National security wrap


The Beat

Combatting the tobacco trade

The US State Department recently released a new report, The Global Illicit Trade in Tobacco: A Threat to National Security, in support of the US National Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime. The report looks at the low-risk, high-reward transnational illicit trade in tobacco and explores how different US agencies can bolster cooperation to take a whole-of-government approach to counter this illicit trade. The report argues that illicit trade in tobacco threatens US national security due to its impact on public safety, public health, democratic institutions and economic stability as well as its role in financing criminal and terrorist networks.

Vatican needs to crack down on financial criminals

The Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing committee, Moneyval, has published a new report evaluating the Vatican’s compliance with financial crime standards. The watchdog has concluded that while the Vatican has addressed previous deficiencies in its legislation and regulations by bringing them in line with international standards, it now needs to prosecute those suspected of financial crimes both inside and outside its borders. While the Vatican has around 25 current investigations underway and has closed around 4,800 bank accounts, it’s still yet to prosecute anyone.

CT Scan

New issue of CTC Sentinel

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has published a special issue of CTC Sentinel focusing on Daesh. Featured articles by Richard Barrett and Jean-Charles Brisard examine the shift toward global operations by the group, such as the recent Paris attacks. Of special note is an interview with assistant US Attorney Zainab N. Ahmad, who has led the prosecution in several terrorism cases, and a profile of the Paris attack ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Additional articles analyse recent Daesh activity in Iraq and Syria, and the group’s moves in the US and Lebanon.

Economics of terror

A new podcast from Jihadology discusses Daesh’s finances with Aymenn al-Tamimi. One point of interest is that the group’s funding from foreign supporters doesn’t appear to be a significant portion of their assets, which is consistent with reports that taxes are their most substantial revenue source. Daesh’s finances are a hot topic at the moment, as the group’s finance minister was killed in an air strike last month, and analysis mounts that the Assad regime is purchasing ‘significant volumes’ of Daesh’s oil.


EU seeks to stem migrant flow

The European Union has announced plans to implement a rapid-response border force in an attempt to stem migration. If approved by EU member states, a new European Border and Coast Guard will replace the EU’s Frontex agency and will be funded to the tune of US$354 million by 2020. A controversial element of the proposed changes include giving the EU Commission the right to deploy European Border and Coast Guard forces in a country without its government’s consent, if its border controls are deemed insufficient.

Cross-border terrorism in China

The Chinese Government has introduced new guidelines for the prevention of cross-border terrorism in an attempt to thwart foreign jihadists from entering China through the restive region of Xinjiang, and to prevent ISIL from recruiting Chinese citizens. Xinjiang borders Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and in recent years China has stepped up its border controls to prevent the infiltration of militants into China. According to Chinese Security Chief, Meng Jianzhu, the ‘guidelines were aimed at coping with changes and trends in the fight against terrorism at home and abroad.’ Such a move isn’t without controversy, with China routinely being accused of using terrorism as a tool to supress its restive Muslim population who seek greater autonomy.

First Responder

Global consensus on resilience

After almost two weeks of the COP21 negotiations in Paris, 195 countries have reached a new global climate pact. The Paris Agreement, finalised on 12 December, is the first comprehensive global treaty designed to address climate change and resilience and will follow on from the Kyoto Protocol when it ends in 2020. The legally binding international accord commits to limiting global temperature increase to less than two degrees Celsius and provides a financial roadmap for resilient investment, especially for developing countries. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said ‘every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action’.

British water resilience

In response to public anger over the lack of government preparedness for Britain’s recent Storm Desmond, the UK’s Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, has announced a National Flood Resilience Review and an investment of £2.3 billion to improve the flood resilience of British homes and infrastructure. An expert industry task group has also published a report on the resilience of Britain’s water infrastructure. The report outlines 10 key recommendations that include the need to establish a clear definition of resilience and coordinated planning at a national and regional level, as well as the importance of resilience metrics and infrastructure stress-testing.