National security wrap

The beat

Mexico deploys more police to crime hotspots

After a record number of murders in Mexico last year, the country’s newly elected president, Manuel Lopez Obrador, has permanently deployed an extra 10,200 police officers as well as members of the army and navy to high-crime areas. Initially, 17 areas have been selected, with deployments starting this week in Tijuana.

Police uniforms trigger cooperation and controversy in NZ

New Zealand celebrated Waitangi Day on 6 February, marking 179 years since the signing of the treaty between the Maori people and the British Crown, and police swapped their standard uniforms for casual polo shirts and shorts in an effort to appear more approachable. Police say this practice helps break down barriers and change mindsets about the role of police in the community. However, police uniforms have also caused controversy elsewhere in New Zealand. In the lead-up to the annual Auckland Pride parade, a decision was made to ban police from participating in the parade in uniform. Despite a large number of sponsors pulling out over the move, Auckland Pride continued this year without the involvement of uniformed police.

Snake used to terrorise detainee in Indonesia

Indonesian police have been forced to apologise after using a snake to elicit a confession from an alleged pickpocket in Papua province. An internal ethics investigation is underway and the officers have been removed from their posts.


Porous Solomon Islands–PNG border a problem for police

Police in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have been working together to find armed Bougainvillean gunmen who attacked a Solomon Islander village in the Shortland Islands. As the maritime border between Bougainville and the Shortland Islands is porous and people on either side have deep cultural, trade and ethnic ties, policing it is a great challenge for Papua and Solomon Islands authorities.

South Korean spends to improve ties with North

The South Korean government has pledged to spend 13.2 trillion won (A$17 billion) on border areas with North Korea over the next 10 years to foster cooperation with between the two countries. South Korea hopes to complete 225 projects by 2030 in encouraging ecological peace tourism, expanding social infrastructure, and constructing supply networks for liquefied petroleum gas supply.

India’s power play in the Strait of Hormuz

India is investing heavily in Iran’s deep-water Shaheed Behesti port in Chabahar to further its strategic and economic influence in Eurasia. With access to a port near the Strait of Hormuz, India will also be better able to keep tabs on China’s Gwadar port project in Pakistan. India is equipping two berths at Chabahar port and is also constructing a US$1.6 billion railway line from Chabahar to Zahedan near the Iran–Afghan border. The port has the potential to raise the value of trade between India and Eurasia to US$170 billion.

CT scan

US to use more ‘surrogate’ forces for counterterrorism

During his congressional testimony last Wednesday, Major General James Hecker said the evolving US counterterrorism strategy will place more emphasis on using ‘surrogate’ forces, reducing the financial cost and risk to US personnel. Under section 127e of the US Code, the Department of Defense can spend US$100 million a year to fund units from African governments to accomplish US objectives. The programs have been criticised for being less ‘we’re helping you’ and more ‘you’re doing our bidding’.

Children of Russian IS fighters taken to Moscow

As Kurdish-led forces in Syria launch an offensive against the last territory held by the Islamic State terror group, Russia has flown 27 children of Russian IS fighters to Moscow. Their mothers are imprisoned in Baghdad and it’s not clear who will look after them in Russia. Many other governments remain reluctant to repatriate the families of foreign IS fighters, leaving thousands of such children in camps and prisons in Syria and Iraq.

Hamas calls on supporters to donate bitcoin

The military wing of Hamas received US$2,500 worth of bitcoin after reaching out to supporters for donations. Hamas posted the donation link, an infographic explaining the benefits of bitcoin and a video tutorial on how to purchase the cryptocurrency, on social media. Jihadist groups have tried cryptocurrency fundraising in the past, but with little success. Expert Yaya Fanusie says the US Treasury has the tools to undermine such efforts.

First responder

UN seeks more funding for Libya

The UN has launched a new humanitarian response plan in Libya, seeking US$202 million in funding to support families affected by armed conflict. Last year, the UN received US$81 million, which was used to help 320,000 people. However, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that more funding is needed to help an estimated 823,000 people in need. The delivery of aid remains difficult as fighting continues between rival armed groups.

Landslides isolate Kashmir

Kashmir is cut off from the outside world after major landslides forced the closure of the Jammu–Srinagar highway and snow and poor visibility led to the cancellation of flights. It’s reported that more than 3,000 vehicles remain stranded a week after the landslides, which are frequent in Kashmir. The combined impact of earthquakes and land degradation has resulted in large-scale soil erosion in the mountainous region.

Fears of a new Ebola epidemic in central Africa

More than 500 people have been killed by the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the deadliest outbreak of the disease since 2014. Several factors have complicated efforts to contain the spread of the disease. An experimental vaccine has raised hopes that Ebola will be contained, but there are still fears the virus will spread to Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.