sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year - New Threat?

h/t Galran at Information Dissemination

The Osen-Hunter Group is a global, private security company that issues daily intelligence assessments, similar to the intelligence services of the popular STRATFOR service. Today's analysis concluded with an assessment worth consideration:

Assessment: Just as a strike against an American ship in the Suez would double the value for AL QAEDA, we would warn that Mombasa is a port of concern, given its proximity to southern Somalia where AL SHABAAB is strongest and where piracy contacts in the Kenyan port authority are ample. Inasmuch as this represents a second reference to ships at sea – unprecedented in a single AL QAEDA statement – we make the following, unequivocal judgment:

We assess a direct, grave threat, by AL QAEDA, against U.S. Navy warships and U.S.-flagged vessels. Moreover, if U.S.-flagged merchantmen are still steaming anywhere in the U.S. FIFTH FLEET Area of Responsibility without armed security, they do so now at a considerably elevated risk.

In this connection, we should also note a reference to the Fort Hood massacre and a call to Muslims “in the Crusader armies” and “agent governments” to replicate the 5 November killings at Fort Hood. We would interpret this as a call on sufficiently radicalized sailors to sabotage warships. They come to this conclusion based on an observation that I do think is certainly noteworthy. On December 27th, Al Qaeda in Yemen (AQIY) responded to airstrikes in the eastern province of Shabwa conducted by Yemen air force with new threats. 

“And lastly, we call upon the proud tribes of Yemen—people of support and victory—and the people of the Arabian Peninsula, to face the crusader campaign and their cooperatives on the peninsula of Muhammad, prayer and peace upon him, and that’s through attacking their military bases, intelligence embassies, and their fleets that exist on the water and land of the Arabian Peninsula; until we stop the continuous massacres on the Muslim countries."

While not unheard of, it is uncommon for any Al Qaeda statement to mention attacking western fleets or attacks on water in general. Plenty of threats discuss planes, bases, and embassies... but rarely targets at sea. That is why the Al Qaeda in Yemen AQIY claim of responsibility for the Christmas airline attack was also interesting. 

“We call upon every Muslim protective of his religion and doctrine to remove the polytheists from the Arabian Peninsula and that’s through killing every crusader working in the embassies or other places, and you ought to declare it a full-scale war against every crusader in the [Arabian] Peninsula of Muhammad, Allah’s prayer and peace upon him, on land, on water, and in the air.”

The Osen-Hunter Group's assessment is in direct response to threats made by Al Qaeda against sea targets twice in one week, because as it turns out, Al Qaeda has never made threats against targets at sea twice in one week, ever.

If you have followed the fallout from the underwear bomber, the only clear conclusion is that the Department of Homeland Security, and in particular Secretary Janet Napolitano, got caught with their pants down. They had no plan of action in place to respond to the attempted bombing of the airline, and when the event took place on a slow news day like Christmas, it became the only thing to talk about and a major issue to the American people.

So now everyone is talking about the event, and to make things worse, now we have instant experts on everything from underwear bombs to Al Qaeda in Yemen, and in many cases those "experts" couldn't name the Capitol city of Yemen if they had a gun to their head. In politics, actual expertise is completely irrelevant though, and that is the problem. The STRATCOM fallout from the bomber got out of control quickly, and with no coherent response ready to either a successful terrorist attack or even a failed attack, DHS looks like an agency of fools.

Consider some of the questions. It will be noted that piracy in 2009 peaked in that region, highest level in decades. It will be noted that Al Qaeda is operating not just in Yemen, but Somalia, and Iran will be a constant point of discussion. It will be noted how important oil transport at sea is. The multi-national effort in the Gulf of Aden will be discussed, which will lead to topics such as the Chinese and Russian naval vessels in the region. They may bring up the UN statistics for the human trafficking in the region, stunning numbers of human suffering. Most importantly though, they are going to ask what the Navy is doing there and if the Navy is lucky, they won't ask for some form of tangible results of naval operations...

but what if they do?