The CSS Blog Network

For America, 2016 Was the Year of the Commando

Special Operation Soldiers of the United States Army Special Operations Command

Courtesy USASOC News Service/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

This article was published by War is Boring on 5 January 2017.

They could be found on the outskirts of Sirte, Libya, supporting local militia fighters, and in Mukalla, Yemen, backing troops from the United Arab Emirates. At Saakow, a remote outpost in southern Somalia, they assisted local commandos in killing several members of the terror group Al Shabab.

Around the cities of Jarabulus and Al-Rai in northern Syria, they partnered with both Turkish soldiers and Syrian militias, while also embedding with Kurdish YPG fighters and the Syrian Democratic Forces. Across the border in Iraq, still others joined the fight to liberate the city of Mosul. And in Afghanistan, they assisted indigenous forces in various missions, just as they have every year since 2001.

For America, 2016 may have been the year of the commando. In one conflict zone after another across the northern tier of Africa and the Greater Middle East, U.S. special operations forces — aka SOF — waged their particular brand of low-profile warfare.

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Peering into a Murky Crystal Ball; Where Will Africa be in 2030?

Somalia Famine Food Aid

Courtesy of Surian Soosay/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 5 January 2017.

Africa will miss most of the internationally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the target date of 2030. But it might just reach ‘escape velocity’ enabling it to break out of its extreme poverty orbit by 2045 or 2050.

This is the sense of experts who participated in a seminar on Africa’s future at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria recently.

‘Almost no Sustainable Development Goals will be met without truly revolutionary improvements in governance and the way services are delivered,’ said ISS chairperson Jakkie Cilliers, who also heads the institute’s African Futures and Innovation programme.  Even in an optimistic ‘Africa Rising’ scenario projected by the ISS, most African countries would not meet the 17 SDGs.

The principle SDG is to eliminate poverty. But extreme poverty (quantified as living on US$1.90 per person, per day or less) was unlikely to be eliminated by the 2030 SDG target date in any plausible scenario, Cilliers said.

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What We’re Reading: Recommended Books From 2016

Painted pages

Courtesy of Lenna Young Andrews/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 15 December 2016.

As 2016 comes to a close, the Global Observatory offers a list of notable books published throughout the year, recommended by staff of the International Peace Institute.

Arab Spring: Negotiating in the Shadows of the Intifadat, edited by I. William Zartman (University of Georgia Press)

Though the process is still very much still in progress, there has been no shortage of attempts to explain the origins, trace the trajectory, and draw out the conclusions of the Arab uprisings. However, the attempt by I. William Zartman in his edited volume Arab Spring: Negotiating in the Shadow of the Intifadat stands apart. This very prolific professor of international relations has over the decades—and through the pages of some 20 books—turned conflict resolution into an academic discipline in its own right. In the process, he has defined its parameters. Zartman is therefore uniquely equipped to place the tumultuous recent events of the Arab region in their proper historical and academic context. These were—and still are—a set of developments determined by a desire for change from an old to a new order and, therefore, at heart involved a negotiation of that transformation. It is through this lens that Zartman offers a conceptual framework for negotiating transitions, with a team of experts—most of them from the very countries where the events they describe took place—providing their insights. There is also a chapter on South Africa and another on Serbia, which serve as points of comparison. Recommended by Jose Vericat, Adviser.

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The EU’s Winter Package for European Security and Defence

Marauder Blueprint

Courtesy of Pascal/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in December 2016.

The security and defence of of the European Union touches on a core area of national sovereignty. Lack of political will and mutual trust among EU member states has long been an obstacle to achieving the treaty objectives and has blocked the framing of a policy that could lead to a common defence. In recent years, defence budgets all over Europe have been slashed in an uncoordinated manner, hollowing out most member states’ capabilities. For this reason, the leaders of the EU member states meeting at the December 2013 European Council decided to buck the trend. But delivery has lagged behind.

Tapping into the political momentum generated by the fraught security climate in and around Europe, the prospect of Brexit and the unpredictability injected into US foreign policy by the election of Donald Trump, the European Council has now endorsed a ’winter package’ to strengthen the common security and defence policy of the Union. It has urged speedy implementation by institutions and member states alike.

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Smart CCTVs: Third Eye of Secure Cities

CCTV

Courtesy Steve Rotman/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in December 2016.

Synopsis

Many cities around the world are exploring the use of Smart CCTVs as advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) offer operational value for homeland security. However, cybersecurity and overreliance could impede the technology’s potential.

Commentary

Following recent terrorist incidents, Germany’s Interior Minister announced in August 2016 that CCTV cameras at airports and train stations will be enhanced with facial recognition technology. Likewise, the New York Police Department has developed the Domain Awareness System that uses similar technology to track and monitor potential suspects.

Globalisation increases the exposure of cities to myriad transnational threats even as growing urbanisation is putting the strain on law enforcement by increasing the densities of population, property and critical infrastructure to be safeguarded in each precinct. These inherent challenges in protecting cities – population and economic centres that make attractive soft targets – necessitate the early warning and identification of threats. Smart CCTVs support this function as the third eye of cities by complementing the vigilance of police officers and the community.

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