Counter-Terrorism: Finding The Weak Link

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December 16, 2015: The November 13th ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) attack in Paris put an uncomfortable focus on the problems Belgium has had in dealing with Islamic terrorism. While Europe has some 20 million Moslems most are concentrated in about ten countries, each with different practices for dealing with Islamic terrorism. Not surprisingly the most active Islamic terrorists soon gravitated to the European nation with the least effective counter-terrorism policies. Currently that is Belgium and that is where the Paris attack was planned and organized. Belgium knew it had a Islamic terrorist problem because it had the highest number of known Islamic terrorists (per capita) in Europe and now the world knows that these men were not being effectively tracked by hundreds of local police forces who were notorious for that lack of cooperation or passing information onto a central organization.

Belgium is one of the most dysfunctional nations in Europe, largely because it is divided by cultural and language differences. About half the population are French speaking while the rest speak Dutch and both sides have not learned how to get along, or at least not as well as other nations with similar divisions (like Switzerland). As a result the country does not have much sharing of intelligence information at the national level and the politicians tend to concentrate on the culture war rather than the threat of Islamic terrorism.

The unfavorable attention because of the Paris attack has led to Belgium increasing spending on counter-terrorism efforts and trying to institute more effective use of the information collected by the all those normally uncooperative police departments and the understaffed national intelligence agency. More people are being hired for all this but given past experience major change may not occur. Because of that the other EU (European Union) nations will be watching closely, hoping for a miracle.

At the moment the local Islamic terrorists have hunkered down to see if the atmosphere will be permanently dangerous for them. If so the more dedicated Islamic terrorists will seek another part of Europe where it seems safer to operate. The Islamic terrorists do offer an unwritten promise to not carry out attacks in their sanctuary country. That makes sense, although in the past it was now always done. Europe has never been comfortable about even discussing this “sanctuary immunity” arrangement even though it has been in play since the 1960s.

 


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