National security wrap

The beat

Police shootings down but lives still lost

The Washington Post reports that police shootings of unarmed people has generally declined since 2015. This year, police in the US have shot and killed 18 unarmed people, eight fewer than at the same time last year, and less than half as many as at the same time in 2015. While the number of police shootings has generally declined, a new study has found that more than 100,000 years of life had been lost to police violence between 2015 and 2016. People of colour comprise 38.5% of the US population but accounted for 51.5% of the number of years of life lost to police violence.

Increase in airport security

More stringent airport security in Australia is coming as part of a border security boost outlined in the 2018 federal budget. Full-body X-ray scanners are to be rolled out in Australia’s nine major domestic and international airports as part of a $293 million investment in ‘security infrastructure’. Alongside increased technology, more than 140 counterterrorism officers will be stationed in airports, with another 50 officers supplying tactical intelligence and support

Drones used for counter surveillance

A criminal gang has used a swarm of drones to obstruct an FBI operation. While setting up an observation post at a location on the outskirts of Denver, agents from the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team found themselves surrounded by a swarm of small drones that swooped in a series of ‘high-speed low passes at the agents in the observation post to flush them [out]’. Video footage from the drones was then streamed on YouTube, allowing the gang to monitor the FBI’s movements. Joseph Mazel, head of the FBI’s operational technology law unit, said that ‘counter surveillance of law enforcement agents is the fastest-growing way that organized criminals are using drones’.

CT scan

Islamic State versus democracy

Islamic State attacked Libya’s elections commission’s headquarters in Tripoli, killing 14. The attack was likely an attempt to destabilise progress toward Libya’s UN‑organised election. Meanwhile, in the lead‑up to Iraq’s national elections next week, IS claimed responsibility for the assassination of parliamentary candidate Faruq Zarzur al-Juburi from the National Iraqi Alliance. And in Afghanistan, IS detonated a bomb in a mosque serving as a voter registration centre for October’s elections. IS has a history of targeting elections and electoral officials: during Egypt’s February elections IS released a video justifying electoral attacks on the grounds that democracy is modern idolatry. IS will likely continue targeting Libyan electoral offices—the UN Special Representative said that planning for Libya’s election would continue—adding more uncertainty to an already risky election plan.

Women of jihad

An internal report from the French Department of Justice contending that French authorities have wrongly assessed women who have joined IS was published by Le Monde. Contrary to some claims that women were forced by husbands to travel to the caliphate, in France this was the case for only a third of French female jihadists. The remainder were personally attached to the IS project. According to the report, the women didn’t provide only domestic support, but played an active role in education and recruitment, and in the Islamic police. IS’s call to women differentiates it from al-Qaeda, which in February released a women-oriented magazine that urges women to stay indoors and be good brides.


Mexico’s misinterpreted border strategy

President Donald Trump claims that Mexico does nothing to stop Central Americans from reaching the US border. Not true. This in-depth piece by NPR explores Mexico’s ‘formidable’—albeit under-reported—anti-immigration strategy. Rather than amass troops on its border with Guatemala, Mexican law enforcement use roving checkpoints and raids, creating a so-called ‘containment zone’ in Chiapas state. The ad hoc nature of the enforcement has heightened fears among migrants, and ultimately has made it difficult for migrants to ensure their rights aren’t violated. Mexico deports more Central American migrants annually than does the US.

No lasting settlement for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

The Lebanese government’s responsibility for Syrian refugees inside its borders received great interest this week. A donors’ conference in Brussels to raise money for Syrian refugees in Lebanon drew attention to the government’s ongoing failure to follow through on its pledges to facilitate residency. Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and President Michel Aoun rejected the conference’s final communiqué, which recognised resettlement as an ‘essential protection tool’ for refugees. The President and Foreign Minister argued that the Lebanese constitution prohibits tawteen, which roughly translates as ‘settlement’ or ‘naturalisation’. The term has often been used for political and polemical ends—particularly in Lebanon’s recent general election.

Resettlement, return and reversing the flow

The pressures of mass migration aren’t only felt by destination states, but also in emigrants’ home countries. Gavin O’Toole for the Global Government Forum explores different strategies to facilitate and encourage repatriation. Underpinning these approaches are three key elements: ensuring access to economic opportunities, community networks and specialist services that support emotional well-being.

First responder

Strength in numbers

More than 400 Cambodian troops will be deployed to Mali and South Sudan to support ongoing UN peacekeeping missions in those countries. The backup is needed—in March Cambodian peacekeepers were ambushed in Mali; and in South Sudan, conflict is intensifying despite calls by UN officials to uphold last year’s ceasefire. Last year was the deadliest in history for UN peacekeepers. Though the number of UN peacekeeping missions has dropped from 15 to 14, troop numbers remain largely unchanged—speaking to the intractability of the conflicts.

Proactive vs. reactive

Prevention is a vital strategy in disaster risk reduction (DRR) management, and is also important in mitigating the effects of climate change. The agriculture industry is particularly vulnerable to the effects of both climate change and natural disasters. A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization has analysed the extent to which Montenegro is transitioning from emergency responses to proactive DRR strategies. The report highlights the importance of having a combination of legal and institutional frameworks, research and training, mainstreaming of DRR in policies, and infrastructure maintenance for more effective DRR. This focus on prevention is also being addressed globally, such as in the 2018 Bonn Climate Change Conference that concludes today.