National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user Paul Conneally

The Beat

In depth: Dallas shootings

In the US last week, two men were shot and killed by police officers—both victims were African American and both had their last moments caught on camera, and subsequently uploaded to social media. On 7 July in Dallas, Texas, thousands gathered downtown to march through the city in a Black Lives Matter protest. The movement campaigns against police violence towards African Americans —a recent study by a Harvard professor concluded that African Americans and Hispanic are 50% more likely to be victims of police brutality than white Americans.

At the protest, a gunman shot and killed five police officers and wounded six others. After 45 minutes of negotiation with the sniper, police decided to use a robot and C-4 explosives to kill the shooter—representing the first time a robotic system has been used by police in a deliberately lethal manner. The use of the robot has sparked debate about the ethics and legality of such use of force. A new piece on Wired has assessed why the robot was likely the only choice police had in this instance, and this article from Fortune explains that the legality of the ‘killer robot’. Both The New York Times and The Atlantic have weighed in on how the use of robots changes the way police interact with technology in law enforcement. There’s a lot to read on the topic, but some picks are here, here and here.

CT Scan

Syria and Italy cooperate on countering terrorism?

Damascus is offering data on European jihadists in exchange for restoring diplomatic relations with Rome. Negotiations began on 4 July and included a visit by Major General Deeb Zeitoun, head of Syrian intelligence to Italy, and an exchange between Bashar al-Assad and Italian secret service chief Alberto Maneti in Syria. Major General Zeitoun travelled to Italy for the meeting despite EU sanctions blacklisting him. It’s alleged that Syria promised to exchange information on EU citizens who have joined Daesh in return for Italy attempting to influence the EU’s Higher Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, into lift economic sanctions on Syria. Significantly, this marks the first official contact between high level Syrian and EU officials since 2011.

Capacity building for Bangladesh

In the wake of the 1 July Dhaka attack that killed 20, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Nisha Desai Biswal, arrived in Bangladesh on 10 July to discuss options for US assistance in law enforcement and countering terrorism. Discussions with Prime Minister Sheik Hasina touched on capacity building for Bangladesh on counterterrorism, intelligence collection and training of law enforcement officers. The US had previously offered FBI assistance to investigate the attack. India also pledged to work ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with Bangladesh on countering terror attacks in the region, the incident adding impetus to a counterterrorism cooperation pact between the two countries first proposed in 2015 which has not yet been signed.


A case for border security—India’s drug trafficking

The Golden Triangle (Myanmar–Laos–Thailand) and Golden Crescent (Afghanistan–Pakistan–Iran) are the largest producers of hashish and heroin. Their proximity to India’s borders makes the region susceptible to drug trafficking, with the movement of the illicit substances predominantly occurring across land borders. An expert panel at CSIS have released a podcast investigating India’s drug trafficking problem as large volumes continue to be smuggled across its porous borders.

All quiet on the Pakistani front?

US senators and senior officials met with Pakistan’s military chief to discuss efforts to bolster the country’s border security in light of Afghanistan’s fluctuating stability. A strong insurgency continues in Afghanistan and there’s pressure on Pakistan to ensure that its land isn’t used for terrorist activity. Afghanistan and Pakistan share a 2,600km border, where illegal movements across the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan remains a point of contention between the two nations—as seen by the violent clashes between Afghan border security guards and Pakistani soldiers in June at the Torkham border.

Transcending Borders

The Pew Charitable Trusts have released a new report—‘Transcending Borders’—as part of their new publication series Trend, which aims to collate perspectives from various eminent voices from a variety of disciplines ‘who are seeking to inform and improve our world’. In this edition, Pew explores transnational security concerns that are no longer able to be contained by traditional political and geographic boundaries, from the threat of antimicrobial resistance to how migration routes have changed in light of the current European migrant crisis.

First Responder

Climate change in the Mekong Delta

The World Bank has agreed to loan Vietnam US$560 million for two projects to support urban development, climate resilience and sustainable livelihoods in the Mekong Delta. Recent extreme weather phenomena in the Mekong Delta region has negatively affected the lives of the 1.2 million people living there and the credit will be used to help the provinces adapt to climate change in a sustainable way. This article from Forbes examines the link between climate change and conflict—arguing that climate change could increase the likelihood of conflict if combined with pre-existing driving factors such as ethnic tensions, making it a national security issue.

The next great earthquake under Bangladesh

A new piece from The Earth Institute Colombia University has examined how a massive earthquake possibly building under Bangladesh could impact the most densely populated nation on earth. The fast-growing but poor nation is unprepared if a major earthquake was to eventuate—it’s hugely overpopulated—with  natural gas fields, heavy industries and electric power plants located close to potential fault lines meaning they’re likely to be destroyed completely with disastrous implications for residents living in close proximity. Watch a 10 minute documentary on the problem here.