Crunch point approaching for EU goal of creating rapid entry force

by Brooks Tigner

Spurred in part by the debacle of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the EU's top security policy official said the moment is approaching for the Europeans to seriously consider creating a rapid reaction intervention force – and to overhaul how they would agree to use it in future.

EU foreign and security policy chief Josep Borell (left) told journalists after an informal defence ministers meeting on 2 September that they had discussed the creation of a European rapid reaction intervention force, which Slovenian Defence Minister Matej Tonin (right) said would require the will to use it. (Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU)

EU foreign and security policy chief Josep Borell (left) told journalists after an informal defence ministers meeting on 2 September that they had discussed the creation of a European rapid reaction intervention force, which Slovenian Defence Minister Matej Tonin (right) said would require the will to use it. (Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU)

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El Salvador aims to double size of military within five years

by Alejandro Sanchez

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele has announced plans to double the size of the Salvadoran military by 2026, from 20,000 up to 40,000 troops, in a bid to improve internal security against criminal gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13.

“Starting today, we will double the size of the armed forces; every 15 days a new batch of soldiers will join,” Bukele wrote in a 19 July tweet. However, he did not specify how many troops per batch or to which units they will be assigned.

Elected in 2019, Bukele's presidential term will conclude in 2024, but according to his plans, the 40,000-mark will be achieved by 2026. The country's constitution does not permit consecutive presidential terms, although the Supreme Court passed a ruling in early September allowing Bukele to run again in three years.

Analysts interviewed by Janes expressed concern about the usefulness of this plan. Tiziano Breda, a Central America analyst at the International Crisis Group, explained that Bukele's government continues to “erroneously believe” that the maras (gangs) can be defeated by military means.

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Australian DoD's industrial security vetting criticised by national audit agency

by Julian Kerr

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has criticised the Department of Defence (DoD) in Canberra for failing to properly manage the security vetting of companies involved in delivering contracts worth more than AUD200 billion (USD146 billion).

In an audit released on 13 September, the ANAO found that the DoD's administration of the contractual obligations relating to the Defence Industry Security Programme (DISP) were only “partly effective”.

The DoD's website describes the DSIP as “essentially security vetting for Australian businesses”, but DoD arrangements for monitoring compliance with contracted DISP membership were described by the ANAO as not fit for purpose.

“As of March 2021, Defence had over 16,500 active contracts with a total commitment of more than AUD200 billion,” said the agency, adding, “Defence does not know which of these contracts should, or do, require the contracted entity to have DISP membership. This situation limits the effectiveness of DISP as a security control.”

A 2019 DoD internal audit had identified 13 companies without valid security clearances that were awarded defence contracts with ‘secret' or above security classifications, the ANAO revealed.

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20 years after 9/11: The evolving transnational militant Islamist threat landscape

by Janes Terrorism and Insurgency Centre

Two decades have now passed since Al-Qaeda militants targeted the United States mainland on 11 September 2001. Since the attacks, the fight against transnational militant Islamism has dominated security agendas in the US, Europe, and beyond, costing the US alone over USD 5.4 trillion and claiming the lives of more than 7,000 US military personnel globally. Despite these costs, the threat from militant Islamism has persisted – and indeed proliferated – since September 2001. At this 20-year mark, Janes Terrorism & Insurgency Centre (JTIC) data offers insights on past trends and future forecasts for transnational militant Islamist activity.

Operational trends

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State represent the most active transnational militant Islamist groups since 2001. According to JTIC data, these groups and their affiliates conducted at least 27,258 attacks between 2009 and 2020, resulting in over 61,124 non-militant fatalities. These attacks have largely targeted conflict theatres in the Middle East – with more than two-thirds of attacks taking place in Syria and Iraq – as well as in East Africa and West Africa. Transnational Islamist violence has targeted security forces in over half of all attacks, and militants have demonstrated a tactical preference for close-quarters engagement between forces on open ground and stand-off/area attacks involving explosives or indirect fire attacks.


When comparing the operational profiles of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda has conducted far fewer attacks and its tempo of violence has been steadier than that of its rival. Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya (West Africa province) was the Islamic State’s most operationally active affiliate in 2020, while Harakat al-Shabaab al- Mujahideen was the Al-Qaeda affiliate that conducted the most attacks in that year. At least 127 inter-group clashes between Islamic State and Al-Qaeda forces were recorded between 2009 and 2020, with the majority taking place in Syria in 2014 and 2015. With 37 lone actor attacks recorded between 2009 and 2020, JTIC data indicates that the Islamic State inspired far more of these attacks than Al-Qaeda, and that most of this activity has been conducted in Europe with edged or improvised weapons.

Regional forecasts

Based on JTIC data for the first half of 2021, JTIC presents the following regional forecasts for the remainder of 2021:

Lake Chad/Sahel: Attacks and non-militant fatalities are likely to increase because of factors including the 24 May coup in Mali, drawdown of French military forces, the death of Chadian President Idris Déby, and the likely reconciliation of dissident and mainstream factions of Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya after the death of dissident leader Abubakar Shekau.

Mozambique: A lower tempo of violence is likely to continue in the short term, with Wilayat Wasat Afriqiyya (Central Africa province) attacks having decreased significantly in Cabo Delgado province in early 2021 in contrast to 2020. Smaller-scale raids are likely following the recapture of Mocimboa da Praia by security forces in August, though militants may exploit security gaps after the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) withdrawal in October.

Syria: Islamic State attacks in 2021 appear set to outpace those recorded in 2020, with militants having already conducted 80% of the total number of 2020 attacks in the first half of 2021 alone. Recent operational trends indicate that attacks will continue to target security forces, with an increasing focus on ambush tactics.

Iraq: Islamic State militants are likely to continue to conduct asymmetric, low-casualty attacks in rural areas and – in future summers – will likely continue to exploit high temperatures to disrupt essential services, provoke popular unrest, and undermine the government in Iraq through sabotage attacks.

Policy implications

Counter-terrorism priorities today are starkly different to those immediately after the September 2001 attacks, when there was a surge of counter-terrorism investment in the US, Europe, and beyond. US counter-terrorism activities focused on long-term overseas operations, militarised responses, and leadership decapitation, with a lesser focus on tackling the drivers of militant recruitment and radicalisation. In the early 2020s there has been a marked shift toward reducing military commitments overseas, with US forces withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, and France signalling a drawdown of its military presence in the Sahel. While boots remain on the ground in key conflict zones, the US and its Western partners are increasingly seeking to support, rather than lead, overseas counter-terrorism efforts.

An analysis of security responses since September 2001 offers insights for policy and practice. As the 20-year anniversary of the September 2001 attacks approaches, counter-terrorism professionals face a diversified threat landscape and an expanded set of policy priorities. Despite shrinking counter-terrorism budgets, there is a continued need to support overseas partners to preserve the gains of the last two decades and prevent the emergence of future transnational threats. The last 20 years have signalled that over-reliance on short-term, militarised responses without commitment to strengthening local governance and addressing underlying drivers of radicalisation can limit the effectiveness of security responses. Technological advances and high volumes of open-source information also call for streamlined inter-agency coordination, investment in artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, and continuous monitoring of the threat environment.

This forms the executive summary of our terrorism and insurgency centre's deep dive into the evolving transnational militant Islamist threat landscape. For the full report, subscribers can log in here.

Spurred in part by the debacle of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the EU's top security policy offi...

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