Tag Archives: Tunisia

Synopsis on President Obama’s Strategy to Degrade and Destroy ISIS

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On the evening before the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, President Barack Obama outlined his strategy “to degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. He started his speech by noting that while terrorism can be mitigated, it cannot be totally eliminated. Transitioning to ISIS, he described the organization as not being “Islamic” and not being a state. The President then noted what makes ISIS so unique – its sheer brutality, its ability to hold territory, and its attraction for foreign fighters. Then, he described current American foreign policy actions against ISIS, including airstrikes against the terrorist group in Iraq and building coalitions with partners in the Middle East. Thus, the Commander-and-Chief described the previous actions of the U.S. against ISIS in Iraq.

The President then pushed a new initiative, “a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” in the Middle East. He subdivided this strategy into four parts. The first part of the plan is to “conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes” against ISIS in Iraq and now Syria. The next part is to increase military support for the Syrian opposition. He also authorized the deployment of 475 more troops to Iraq to build up their forces, raising the total number of American military personnel there to 1,600 troops. The third part of the strategy is to employ threat mitigation techniques to detect and to deter ISIS attacks on the U.S. Homeland. The final part of the plan is to provide humanitarian aid to displaced persons in Iraq and Syria. President Obama emphasized that this plan had international support as well as bipartisan support in Congress. Thus, the strategy President Obama outlined had four parts – airstrikes against ISIS, military support for the Syrian opposition, counterterrorism to protect the U.S. Homeland, and providing humanitarian aid for civilians.

President Obama concluded his speech by attempting to strengthen the U.S.’s morale for as sustained counterterrorism campaign. The Commander-and-Chief then vowed any action in Syria or Iraq would “not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”  He then noted his multilateral approach stating, “Use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges.” He then noted the history of 9/11 and the Great Recession, but then noted America is still a leader on the global stage – including that America “rallied the World against Russian aggression,” led the struggle in containing Ebola, and removed Syrian WMDs. He concluded the speech with the motivating words, “Our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead.” President Obama sought to rally the crowd by portraying ISIS as an expanding evil while stressing America’s role in the international community.

The speech was commendable in seeks to degrade and destroy ISIS; however, several key actors and factors were ignored. President Obama did not mention the Kurds or the peshmerga at all, and they are responsible shareholders in a multiethnic Iraq’s future. Furthermore, 20,000 foreign fighters have or are currently fighting in Syria. Of these 20,000, 100 fighters are American passport holders. Of these 100, at least a dozen are fighting for ISIS. These foreign fighters can easily become terrorists, and need to be monitored and tracked. Additionally, ISIS has executed Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff, causing me to question whether the American government has reviewed its policy of hostage negotiations with terrorists. Another point of concern is over whether the U.S. – specifically the CDC – has the resources to deal with an ISIS biological attack in the form of the bubonic plague – as files were retrieved from an ISIS computer suggesting a cell was looking into using this technique. While the change of strategy in Syria and Iraq will be more proactive in countering ISIS, it is not enough to guarantee the safety of the American Homeland.

FACT SHEET: Security Governance Initiative

Office of the Press Secretary
Washington, D.C.
August 6, 2014

Foreign Policy

FACT SHEET: Security Governance Initiative

Today the President announced the Security Governance Initiative (SGI), a new joint endeavor between the United States and six African partners that offers a comprehensive approach to improving security sector governance and capacity to address threats.

Africa is a dynamic and diverse region that is experiencing significant gains in economic growth and development, and African states are increasingly stepping up to confront security challenges. But transnational and domestic security threats hinder progress, and gaps in security capacity to address both internal and external challenges persist. These threats include terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and others, which remain active on the continent; illicit activities – such as trafficking (drugs, humans, weapons, and wildlife) and piracy – which tear at the security fabric and help fund criminal, and in some cases extremist, activities; and domestic and regional conflict.

A New Presidential Initiative

Against this backdrop, the United States remains committed to working with our African partners and providing assistance to strengthen their security sectors. The SGI is a new Presidential Initiative that offers an enhanced approach to security sector assistance beginning with six countries: Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

• Each of the six countries has demonstrated partnership with the United States, expressed a desire to strengthen its security sector, and committed to the core elements of the initiative.

• In the initial year, $65 million would be dedicated to the initiative. In subsequent years, the United States will provide additional funding commensurate with maturing program needs and expansion to additional countries.

• Together, the United States and participating African countries will work to improve security sector institution capacity to protect civilians and confront challenges and threats, with integrity and accountability. To support a longer term focus, SGI will involve multi-year funding commitments of increased U.S. support and will require sustained, high-level leadership and commitment by partner countries to pursue policies in support of the agreed upon goals.

Key Features

Partnership and results are at the core of SGI. Together with our SGI partner countries, the United States will assist in developing joint strategies based on assessments and the determination of priorities and objectives. Regular evaluations of programs will guide adjustments to assistance based on achieved results. To execute the initiative and ensure maximum effectiveness of U.S. assistance, the United States will form a dedicated SGI team to be housed at the Department of State with support from the Department of Defense, the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security.

SGI is a distinctive approach that:

• Focuses on the systems, processes, and institutions that reinforce democratic security sector governance;

• Uses rigorous analysis, shared data, and agreed upon goals, and is supported by regular measurement and evaluation;

• Matches targeted investments with willing partners to strengthen specific military and civilian institutions; and

• Relies on commitment and accountability for results on the part of the United States and our partners.

The key goals and objectives of SGI are to:

• Increase partner nation capacity to meet citizen security needs, such as accessing justice, countering transnational threats, and contributing to regional and international security and stability;

• Prevent or mitigate instability and conflict and counter terrorist activities and their enabling environments;

• Advance U.S. interests and strategic goals, including promoting democratic governance, rule of law, respect for human rights, and long-term economic development while improving the effectiveness and sustainability of other U.S. security sector assistance investments and activities; and

• Deepen the impact of U.S. investments in countries that show leadership and political will to make reforms and policy decisions necessary to improve security sector governance.

SGI will focus on civilian and military security institutions and the ministerial functions that provide state oversight of the security sector. SGI programs will differ in each country, reflecting specific partner country challenges, goals, and objectives. For example, a country emerging from conflict may focus on strengthening law enforcement sector institutions – such as the national police, gendarmerie, and national guard – to provide effective, sustainable, and consistent law enforcement, community policing, and response to critical incidents in urban areas. Additionally, SGI could focus on the justice sector – for example, strengthening a Ministry of Justice’s and Director of Public Prosecution’s ability to lead a government-wide effort against terrorism and other transnational crimes, provide oversight and accountability, and ensure effective and accountable corrections management. In a more developed country that is a security exporter, for example, SGI could focus on enhancing capacity across security and rule of law institutions (e.g., defense, interior, and justice ministries). In all partner countries, SGI will build security sector capacity – in both military and civilian institutions – through a comprehensive approach with targeted assistance that entails sustained leadership commitment from both the United States and partner countries.

Desert Ambush – AQIM Militants Slay Tunisian Soldiers

Tunisian soldiers patrolling on the Algerian border.
Tunisian soldiers patrolling on the Algerian border.

On July 17th, Islamic militants affiliated with AQIM attacked Tunisian soldiers at an outpost with RPGs and light arms, killing 14 and wounding 20. The terrorist hasty attack occurred in the vicinity of Mt. Chaambi near the Algerian border, a porous and mountainous region ideal for insurgencies.

The attacks have led to increased public criticism of the Tunisian government. Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa has created a “crisis cell” to coordinate government action in response to this attack. The Tunisian army, which is relatively small and inexperienced compared vis a vis to other African armies, has received equipment from the U.S. and Europe for counterterrorism operations. The army has engaged numerous threats from Libya, Algeria, and Mali, including AQIM, Ansar Al-Sharia, and the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade. As counterterrorism operations continue in insurgency spawning regions, casualties will continue to mount on both sides.


For more information see:

Al-Arabiya News. “‘Terrorist’ ambush kills 14 Tunisian soldiers.” July 17, 2014. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/africa/2014/07/17/Tunisian-soldiers-killed-in-terrorist-ambush.html

Al-Jazeera. “At least 14 Tunisian troops killed in mountain attack.” July 17, 2014. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/17/at-least-14-tunisiantroopskilledinmountainattack.html

BBC. “Tunisian soldiers killed in attack near Algerian border.” July 17, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28341318


What the Arab Spring Tells Us About the Future of Social Media in Revolutionary Movements

Lindsey, Richard A. “What the Arab Spring Tells Us About the Future of Social Media in Revolutionary Movements.” Small Wars Journal. July 29, 2013. http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/what-the-arab-spring-tells-us-about-the-future-of-social-media-in-revolutionary-movements.

Lindsey contends in his thesis that “the future of revolutionary movements in globalized societies will involve social media is assured, but the degree to which it will is yet to be determined.” He argues that social media “facilitate[d], not create[d]” the conditions need for the regime change of Arab Spring. Some ways social media facilitated the movements included the dissemination of propaganda, recruitment of volunteers, and intelligence gathering. However, Lindsey argues that social media did not create the conditions need for revolt, as the digital networking is based off of “weak links” and operated in concert with other forms of creating mass political movements, such as person-to-person contact and other forms of media. My conclusions from this article are that: the twenty-first century will expand the media clout of non-state actors – NGOs, protestors, terrorists, and individuals – who will capitalize on social media to facilitate their command and control.

Al Jazeera English. “Social Media and Revolution in the Arab World.” The Stream. February 18, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAuxNXmAbyY

Arab Spring Timeline

Arab Spring Timeline, courtesy of the Daily Mail U.K.
Arab Spring Timeline, courtesy of the Daily Mail U.K.

Blight Garry, Sheila Pulham and Paul Torpey. “Arab spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests.” The Guardian. January 5, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2011/mar/22/middle-east-protest-interactive-timeline.

This multimedia interactive has a detailed timeline from December 12, 2010 through December 17, 2011 on the Arab Spring protests that swept the MENA region.[1] The analysts used a simple typography, diving up events by a key (Protest/Response to Protest, Political Move, Regime Change, and International/External Response). The countries included Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, and Yemen.[2] Each event has a brief synopsis and links to pertinent Guardian articles. The key changes over this period are: people in the MENA region gradually evolved to see themselves more as citizens of a state than subjects of an administration, and the growth of web-based epistemic communities through social media as a vehicle for reform.


BBC on Arab Spring

New Libyan Army, courtesy of the BBC.
New Libyan Army, courtesy of the BBC.

The BBC has a network page dedicated to the Arab Spring revolts across the Middle East and North Africa. It is a great overview of the rapid changes in states, on a country by country basis, including Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia. It is truly a great synopsis.

BBC. “Special Report: Arab Uprisings.” December 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12813859