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India

How the U.S. Withdrawal of Troops from Afghanistan Impacts India

The peace deal agreement between the Taliban and the U.S. in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, 2020, opened up various security concerns in India. And now, after nearly 20 years of annexing the paratroops in Afghanistan in a modus operandi to oust Al-Qaeda supported by the Taliban, President Biden’s government has recently withdrawn U.S. military troops from Afghanistan. Thus, the Taliban has become the de facto government across Afghanistan and controls territory such as border check-posts, rural areas, and urban areas. India shares geographical proximity to Afghanistan, unlike the U.S., and consequently any political instability in the Afghan government is concerning to neighboring countries.

Ultimately the 2020 U.S.-Taliban peace deal agreement stipulated that any group or individual could not use Afghan soil against the security of the U.S. and its allies.

The uncertain future of the Afghan government and the Taliban’s authority may threaten the security and economic interests of India and its assets in Afghanistan. India has deeply invested in standing by Afghanistan’s democratic government; thus, the rise of the radical groups does not bode well for the country.

Haqqani Faction & IS – Khorasan

The presence of the U.S. in Afghanistan was partially the reason for India’s investment in Afghanistan’s future. The Haqqani faction, led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy leader of the Taliban, is the best armed and trained Taliban faction. The Haqqani faction may use their power and assert anti-Indian propaganda.  The Haqqani faction is also well known for working against the U.S. invasion in Afghanistan, and leading several attacks on Indian assets and Indians residing in Afghanistan.

In regard to IS-Khorasan, the current understanding that IS-Khorasan has a mixture of former Afghan insurgents, Pakistani militants, and radicalized Indians is a threat to the Indian assets, especially those involving economic relations between India and Afghanistan. Indian-Afghani relations have also been tested in situations involving radicalized Indians conducting attacks on Afghan soil.  Such was the case when IS-Khorasan claimed the Gurudwara attack in Kabul, which took more than 25 lives, and attributed the attack to an Indian ISIS member.

Lashkar-e-Taiba

The relocation of the members of another terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) under the guidance of their chief, Hafeez Muhammed Saeed.  Saeed, who drew up plans with the Pakistani army to attack Indians in large numbers, is an alarming cause to be more prudent about strengthening the Pakistani military advancement owing to the new policy between Pakistan and the U.S.

The growing influence of Pakistan’s Inter-Service-Intelligence Directorate (ISI) on the Taliban can be harmful to India, especially considering India’s wary relations with Pakistan. The Taliban is expected to be ill-disposed towards India by its nature and ideological orientation. The increasing influence of Pakistani power in Afghanistan can cause turbulence to the extremist elements in Kashmir. Srinagar-based General Officer Commanding Lieutenant General D P Pandey stated that some militants might enter Kashmir, but the army is ready to tackle the situation if and when that occurs.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is also the beginning of new relations between the U.S. and Pakistan. Prior to the U.S. troops’ presence in the Afghan region, Pakistan had received significant U.S. aid and cooperation for defense. For the past two decades, the relations between both countries have been dysfunctional and oscillating around the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The country’s strategic location has historically made it vulnerable to the involvement of outside powers and proxy battles. Pakistan was the medium and the connection between the Taliban and U.S. for counter-terrorism operations.

Another factor to consider in U.S.-Pakistani foreign affairs is the increasing Chinese-Pakistani relations, especially Chinese investments in Pakistan, which may hinder U.S.-Pakistani relations restoring to their pre-U.S. presence in Afghanistan conditions. Due to Pakistan’s strategic location, India must stay vigilant of Pakistan’s ever-evolving foreign relations, whether it be with the U.S., China, or the Taliban.

Additionally, the Taliban considers China a friend, since they have stated that they will not provide shelter to Uyghur Muslims from Xinxiang, China. Ultimately, India must strategically analyze Taliban-China-Pakistan relations and understand how these foreign relations could impact Indian affairs.

Since the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s growing power, India faces many possibilities due to the reshuffling of regional foreign affairs. India has previously invested economically and diplomatically in Afghanistan and, therefore, must stay alert to how these changes will affect Indian Afghan relations.  Amongst other points to highlight, the U.S. wishes to have cross-cutting relations with both India and Pakistan whilst increasing partnership with Pakistan and also playing the role of crisis management as it has been doing.

Possible Approaches for a Peaceful Co-Existence

Ultimately, relations between the Taliban and India can be strategically possible, provided that the Taliban adheres to peace agreements, through creating and engaging in diplomatic channels and by establishing connections to decrease the Taliban’s dependence on Pakistan.

 

Manasvini Rao, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

PIRA

Sitting Down with the Enemy: The IRA, Good Friday Agreement, and Negotiated Peace

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) was one of the world’s longest lasting terrorist groups. The group came into being in 1969 after a splintering of the IRA leadership; and, the PIRA represented a more militant and extreme approach to the cause of Irish republicanism in Northern Ireland. The PIRA mounted a sustained terror campaign against the British, with the aims of bringing about universal civil rights, as well as a united Ireland, sovereign and independent from the United Kingdom.

The PIRA depicted themselves as the legal voice of the Irish people, which seemingly vindicated the violent course of action they pursued against both foreign occupation and domestic collaborators. The PIRA is a “nationalist” terror group, with similar tactics, but wildly different goals of other terrorist organizations.

The PIRA used bombings, shootings, beatings, assassinations, and kidnappings as a means of coercion. They killed thousands of people and injured countless other. Their victims included members of British, Northern Irish, and Irish security services, politicians, as well as both republican and loyalist paramilitary rivals. However, many of their victims were innocent civilians who had no connection with any paramilitary, political, or security organization.

Hard British Counterterror Responses

As the sectarian violence spreading through Northern Ireland increased, so did the violence and intensity of the British response. In 1969 the U.K. deployed soldiers on the ground in Belfast and other contentious northern areas.

When U.K. soldiers were first deployed, the Catholic and republican minorities initially welcomed the military, as they were viewed as a bulwark against loyalist violence. This perception was soured by three events in the 1970s. The first two events included The Falls Curfew in 1970 and Operation Demetrius in 1971, in which hundreds of Catholics were subjected to internment without trial, and the third event was the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972. Bloody Sunday, in particular, was viewed as a direct attack on innocents; 14 unarmed civilians, peacefully protesting, were killed in a horrific shooting. This escalation of military presence, and extra-judicial violence, led to an equal and opposite escalation of violence on the republican side.

Each of these British interventions was justified as a method of bringing peace and order to the streets, yet each served to strengthen the perceived legitimacy of the Provisionals, who utilized each as a recruitment tool.

This is a common issue with “hard” counterterror strategies. Like a Hydra, for every head that is severed, multiple heads regrow in its place. It also gave the PIRA the opportunity to portray the nationalist minority of Northern Ireland as the victims of inhumane treatment at the hands of security forces. This, in turn, was used to validate their ongoing terrorist activity.

Soft Response: Peace Process and Politicization

Despite this escalation, softer methods were being implemented behind the scenes. In 1988 John Hume, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), began a series of secret discussions with the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams. It was Hume’s belief that peace would only come to Northern Ireland if the PIRA could be persuaded to pursue their agenda solely through their political wing.

An agreement was reached that the responsibility for the future of Northern Ireland should be in the hands of the people who lived there. The British agreed to negotiate from a position of neutrality, and Hume and Adams released a joint statement arguing that self-determination was the right of the Northern Irish people as a whole. This marked a significant steppingstone that moved the conflict away from terrorism and towards political negotiations.

The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was the culmination of this negotiated peace. Central to the agreement was the statement that all those engaging in talks gave a commitment to “democratic and exclusively peaceful means of resolving political issue.”

After 29 years of violence, the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement was the major political breakthrough that laid the foundation for peace. The PIRA disarmed, and while there are still flashes of sectarian and communal violence, the peace has held for more than two decades. The road to peace has brought the PIRA from the murder of close to 2,000 people to having their political wing in a power-sharing government with their former adversaries.

Lessons for Counterterrorism

When approaching strategies to deal with terrorism, it is critical to remember the adage of Sun-Tzu: to know yourself and know your enemy. The British failure to recognize the legitimacy of the PIRA’s base goals, their unwillingness to fairly treat the Catholic minority, and their aggressive military response did little to mitigate the violence. The very strength of their response invited challenge and resistance, which led to violent calamity and catastrophe. Understanding their own culpability, and moving towards a softer approach, allowed more moderate and reasonable voices to be heard, ultimately leading to a cessation of hostilities and a politicization of the PIRA.

Sitting down with the enemy is an often difficult, sometimes impossible task. Yet providing a less violent means of enacting change was the only strategy which had any measurable effect on the three-decade long cycle of violence in Northern Ireland.

 

Rory McDonnell, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

GTI

The Global Terrorism Index: Results and Implications in Latin America

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2022 was recently published. Terrorist attacks in Latin America, the terrorist groups that perpetrate the attacks, and the relationship between terrorism and conflict are highlighted within the GTI.

The results of this document can provide valuable information for decision-makers to address terrorist threats in the region and mitigate their impact.

The GTI Report

According to the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), the GTI is a comprehensive study that analyzes the impact of terrorism in 163 countries covering 99.7% of the world’s population. This report is compiled using data from Terrorism Tracker and other sources.

The GTI produces a composite score to provide an ordinal ranking of countries in terms of the impact of terrorism. The GTI scores each country on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 representing no impact of terrorism and 10 representing the highest measurable impact of terrorism.

A notable finding from the 2022 GTI includes that despite the increase in attacks, the impact of terrorism continues to decline. In 2021, deaths from terrorism decreased by 1.2%, while attacks increased by 17%, highlighting that terrorism’s lethality is decreasing.

Two-thirds of countries recorded no terrorist attacks or deaths, while 86 countries recorded an improvement in their GTI score.

The number of deaths has remained roughly the same over the past four years. The GTI also notes that terrorism remains an ongoing threat and is becoming increasingly concentrated, compounding in countries already suffering from violent conflict.

Latin America’s GTI Results

The GTI revealed that there are challenges in Latin America’s terrorism and security.  Although some countries have improved compared to 2021, some countries have worsened, which is a risk factor for their national security.

According to the report,  five South American countries improved their GTI score, four worsened, and two countries had no change.  Additionally, terrorism-related deaths declined by 41% between 2020 and 2021.

“However, the overall level of terrorism remains much higher than a decade ago, with Chile, Peru and Argentina significantly increasing their levels of terrorism in 2021, compared to 2011. In total, there have been 1,835 deaths from terrorism in South America since 2007, the fourth lowest total of any region.”

Also, common actors involved in the terrorist acts include Mapuche extremists and the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN).  In fact, the GTI notes that Colombia has the highest impact of terrorism in the region, a position it has held for the past decade, despite a minor improvement between 2011 and 2021.

Whereas Peru recorded one terror attack in 2021, which killed 16 people.  The attack was perpetrated by the Shining Path, a communist terrorist organization.

Finally, Colombia ranks 14th, Chile 18th, Peru 37th, Venezuela 46th and Ecuador 56th in their global GTI rankings.

Implications for the Region

The GTI report provides valuable information to analyze the number of terrorist attacks, impacted regions, casualties, annual changes, trends, and improvements or deteriorations in a country’s status.

Therefore, with the information from the GTI policymakers can make decisions focused on the challenges of their country or region.

In the case of Latin America, countries such as Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela must implement security policies focused on reducing the impact of terrorism in their states and reducing the capacity of terrorist groups operations.

Countries such as Brazil and Bolivia should continue to implement their existing practices and improve on their current vulnerabilities, in order to not drop in ranking.

Multilateral organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) should focus their efforts to provide assistance to the most affected countries.

Additionally, some of the countries most affected by terrorism have already taken action.  Colombia has taken counter-terrorism measures such as increasing the security footprint in cities like Cali, In Peru, President Castillo urged to prioritize the fight against terrorism and pandemics. Also, the recently elected President of Chile, Gabriel Boric, seeks to improve on counter-terrorism efforts in southern Chile.

In conclusion, Latin America faces threats from various terrorist groups, yet the threat level and impact varies between each country. Ultimately, terrorism is still an ongoing challenge in in Latin America and although efforts have been made to combat terrorism, it continues to affect the lives of countless innocent Latin Americans.

 

Daniel Felipe Ruiz Rozo, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

Air India

Counterterror Through History: Canada’s Greatest Mass Terror Attack

Too often while studying terrorism and counter terrorism, analysts cast their gaze to the present, looking to explain and solve threats in the moment. Like standing with your nose pressed against a billboard and trying to describe the image accurately, this type of analysis often lacks perspective. Stepping back and seeing the whole picture can reap great rewards in terms of understanding, and future prevention.

With that in mind, the 1985 case of Air India 182, Canada’s single largest mass killing and terrorist attack, will be examined in hopes of understanding how the Canadian Intelligence apparatus failed to prevent or even mitigate the harm.

Context

In June 1984 the Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi decimated a group of Sikh rebels who had taken shelter in the Golden Temple in Amritsar Punjab, the most holy site of Sikhism. Operation Blue Star killed hundreds of Sikh militants, the actual death toll remains unknown, and heavily damaged the temple. Expatriated Sikhs promised vengeance, and in October Prime Minister Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards; her murder triggered thousands of revenge killings against Sikhs across India.

Canada has a large population of immigrants from the sub-continent, and the violent backlash was reflected in these communities; an extremist group known as Babbar Khalsa openly demanded revenge against India. One Canadian leader said, “I give you my most solemn assurance, until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest.”

The Attack

The Air India attack was planned and financed with $3,000 in funds provided by a local businessman in Vancouver. Two suitcase bombs were placed on board flights bound for India in Vancouver.

The first bomb reached Tokyo Narita airport the morning of 23 June and exploded during the luggage transfer, killing two handlers.

The second bomb was placed on Pacific flight 301 to Toronto with transfers in Montreal, London, and Bombay. It exploded 200 kilometers off the coast of Ireland, bringing down the 747 with 329 persons on board, mostly Canadians of Indian descent.

Canadian Intelligence Failure

CSIS, the official Canadian Intelligence Service, is distinct and separate from the RCMP, Canada’s only federal law enforcement agency. In 1984 CSIS was still a new entity and was still finding its feet in terms of operations. Unfortunately, they stumbled off the block with the most devastating misstep in the history of Canadian high policing.

Despite having correctly identified Sikh extremists and listened in on conversations between cell members, even following suspects into the woods where they tested a bomb, CSIS failed to engage in any preventative action, including, as dictated by law, informing the RCMP that a major crime was being planned. Additionally, Indian intelligence was monitoring the Sikh community in Canada at the time and warned multiple times that acts of violence were being prepared.

The RCMP also failed to act on valuable intelligence. Three weeks before the attack, the Air India Intelligence service notified the RCMP that an attack on planes was imminent, at the time Air India only had two flights per week. The RCMP offered no response, in fact calling its canine bomb detection squads to a training meeting on the day of the attack, the only day with any Air India flights. The RCMP failed to share any information with CSIS, and the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE), the SIGINT and cryptology agency of Canada, which also had intercepts announcing an attack on flight 182 but did not share them with either CSIS or RCMP.

Why They Failed

In its formative years, CSIS viewed itself as entirely separate from police, gathering intelligence rather than proof. The RCMP had been plagued by controversy and corruption in the 1970s and as a result, an intense compartmentalization of government agencies became policy. On a legislative level, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was only two years old and had not been well defined in terms of actual “on the ground” implementation.

As a result, Canadian agencies were unclear about their role and failed to prevent the attack, despite having a great deal of forewarning. They were also incompetent in the following investigation, wasting millions of dollars towards a weak criminal case.

Lessons for Counterterrorism

Like so many terror attacks in the modern world, Air India 182 was preventable. A failure to cooperate between, and to clearly define the roles of, the governmental agencies involved, and to keep sight of the ultimate goal of police and intelligence agencies, to mitigate harm and protect the interests of the state, led to an avoidable tragedy.

In terms of actionable change, the priorities should include shrinking the gap between intelligence and prevention, creating a clearly defined strategy of what to do when imminent harm is detected, interdisciplinary sharing of ideas, and interagency cooperation to quickly address emerging threats. Parsing actionable intelligence from white noise and using it effectively to mitigate harm should be a focus of analysts in every intelligence agency.

Air India 182 remains the greatest terror attack and the largest mass murder in Canadian history. The failure was not in intelligence gathering, or the timeliness of the warning, but in the actual work of preventing harm and protecting innocent lives. Only by re-evaluating the response and analysis can such atrocities be prevented in the future.

 

Rory McDonell, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

Desperate Afghan Women Wait for U.S. Resettlement in Abu Dhabi

Authors note: The memo is written by evacuees’ representatives on behalf of the Afghan women residing in the Emirates Apartments complex known as Emirates Humanitarian City-EHC since August 2021, demanding US resettlement. An estimated 12,000 Afghan nationals were transported to Abu Dhabi between the months of August-December 2021 by the US government and private chartered airplanes. 

On this International Women’s Day, we demand an immediate US resettlement. March 8th also coincides with the day of free and brave women (girls, mothers, sisters) who raised their voices, urging immediate processing of their cases so we can get out of this bad condition. 

We are a large number of intellectual women who were engaged in different activities our the country; media, social, cultural, economic, and political, who we all opposed the Taliban ideology. Since the Taliban takeover, the mysterious killing of women activists in every sector and with every specialty has repeatedly been reported in the news and is a human rights violation.

We are stranded in Abu Dhabi for the past 6+ months, concerned about the future our of children and ourselves living in limbo. Every day, we wake up thinking and hoping something good to happen. We are hoping for a better life and nobody wanted this if it wasn’t because of the war and what happened in our homeland.

In August 2021, Afghanistan witnessed the “fall of the regime” and the whole governance of Afghanistan is now ruled by the Taliban. Since then, Afghan women who did not agree with Taliban ideologies and could not go back to the dark ages, have been evacuated with clear determination and have been forced to leave their homeland in various ways to save their lives.

In the first few days of the US noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO), due to the unorganized and chaotic evacuation, thousands poured inside Kabul International Airport (HKIA) via different means and later boarded on US C-17 and other civilian planes to various countries, mainly Qatar and later UAE. 

As everybody was running to the airport for their lives, it created fear and anxiety among the vulnerable people, including women who decided to run as well. Upon arrival at the airport, they were all evacuated by the US military. Many that were boarded on different planes to different countries under the same evacuation operation are being treated differently.

Those people whose lives were at risk as a result of their employment and other ethnic and religious were evacuated to Qatar and Abu Dhabi camps on charter flights with the help of US-backed private agencies. Those who reached Qatar, are in the US and started a new life while we are still in limbo in Abu Dhabi.

We want justice and transparency. Why our resettlement to the US is different from those Afghan evacuees that were transported to Qatar and then to the US? Why the United States has repeatedly stated that they have no responsibility to those who have been evacuated by the NGOs or Charter Flights?

Today the US government is either unaware or intentionally doing a double standard in the treatment of us versus those who boarded similar planes from the same airport. For example, those evacuated to Qatar in August, their documents were quickly reviewed and then resettled to their final destination, the United States. Sadly, we were evacuated to Abu Dhabi and then forgotten as we are being processed differently by the US government in regards to the processing of our documents, and urge the US government to apply the same process similar to those taken to Qatar.

We need answers from the US government on what will happen to us, women that have been promoted by the US and western world to shout for justice and freedom in Afghanistan the past 20 years? You gave us hope and supported us to stand against terrorism and tyranny as we worked towards the development of their country and then we were abandoned. Now that we are evacuated to Abu Dhabi by your permission (US Government), have to spend months and even years in the camp away from our loved ones who are living under harsh financial and mental conditions. We need immediate relocation to the US so we can start working and be able to support our left behind families financially.  

Thousands with no immigration cases or valid documents have already reached America, and the fact is that we are skilled and knowledgeable people here. Among us, there are women politicians, businesswomen, lawyers, judges, writers, journalists, and artists, most of whom are highly qualified and have years of work experience.

We are suffering from depression, mental illnesses due to the uncertainty of our future. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) provides us with three times meals a day inside the camps and occasional hygiene items and we are not allowed to go outside. We are grateful to the UAE government but we are no different than prisoners. We didn’t’ want this, you (USG) brought us here. The UAE government recently opened some schools and kinder garden.

Everybody in here says: “Life is not just about eating and sleeping.”

As we have observed, the Taliban regime is re-enforcing extreme Sharia law of their version, banning women from education, declined their jobs at the high level of the government or the private sector. Many were dropped out of school, excluded from social activities, and are not allowed to travel in and out of the city even without a confidant (Mahram). The world “remained silent” against the current Taliban, believing that the current Taliban are not the same ones as they were 20 years ago.

Many girls were killed for no reason, and even a group that raised their voices against Taliban oppression was killed, threatened, or fled, so the women in the camp cannot return to Afghanistan at all. They are here because they conflict with the Taliban ideology and their policies, and the Taliban are destroying those who oppose them. I hope that events such as the Ukraine-Russia war do not differentiate between Ukrainian women and Afghan women and put an end to this misfortune.

Congratulations on 8th March to the women around the world, as well as to the women of the Abu Dhabi Camps who have realized the months of waiting and future with their flesh and blood.

We want the world to hear our voices and take an immediate decision in regards to our resettlement to the US and third countries. 

On International Women’s Day, Afghan evacuated women request the International Community – especially the USA Specifically Kamala D. Harris – to reach out to Afghan evacuees in Abu Dhabi and take them out of the current limbo status. A total of 12,000 evacuated Afghans have been here since August 2021 with an unknown future.  Their voices need to be heard and the proper decision should be adopted on their resettlement process at the soonest possible.

Please do not forget us.

Yemen

The Forgotten Tragedy of Yemen

Yemen, a beautiful country with a rich culture and history, has been in a state of intractable crisis for years, following the scenarios of Somalia and Afghanistan. According to UNICEF, Yemen is home to one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. It has been estimated that 24 million people are in need of assistance and more than 100,000 people have been killed since 2014 when conflict erupted between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels (Shia) and the Saudi-backed Sunni government.

At the same time, the United States has implemented a counter-terrorism operation against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), thereby complicating the conflict even further. Despite the suffering and severe situation, there has been limited international attention to the conflict and the situation in Yemen has often been coined as “The Forgotten War”.

The Causes of the Conflict

Until 1990, Yemen consisted of two independent countries: YAR North Yemen and PDRY South Yemen. However, the unification sparked conflict and a civil war, which was eventually won by President Saleh who represented the north. While President Saleh had been the ruler for decades, he was ultimately ousted in 2012.

Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi won the 2012 elections to become Yemen’s president. His presidency was characterized by various issues, such as corruption and food insecurity.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels used this to their advantage and seized control of parts of Yemen in 2014. The Houthis slowly advanced into the capital Sanaa and forced President Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Violence From All Parties

In April 2015, the UN Security Council adapted Resolution 2216 that acknowledged Hadi as the legitimate president. Around the same time, a Saudi-led coalition launched a bombing campaign under the name of Operation Decisive Storm. The indiscriminate Saudi air strikes have been unrelenting and have targeted civilians, schools, markets, and hospitals.

In January 2022, dozens of people were killed when the Saudi-led coalition bombed a detention center in Northern Yemen, resulting in the deadliest month in Yemen since the conflict started.

At the same time, the Houthi’s have attacked the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with drones and missiles thereby spreading the war across borders. This Houthi attack was in response to an airstrike that killed Houthi members one day prior and was part of a larger Houthi strategy to end the involvement of the UAE in the conflict.

Special Attention: Children and Women

Actors on all sides of the conflict have recruited child soldiers, with some under the age of 15. The majority of child soldiers were recruited by the Houthi rebels, around 1,940 children in 2019.

Furthermore, there has been severe violence specifically targeted against women and girls.  According to UNFPA Yemen, “incidents of gender-based violence have reportedly increased by over 63 percent […] with over 10,000 such cases of violence reported in 2016 alone.”

Prospects of Peace

Due to the complexity of the conflict and the variety of actors involved, including Western states that sell arms to the Saudi-led coalition, it is difficult to determine effective solutions. Analysts point out that the distinction between civil war and sub-conventional conflict is blurred, thereby complicating the possibilities of a peaceful resolution.

It is not only analysts, but also others that worry about the future of Yemen. Martin Griffiths, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, mentioned in statement to the Security Council in February 2022 that the crisis “shows no sign of abating.” Instead, there is an escalation with on average, 21 civilians killed or injured every day by violence.

Ultimately, innocent Yemeni civilians are paying the heaviest price for the enduring conflict. The fear and reality are that until diplomacy is effective and all parties involved in the conflict realize that war is not the answer, innocent people will continue to shoulder the burden of the conflict.

 

 Vibeke Gootzen, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

Latin American

The Bear in Latin America: Russian Influences in Latin American Countries

Recent events between Russia and Ukraine have highlighted the support that some Latin American countries express for Moscow, which will likely translate into a greater Russian presence in the region in the coming years.

However, Russian influence in the region goes far beyond the support of certain Latin American countries for Russia’s military actions, but rather is a much deeper cooperative relationship.

Support at the UN

During the last UN General Assembly, UN member states voted to pass a resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The resolution was passed with 141 votes in favor, five against, and 35 abstentions.

Although no Latin American country appears in the five votes against, their presence was notable among the abstentions. Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua abstained from voting. Venezuela could not participate in the vote since it is ineligible due to current debts with the UN.

The position of these Latin American countries reveals the existence of a pro-Russian Latin American bloc, whose members expressed their arguments before the UN General Assembly.

The Cuban ambassador to the UN pointed out “the determination” of the United States to advance under the NATO umbrella on the Russian borders.

The Nicaraguan ambassador affirmed that there is a “military siege” on Russia, while the Bolivian ambassador affirmed that the Western powers, through NATO, are jeopardizing the security and peace of other states.

The statements of the abstaining Latin American countries may be influenced by Russian actions across Latin America throughout the last few years.

Agreements Between Allies

Venezuela was unable to vote in the UN General Assembly, however, its support for Russia is evident. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has said on multiple occasions that President Putin has his “full support.” Following the phone call, President Maduro tweeted an old photo of himself and President Putin shaking hands, and has blamed the conflict on the “destabilizing actions of NATO.”

The current Russia-Venezuela relationship has its beginnings since the government of Hugo Chavez, who made multiple deals with Russia on economic and military cooperation. These agreements have resulted in Russia sending hundreds of advisors, military experts, computer scientists, and intelligence officers to the Caribbean. Venezuela has extensive Russian-made military equipment, including Sukhoi fighter jets, helicopters, missile defense systems and tanks.

In January 2022, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov threatened that he could “neither confirm nor rule out” the possibility of sending Russian troops to Venezuela and Cuba if the U.S. and Europe did not curtail their escalating military activities in Eastern Europe.

Russia has already sent Tupolev fighter jets and warships to Venezuela for military exercises on at least three separate occasions and the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA has a business branch in Moscow to process transactions.

With Cuba, their relationship with Russia has also been extensive and long-lasting.  Before the Russian-Ukrainian war, it was announced that Russia and Cuba will deepen ties and explore collaboration in transportation, energy, industry and banking.

The two countries have cooperated on economic and debt issues. In fact, Russia has agreed to postpone some Cuban debt payments until 2027, just days after the two countries announced they would deepen ties amid the growing crisis in Ukraine. The loans, worth $2.3 billion, helped finance Cuban investments in power generation, metals and transport infrastructure, according to a statement from the lower house, or Duma.

Additionally, Russia has sent humanitarian aid to the island, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, including a ship filled with medical aid to mitigate the impact of the virus.

In regard to Nicaragua, Russian aid has resulted in military cooperation, turning Nicaragua into one of the strongest military forces in Central America.   Nicaragua has received T-72 tanks, Yak-130 fighter trainers, An-26 transport aircraft, TIGR armored vehicles, ZU-23 antiaircraft systems, Mizrah patrol boats and Molina missile boats, among other systems.

Moreover, it was confirmed that Russia is considering expanding military cooperation with Nicaragua. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that “for more than 40 years we have been providing technological and military support to [Nicaragua’s] Army, and we will continue to provide our support.”

The relations of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela with Russia are of such magnitude that Jon Piechowski, advisor to the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, stated that the impact of the sanctions on Russia will affect Latin America in the coming days due to their economic ties.

Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are the core of the Latin American pro-Russian bloc. However, other countries in the region have strengthened their relations with Russia.

Such is the case of El Salvador, whose president, Nayib Bukele, has a trip scheduled for July to Russia, which may explain the abstention of the Central American country in the UN General Assembly. For some years now, Bukele’s government has sought rapprochement with Russia and China, which has caused the United States to express its concern.

As for Bolivia, ties with Russia have also strengthened in recent years.  In 2021, the Bolivian Foreign Minister visited the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs. The meeting resulted in the strengthening of their commercial ties and the exploitation of lithium and gas.

Finally, earlier this year, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez offered to make Argentina Russia’s “gateway to Latin America.” Another notable collaboration with Russia occurred when Argentina received the Sputnik V vaccine at the beginning of the pandemic. As expected, President Fernandez’s gesture was a concern for Washington D.C.

In regard to Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro visited the Kremlin before the Ukrainian conflict and noted that “President Putin is a person who seeks peace. And no one in the world is interested in a conflict.” President Putin praised Brazil as Russia’s main trading partner in Latin America. Both countries have strong diplomatic and economic relations, especially with fertilizer products.

Despite the actions of the presidents of Argentina and Brazil, their representatives at the UN did not abstain in the Assembly vote. However, it is likely that their relationship with Russia will continue to strengthen in the future.

Future Implications of Russian Influence in the Region

Relations between Russia and its allied countries will very likely continue and strengthen due to Russia’s current international isolation. The Latin American pro-Russian bloc and Russia need each other in order to stay afloat.

Cooperation between states will be reflected in increased economic ties, military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and political support in multilateral cooperation organizations.

However, the strengthening of relations between Latin American countries and Russia will be a continuous concern for NATO and those countries not aligned with Russia.

Latin America could become a zone of dispute if Russia increases its influence in the region.  NATO will also seek to strengthen its alliances with its Latin American regional allies, including in military cooperation.

For the time being, all that remains is to monitor the evolution of events and advise policy makers in the region to prepare for foreign governments attempting to insert themselves into regional affairs, in an effort to preserve peace and stability in Latin America.

 

Daniel Felipe Ruiz Rozo, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

Ukraine

How the U.S. is Assisting Ukraine Against Russia’s Attacks

Russian-Ukrainian tensions have persisted since February 2014 and have now escalated to war. Currently, U.S. troops located in Europe are on high alert as Russia moves further into Ukraine. Since the first day of attacks, Russian missiles have bombarded Ukrainian cities and military sites.

While attacks erupted in Kyiv, crowds of people flocked into trains and fled in their cars. President Biden has issued new sanctions towards Russia stating that President Putin has imposed this war and has set a dangerous precedent that nations can take what they want by force.

U.S Troops and NATO’s Mission

U.S. troops have several missions, but the primary message sent to Russia is to not attack NATO and their members, particularly those abutting Russia’s eastern border.  Some NATO members stated that they have a bad history with Russia and wanted reassurances.

The U.S. and other members of NATO have sent forces, troops, helicopters and equipment to the Baltics, Poland, Romania, and many other eastern European members of the NATO alliance.

Some U.S. troops in Poland may help with the refugees migrating from Ukraine into Poland. Recently, NATO had an urgent meeting to organize forces in eastern Europe to prevent Russia from trying to move beyond Ukraine. There is also an appeal from the Baltics’ government to help arm Ukrainian forces so they can defend themselves.

President Biden’s Decision

President Biden concluded that the U.S. is not going to engage in war with Russia or place military troops on the ground in Ukraine. Ukraine is in a very challenging situation, given that their military is smaller than Russia’s and that currently the U.S. and NATO members are not planning on sending military forces to assist.

Ultimately, the conflict has persisted and continues to escalate. However, it is possible that Ukraine could efficiently combat Russia, depending on where Russia deploys military troops and how much territory it attempts to control. Currently, it is unclear if Russia could successfully occupy or control large amounts of the Ukrainian population and territory without significant retaliation.

The Impact of Russia’s Invasion

One of the largest attacks by Russia thus far has left at least nine people dead and dozens of children injured after a Ukrainian school was destroyed. Missile fragments left at the scene of the attack left a clear mark that Russia was behind the senseless attack.  Even worse, after further analysis it was discovered that the attack was actually the result of a cluster munition, which is a banned weapon by 110 countries.

Russian forces have intentionally targeted civilians all the while negotiating peace talks. Ultimately, this conflict is leaving Ukraine on the verge of a significant humanitarian crisis.

The Ukrainian Military

The Ukrainian Army and Air Force have put up a strong resistance and continue to slow down Russia’s advances. The U.S. has indicated that the Russian government is growing increasingly frustrated by their lack of progress.  The Ukrainian military has demonstrated that it will not backdown without a fight and can be effective against Russian troops.

Ultimately, Ukrainians have demonstrated their courage by calling up their military reserves and citizens volunteering to take up arms in the fight against Russia. Ukrainian citizens have displayed a unified and brave front as they fervently defend their homeland.

 

Mildred Miranda, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

Putin

President Putin’s Tsarist Imperial Nationalism

The worst-case scenario is unfolding, a full-scale air and land attack from multiple directions is striking Ukraine, and the attacks have already killed over 40 soldiers and 10 civilians. The Russian Federation, led by President Putin, has instigated a a war of aggression to showcase unnecessary hegemony over a neighbor in an attempt to gain the world’s attention, and Belarus has shown support towards Russia’s actions.

The aim of this war, as stated officially by Russia, is to overthrow the Ukrainian government and carry out an ideological cleansing of Ukraine. Russia’s actions seem to emulate the actions of the Taliban during their annexation of Afghanistan. Ultimately, this conflict between Russia and Ukraine has spurred global actions and could significantly escalate if the threat of nuclear power increases.

As per Russia’s strategy, they first launched strikes on Ukraine’s military infrastructure and border guard units, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Then, Ukrainian forces stated that Russian military vehicles had crossed the border near Kharkiv in the north, Luhansk in the east, Russian-annexed Crimea in the south and from Belarus. Belarus’s authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko said his country’s military were not involved but could be if needed.

Russian tanks were later seen on the outskirts of Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people. Additionally, Russian forces reportedly landed by sea at Ukraine’s major port cities of Odesa on the Black Sea and Mariupol on the internal Sea of Azov.

The casualties are the latest result after a series of fast-paced advancements that began when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday, February 24th. Following President Putin’s invasion order, explosions were reported in several areas of Ukraine and air sirens went off in Kyiv, indicating that the capital city is under attack.

Ukraine’s National Emergency

The first blasts rang out just minutes after President Putin gave a televised speech Wednesday evening stating that he was authorizing military action. President Putin warned other countries that if they tried to intervene, they would face a Russian response “so severe that no foreign nations have ever experienced it before.”

Ukrainian officials reported that cruise or ballistic missiles targeted military control centres in the area of the capital, Kyiv. Russian forces also broke through the state border of the Kiev region, according to a post on Telegram from Ukraine’s Ministry of the Interior.

Ukrainian President Zelensky stated that the country has severed diplomatic relations with Russia after Moscow launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.

President Zelensky has declared martial law in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister vowed to fight and defeat Russia.

Putin’s Escalation and Dominance Propaganda

After attempts to shut down Russia’s power, Russia reminded the world of its nuclear arsenal over the weekend with nuclear weapons tests overseen by President Putin himself.  It is high time Russia prioritizes global responsibility for its national interests.

After the declaration of war, Ukraine will not surrender without a fight and is calling on the international community to support their efforts in defending itself from Russia. All the while Russia attempts to sustain its global interests and preserve domestic support for its efforts, its actions have been viewed as irrational and heinous among much of the international community.

 

Manasvini Rao, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

Armed Strike

Three Days of Terror: The ELN’s Armed Strike and its Implications for Colombia

The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla announced the beginning of an armed strike in Colombia occurring from February 23 – 26, 2022. Multiple terrorist actions have been registered throughout the nation’s territory, primarily affecting civilians.

The ELN’s armed strike demonstrates the revitalization of this guerrilla group and its capabilities to carry out attacks in Colombia. It is likely that this is the first of many strikes and that guerrilla terrorism in Colombia will increase in the future.

The Statement

On February 20th, the ELN published a statement announcing an armed strike with the aim of completely paralyzing Colombia’s commercial activities. The goal of the strike is to protest against the government and the policies of the current Colombian president, Iván Duque.

In addition, the document published by the ELN states that the population will only be able to mobilize for humanitarian reasons related to funeral activities or hospital emergencies. The ELN recommends, for security reasons, that individuals stay in their homes or workplaces and avoid displacements.

A few hours after the announcement, the Colombian Minister of Defense, Diego Molano, stated that the Colombian Public Forces are prepared to face the threats of the insurgent group and that the statement seeks to generate fear among Colombians.

Three Days of Attacks

On February 23rd attacks began throughout Colombia.  Approximately 18 terrorist actions were registered, especially in the department of Norte de Santander.

One attack on the first day of the armed strike included an explosion in Cúcuta, Norte de Santander, which caused the death of Jelly, an anti-explosives dog, and injured her caretaker.

A few kilometers away, in the municipality of Los Patios, Norte de Santander, a suspicious package with a red and black ELN flag was reported, which was successfully detonated.

Likewise, a truck painted with the colors of the ELN flag was found blocking the road between Cúcuta and the municipality of Sardinata.

In the municipality of Pailitas, Cesar, the ELN detonated a bomb on the Los Trujillos bridge that connects Pailitas with the municipality of Curumaní. In the same municipality, three trucks were incinerated in a village.

On the Pan-American highway between Popayán and Cali, men armed with rifles, wearing camouflage and ELN armbands created a roadblock and set fire to a truck, blocking the road for several hours.

Another relevant attack on the first day of the armed strike occurred in San Gil, Santander, where an explosive was detonated on a road, injuring six workers of the National Roads Institute (Invías).

Terrorist attacks continued into the second day of the armed strike.  In Fortul, Aracuca, ELN militiamen attacked the town’s police station with rifle fire and grenades, while at the same time taking pictures to spread propaganda.

Moreover, in Ricaurte, Nariño, the ELN incinerated the car of a villager and left banners alluding to the organization along the road. Additionally, ELN members killed Julio Victoria Cárdenas, a social leader in Litoral San Juan, Chocó.

During the third day of the armed strike the unrelenting attacks continued. On the Cúcuta-Ocaña road, two alleged ELN members blew up a stretch of the road by leaving an explosive device inside a culvert.  Also, in  Neiva, the capital of the department of Huila, an ELN flag  was found hanging from a bridge.  Finally, in Pelaya, Cesar, the ELN destroyed part of a bridge with explosives.

The Implications and the Future of the ELN in Colombia

The ELN guerrilla armed strike represents a challenge for Colombian authorities, especially since the attacks were strategically carried out a few days before the country’s legislative elections.

It is likely that the armed strike is a show of force by the ELN, a terrorist group which remains in an armed confrontation with FARC dissidents. More importantly, these attacks demonstrate the ELN’s logistical and weapons capacity, allowing them to carry out terrorist acts simultaneously in several departments throughout Colombia.

With imminent political elections, more attacks may occur in the near future. Some hypothesize that attacks may even occur on election day, in order to generate as much terror as possible among Colombians.

Additionally, the attacks may be an attempt to consolidate the ELN’s power in the Colombian territories and force negotiations with the Colombian State, like the government previously did with the FARC.

However, despite the ELN’s possible objectives and short and long term goals, the Colombian State must ensure the reestablishment of public order in the territories most affected by terrorist attacks, especially on election day.

Troop deployments are needed in the departments with the greatest ELN presence in order to confront the guerrillas and reestablish territorial control, and more importantly the population’s confidence.

It is recommended that the Colombian State efficiently employ its counterinsurgency and counterterrorist warfare capabilities to mitigate the impacts of ELN attacks, at least until a permanent solution to the conflict is developed.

 

Daniel Felipe Ruiz Rozo, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

Rise to Peace