sensitive infrastructure. However:

  • Any serious injury to important power equipment could create a blackout lasting for at least one year “given the nation’s current state of unpreparedness,” argues Peter Pry, a former executive of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security.
  • The Obama administration remains “unwilling to empower competent authorities to combat the adversaries within the grid environment,” according to the assessment of George Cotter, the founding director of Department of Defense Computer Security Center.
  • The Pentagon’s current information security strategy is nothing more than “patch and pray,” said Arati Prabhakar, the Director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), in 2015.”

To continue reading, click here.

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Part Two – Discussing global terrorism with General Michael Flynn

Part Two of my discussion with Lt. General Michael Flynn regarding the threat of global terrorism.

You can view the interview here.

You can view Part One here: 

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How Defense Dollars Are Wasted on Security Assistance

“The House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act would give the Pentagon greater control over security assistance to other countries — oversight now generally reserved to the State Department. A larger issue than the administration of funds, however, is that current security assistance programs are ineffective and often undermine American security.

In July 2016, the president announced that 8,400 American troops would remain in Afghanistan. A few days later, he announced the deployment of an additional 560 U.S. troops to Iraq. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) reminded the president that the added deployments were not funded under the current budget. Defense dollars channeled to ineffective security assistance programs –‒ a centerpiece of Obama administration defense policy –‒ could instead be used to fund these deployments.

Indeed, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) concluded that “it remains unclear whether building the capacity of foreign security forces is an effective way to accomplish U.S. strategic objectives.”

Read the full report here.

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Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn visits the NCPA

I had the distinct honor of sitting down with Lt. General Michael Flynn recently to discuss the threat of global terrorism during his recent visit to the National Center for Policy Analysis.

You can view the interview here: 

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