Monday, September 23, 2013

Massacre in Nairobi

For my core thoughts, please read my latest piece for the National Review Online.

Here are two further thoughts.

1) The attack undoubtedly involved a significant degree of operational planning. This preparation likely included advance reconnaissance, specific training and a considerable mobilization of manpower and resources. In this vein, it's telling that the US Intelligence Community apparently had no information to suggest a major attack was about take place. Combined with reports which suggest that three Americans may have participated in this atrocity, the US government appears to lack a satisfactory intelligence penetration of the al-Shabab network. This is a serious concern. Over the past few years, a number of Americans have traveled to Somalia to fight alongside al-Shabab. Others have provided the group with funding support. As is the case regarding US Citizens in Syria, a major fear is that Americans in Somalia will return to the United States to conduct attacks (see my recent piece on Zawahiri). In the aftermath of this incident, we can expect a beefing up of the FBI's East-Africa focused counter-terrorism teams.

2) The attack matrix was clearly orientated around a Mumbai 2008 style model: a heavily armed force seeking maximum destruction against a soft target. The cell's objective - to stay alive as long as possible - to kill as many people as possible. Due to the fact that shopping centers attract large crowds but lack major security capabilities, locales like Westgate are exceptionally difficult to protect. A further complication- mobile cells of suicide attackers pose a serious challenge for responding tactical teams. Counter terrorism officers must balance hostage rescue efforts with the containment of the attackers. The first priority is to prevent terrorist skirmishing squads from breaking off into various parts of a city.

Relevant thoughts - 'Other' section

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