This memoir serves as a powerful work laying bare what it is like to experience a terrorist attack. It also serves as a fitting warning of our need to learn, and sadly often re-learn, the lessons of the past to prevent future failures from occurring.
There are several bilateral and multilateral agreements among nations to support inter-intra agency coordination and cooperation. There are also global security institutions such as United Nations Counter Terrorism Centre and its sister agencies such as United Nations Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force. However, many of these agencies continue to operate independently. This is apparent in the case of the United Nations Security Council designated Counter Terrorism Directorate and the United Nations Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate that have few operational partners within the European Union and yet to begin meaningful interactions with NATO.
The question that must be faced is this: Can the EU manage its vast resources to maximise its information sharing with partner agencies and tighten its grip around radical Islamic factions returning to Europe? To answer this question and provide an appropriate response to various other underlying questions, we must better understand foreign fighter factions, their agenda, and their operational mechanism.
Historically a commercial crossroad, Yemen sits at the junction of three continents—Europe, Asia, and Africa—and three major maritime expanses—the Indian Ocean, as well as the Red and Mediterranean Seas. Previously, it was a zone for exchange and mobility, channeling international trade, financial transactions, and human migration. Recognized by Roman geographers as Arabia Felix, Yemen was once known for its waterfalls, fruitful land, trade, and civilization. In the past few decades, Yemen has been increasingly recognized as a fragile state on the brink of failure. While the recent war has brought Yemen closer to failure, the divided country is resiliently ahead of total collapse, but remains plagued by a nexus of economic, political, and security challenges.
It has been some time now since the husband and wife team of Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik committed their act of terrorism in San Bernardino, California–a story that has popped back up in the news because of the FBI court case requiring Apple to unlock the couple’s iPhone. In the aftermath, as a way to determine a motive, investigators initially focused on a garbled message on Facebook left by Malik. The message purported to claim an allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. This led many in the media–and armchair analysts online–to confirm that the attack was at least inspired by IS. But digging deeper into the lives of Farook and Malik revealed a more al Qaeda-style ideology. The fact that Malik was involved in the shootings suggests more al Qaeda than Islamic State. Why? Because of the roles women play in each organization.
In the fall of 2010 in Kunar, as the more active period of fighting subsided, we began to take a second look at the day-to-day intelligence reports we had amassed in an attempt to better understand the enemy. We had a lot of material to sift through, as there were a number of intelligence teams operating in the area. As you might be able to tell from the picture above, we tried to have a little fun with the process as well.