HUMANITARIAN AID OPERATIONS
A SECURITY PERSPECTIVE
Humanitarian aid operations present a myriad of safety and security concerns for those who carry out these life-saving missions across the world.
Government staffers, aid workers, contractors and volunteers inherently find themselves in the midst of natural disasters, famine, mass population displacement, armed conflict, refugee waves and other crises.
Other factors affecting the health and safety of these extraordinary rescuers include global or local political environments, shelter availability, sanitation, education barriers, cultural acceptance, police and security support as well as youthful inexperience.
In recent years, the deliberate targeting of aid workers for violent attack has also come into focus.
Humanitarian aid group members have been abducted for ransom or intelligence gathering, taken hostage for the purposes of political bartering, attacked in bombings and executed for religious-ideological purposes. In the last 10 years, over 3,000 aid workers have been the victims of major attacks. More than 1,000 of them were killed while in the service of others.
EVOLVING TERROR THREATS
Islamic State, al Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamist terrorist-insurgent groups have a penchant for exploiting transnational organizations. Organizational infiltration has affected government-run humanitarian aid agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations entities, contracted refugee agencies, port authorities and a number of interrelated trade services. Poorly integrated vetting processes have also enabled terrorist-insurgents to penetrate national immigration systems, national political refugee petition processes and related contracted services. A shortlist of countries recently impacted by these intrusion patterns include: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, France, Belgium, Greece, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria and Somalia.
Infiltrators have posed as internally displaced persons, immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, “boat people,” NGO administrators and in at least one publicly known case, a smuggling boat captain.
Additionally, in 2015, Islamic State leaders began to turn international border control on its head—implementing a macro economic ruin strategy designed to leverage mass population displacement. This strategic action plan generated starvation and housing crises of epic proportions with the intent of forcing terrorized families by the hundreds of thousands across the borders of neighboring states, and in turn, into Europe. The multifaceted maneuver cleverly allowed for: 1) the smuggling of operatives among the despondent waves of victims seeking refuge; 2) circumvented standard immigration controls; and 3) facilitated the covert transport of insurgent agents across multiple borders to set up shop elsewhere. Most remarkably, the comprehensive plot targeted and drained the financial coffers of their Western adversaries by effectively exploiting their sense of justice and good will.
OTHER TERROR METHODOLOGIES THAT IMPACT HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS
Islamists across the globe and to a lesser extent, Maoist guerillas in India, have historically exploited administrative support positions and local service industries for: 1) the purposes of supply transfer (bombs, bomb components, bullets, passports, personnel, etc.); 2) reconnaissance or persistent surveillance; 3) access into sensitive areas; and 4) sabotage. Documented concealment activities have involved mole and operator insertion into food, livestock and water distribution networks; transport services (buses, terminals, taxis and auto repair); delivery services (mail and other goods); construction outfits; foreign guesthouse services; and local political offices. Amazingly, even wholesale phony NGOs have also been uncovered.
The humanitarian aid community has additionally experienced feigned vehicle accidents leading to employee abductions, false arrests by terror-linked outfits posing as uniformed security officers and the prearranged bombing of medical facilities receiving patients from mass-casualty events.
Trenchant sees terrorist-insurgent surveillance and insider information as serious hazards to today’s globally-linked humanitarian aid operations.
It is our position that the goodwill and rescue communities receive continuous exposure to, if not formal training in, situational awareness, surveillance detection, vetting, attack recognition, force and resource protection, route security, escape planning and self-defense.
Trenchant’s Global Terrorism Methodologies and Trends report aids immensely in this endeavor by exposing readers to:
- Big-picture situational awareness.
- Terror methodologies and ruses in use around the world.
- Criminal threats and techniques currently crossing borders and culture.
- The evolution of security vulnerabilities.
- Insight to future threats and terror-paths not previously identified.
Trenchant recognizes the greatest tripping mechanisms for terrorists and criminals are at the points of everyday contact and observance.
Humanitarian staffers, workers, contractors and volunteers are in that front line mix day in and day out.