Drones: From Technology to Policy, Security to Ethics

«Drones: From Technology to Policy, Security to Ethics». Poster for the conference organized by the ISN and ETH Global. Image: ISN

Rapid technological advances are making drones cheaper, more accessible and highly adaptable. Once the exclusive preserve of the world’s most advanced armed forces, unmanned platforms are now being used by civilian actors for a wide range of applications. Yet, while members of the technical community have tended to emphasize the opportunities that this technology offers, their counterparts in international relations and other fields have increasingly raised questions about the legal, ethical, humanitarian and security implications of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Against this backdrop, ETH Global and the ISN recently hosted a one-day conference that brought together over 160 experts from the fields of robotics, environmental science, law and ethics, and international relations and security. Since ETH Zurich is considered one of the world’s leading ‘competence centers’ in the field of robotics systems and control, its activities offer a glimpse into emerging UAS technologies and their potential social impact in the future.

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Charlie Hebdo: The Balkan Connection

A demonstrator in Strasbourg holding up a ‘Je suis Charlie’ sign. Image: Jwh/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by World Affairs on 4 February, 2015.

Officials in both the Paris State Prosecutor’s office and Bosnia’s Ministry of Defense have now confirmed that the ammunition used in the Charlie Hebdo attacks was produced in Bosnia, and officials now believe that the weapons used in the attacks may have come from Bosnia as well.

Although it is still too early to say with any certainty how these arms and munitions made it to Paris, all of this is hauntingly reminiscent of similar such incidents in the past, such as the murder of Dutch film producer Theo van Gogh, in which, according to veteran Washington Post reporter Douglas Farah, the murder weapon had also been traced to Bosnia (other sources claim the weapon was produced in Croatia). There are other Balkan connections to the recent Paris tragedy as well. The “mentor” of Amedy Coulibaly (who killed a police officer and four other people in the attack on the Parisian kosher grocery store) and Chérif Kouachi (one of the brothers who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices) was Djamel Beghal, a man who had been originally recruited by Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants and a man with both Bosnian citizenship and a Bosnian passport. Beghal himself was an associate of another Bosnian jihad veteran, the imam of London’s Finsbury Park mosque, Abu Hamza al-Masri, recently sentenced to life imprisonment in US federal court. » More

Chad: Taking the Lead in the War on Boko Haram

The President of Chad, Idriss Déby. Image: Rama/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Strife on 6 February 2015.

The ground offensive in Gamboru, in which over 200 Boko Haram fighters were reportedly killed, followed several days of air raids against the militants and is the latest in a string of successful strikes by Chad against the Islamist group. As Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks in recent weeks, so Chad has stepped up its military presence in neighbouring countries: Chadian troops now operate in Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria. On 29 January, Chadian forces drove the Islamists out of the Nigerian town of Malum Fatori after attacking their positions from across the border in Niger. In mid-January, Chad deployed its military to Cameroon to assist its neighbour in fending off Boko Haram’s incursion into its territory and recapture Baga, the Nigerian border town ravaged in a massacre earlier that month. » More

Inspired, Networked & Directed – The Muddled Jihad of ISIS & Al Qaeda Post Hebdo

Place de la Bastille in Paris during a demonstration in memory of the journalists killed in a terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. Laurent Tine/flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 12 January 2015.

The jihadi movement may have finally become what its original luminaries always wanted it to be – and in Paris of all places. The amorphous connections between the Charlie Hebdo attackers, the Kouachi brothers – who attributed their actions to “al Qaeda in Yemen” – and kosher market attacker Amedy Coulibali – who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a recently released online video – may reflect exactly what some early jihadi strategists intended: broad based jihad via a loose social movement. Terrorism researchers, obsessed with the writings of their academic adversary in jihad, Abu Musab al Suri, have for years suggested the social movement approach represented the ultimate vision of al Qaeda’s founding leadership. » More

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The New Face of French Jihad

Fighters of the Islamic State (IS). Image: Day Donaldson/Flickr

This article was originally published by the World Policy Blog on 8 December, 2014.

On Sunday, November 16, the Islamic State posted a video featuring the beheading of one American aid worker and 14 Syrian soldiers. While this macabre ritual has become somewhat routine, this beheading caught the attention of French authorities, who recognized the face of Maxime Hauchard, a 22-year-old man raised in a quiet, rural village of Normandy. He embodies a new generation of fighters recruited from an unexpected landscape and motivated by an entirely different set of reasons than his militant counterparts. » More

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