National security wrap

The Beat

Ice on the airwaves

There’s interesting discussion this week in light of Ice Wars, ABC’s provocative TV series. While acknowledging the impressive and compassionate police work on display, many pundits find the show’s rhetoric troubling. Some, like Dr Nicole Lee, head of Curtin University’s National Drug Research Institute, argue that the perception of an ice epidemic is false and that the associated fear creates unnecessary stigma.

This discussion will need to be far-reaching: in Darwin, a coronial inquest heard that ‘police lacked clear strategy’ in an ice-fuelled and eventually fatal pursuit with youths last year.

The Queensland Government is taking this to heart—the draft plan Action on Ice was just released and is now open for discussion regarding the effectiveness of existing initiatives, community-led efforts, and potential gaps in the proposals.

Countering Transnational Crime

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime has recently released a webinar series focused on innovative counters to human trafficking. After an overview of hi-tech and entrepreneurial solutions, we heard about the technology used to detect labour trafficking and exploitation. The latest instalment, ‘The Private Sector Countering Human Trafficking’, will hit their site next week. If you’re in Australia, set your alarms and load up on the coffee. In the meantime, here’s some substitute reading from RAND: ‘Counternetwork: Countering the Expansion of Transnational Criminal Networks.’

CT Scan

Entrepreneurial jihad

‘Functioning as consultants, arms dealers, and, on occasion, elite warriors,’ it seems jihad is delving into the world of private military contractors (PMCs). Foreign Policy discusses the creation of Malhama Tactical, the world’s first combined jihadi, PMC and consulting firm. The organisation is headed by a 24-year-old trained fighter from Uzbekistan. Since it was launched in May 2016 the group has already had ‘brisk business’ with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and the Turkistan Islamic Party (both operating in Syria), as well as an Uighur extremist group from China’s restive Xinjiang province; they are the first PMC to work exclusively for extremist groups. Jihad went global long before Malhama Tactical, but ‘rarely with so entrepreneurial a spirit’.

Women in CT

Readers, please meet Aisha Bakari Gombi, former wild animal hunter from north-east Nigeria, current Queen Hunter of Boko Haram (BH), arguably the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation. While most of those fighting BH are men, Aisha is among a small group of females recruited on a formal basis by the Nigerian Army.

Readers should also check out this awesome commentary by another woman kicking butt in the CT sphere –a new report by ASPI’s very own Sofia Patel looks at the role of women in perpetrating and preventing violent extremism.


Pakistan expels Afghan refugees

600,000 Afghan migrants and refugees have been evicted from Pakistan since July 2016, says Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its landmark report, shining a light on the government’s concerted campaign. Pakistan’s hosted Afghan refugees for decades, but now the government’s citing security concerns for their expulsion. Returnees are joining the estimated 1.5 million already internally displaced inside Afghanistan, 625,000 of whom were displaced in 2016 alone. HRW has condemned the UNHCR’s active and passive complicity in the deportations.

China beefs up its border security

The Chinese government announced last week that it’d be storing all foreigners’ biometric data upon arrival. China’s Ministry of Public Security said that data would be stored for official use, but didn’t verify whether it’d be shared across government agencies. However, this policy excludes residents from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. China joins 24 other countries that already employ the practice, for which one of the justifications is counterterrorism.

Mexico’s agile drug cartels

Read Paul Kan’s breakdown in War on the Rocks about how Mexico’s drug cartels will outsmart Trump’s proposed border protection policies, and inadvertently thrive. They have their own sophisticated STEM program to thank—‘surveillance, trafficking, extortion and murder’, complete with technical experts developing bespoke ‘narco-drones’ to deliver the goods.

First Responder

Damned dam

The risk of a spillway failure at California’s Oroville dam appears to have stabilised, and people are returning to their homes after the evacuation order was lifted. But, discussion rages on about the broader implications for US dam infrastructure and future spending. For a deeper dive into the history of the dam and why it may have been ‘cursed from the start’, read this interesting piece from The Atlantic.

Choose your own tsunami

Pacific Rim countries are testing the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System this week during PacWave17. The exercise aims to test states’ capacity to deal with a major tsunami and to identify potential shortcomings in the warning system. Exercises simulate different scenarios for earthquakes off the coasts of Chile and Peru, Columbia and Ecuador, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, allowing states to choose a distant or regional event that will significantly impact it. Good job, too—about 76% of deadly tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean and connected seas.

Pod people

It’s always good to have a back-up plan, and if tsunami warning systems fail there is always a tsunami pod. Invented by an aerospace engineer, the pod is made of aircraft-grade aluminium, has a watertight marine door, a ceramic lining, and sports bulletproof glass—all for the cool price of US$13,500.