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EU Security Union Strategy: Connecting the dots in a new security ecosystem

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European Commission sets out a new EU Security Union Strategy for the period 2020 to 2025, focusing on priority areas where the EU can bring value to support Member States in fostering security for all those living in Europe. From combatting terrorism and organised crime, to preventing and detecting hybrid threats and increasing the resilience of our critical infrastructure, to promoting cybersecurity and fostering research and innovation, the strategy lays out the tools and measures to be developed over the next 5 years to ensure security in our physical and digital environment.

Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said: “Security is a cross-cutting issue which goes into almost every sphere of life and affects a multitude of policy areas. With the new EU Security Union Strategy, we are connecting all the dots to build a real security ecosystem. It is time to overcome the false dichotomy between online and offline, between digital and physical and between internal and external security concerns and threats. From protecting our critical infrastructure to fighting cybercrime and countering hybrid threats, we can leave no stone unturned when it comes to our security. This strategy will serve as an umbrella framework for our security policies, which must always be fully grounded in our common values.

Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs, said: “Knowing you are safe, online, in public, in your home, for your children, builds trust and cohesion in society. With today’s Security Union Strategy, we focus on areas where the EU can make a difference in protecting people throughout Europe, anticipating and tackling evolving threats. In the coming years, my work on the EU’s internal security will build a system that delivers, starting today with action on child sexual abuse, drugs and illegal firearms.

This strategy lays out 4 strategic priorities for action at EU level:

A future-proof security environment

Individuals rely on key infrastructures, online and offline, to travel, work or benefit from essential public services; and attacks on such infrastructures can cause huge disruptions. Preparedness and resilience are key for quick recovery. The Commission will put forward new EU rules on the protection and resilience of critical infrastructure, physical and digital.

Recent terrorist attacks have focused on public spaces, including places of worship and transport hubs, exploiting their open and accessible nature.The Commission will promote stepped up public-private cooperation in this area, to ensure stronger physical protection of public places and adequate detection systems.

Cyberattacks have become more frequent and sophisticated.  By the end of the year, the Commission should complete the review of the Network and Information Systems Directive (the main European cybersecurity legislation) and outline strategic cybersecurity priorities to ensure the EU can anticipate and respond to evolving threats.  

In addition, the Commission has also identified the need for a Joint Cyber Unit as a platform for structured and coordinated cooperation.

Lastly, the EU should continue building and maintaining robust international partnerships to further prevent, deter and respond to cyberattacks, as well as promote EU standards to increase the cybersecurity of partner countries.

Tackling evolving threats

Criminals increasingly exploit technological developments to their ends, with malware and data theft on the rise. The Commission will make sure that existing EU rules against cybercrime are fit for purpose and correctly implemented, and will explore measures against identity theft.

The Commission will look into measures to enhance law enforcement capacity in digital investigations, making sure they have adequate tools, techniques and skills. These would include artificial intelligence, big data and high performance computing into security policy.

Concrete action is needed to tackle core threats to citizens, such as terrorism, extremism or child sexual abuse, under a framework ensuring the respect of fundamental rights. The Commission is putting forward today a strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse online.

Countering hybrid threats that aim to weaken social cohesion and undermine trust in institutions, as well as enhancing EU resilience are an important element of the Security Union Strategy. Key measures include an EU approach on countering hybrid threats, from early detection, analysis, awareness, building resilience and prevention to crisis response and consequence management – mainstreaming hybrid considerations into broader policy-making. The Commission and the High Representative will continue to jointly take forward this work, in close cooperation with strategic partners, notably NATO and G7.

Protecting Europeans from terrorism and organised crime

Fighting terrorism starts with addressing the polarisation of society, discrimination and other factors that can reinforce people’s vulnerability to radical discourse. The work on anti-radicalisation will focus on early detection, resilience building and disengagement, as well as rehabilitation and reintegration in society. In addition to fighting root causes, effective prosecution of terrorists, including foreign terrorist fighters, will be essential – to achieve this, steps are under way to strengthen border security legislation and better use of existing databases. Cooperation with non-EU countries and international organisations will also be key in the fight against terrorism, for instance to cut off all sources of terrorism financing. 

Organised crime comes at huge costs for victims, as well as for the economy, with €218 to €282 billion estimated to be lost every year. Key measures include an Agenda for tackling organised crime, including trafficking in human beings for next year. More than a third of organised crime groups active in the EU are involved in trafficking illicit drugs. The Commission is today putting forward a new EU Agenda on Drugs to strengthen efforts on drug demand and supply reduction, and reinforce cooperation with external partners.

Organised crime groups and terrorists are also key players in the trade of illegal firearms. The Commission is presenting today a new EU Action Plan against firearms trafficking. To ensure that crime does not pay, the Commission will review the current framework on seizing criminals’ assets.

Criminal organisations treat migrants and people in need of international protection as a commodity. The Commission will soon put forward a new EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling focussing on combatting criminal networks, boosting cooperation and support the work of law enforcement.

A strong European security ecosystem

Governments, law enforcement authorities, businesses, social organisations, and those living in Europe all have a common responsibility in fostering security.

The EU will help promote cooperation and information sharing, with the aim to combat crime and pursue justice. Key measures include strengthening Europol’s mandate and further developing Eurojust to better link judicial and law enforcement authorities. Working with partners outside of the EU is also crucial to secure information and evidence.  Cooperation with Interpol will also be reinforced.

Research and innovation are powerful tools to counter threats and to anticipate risks and opportunities. As part of the review of Europol’s mandate, the Commission will look into the creation of a European Innovation hub for internal security.

Skills and increased awareness can benefit both law enforcement and citizens alike. Even a basic knowledge of security threats and how to combat them can have a real impact on society’s resilience. Consciousness of the risks of cybercrime and basic skills to protect oneself from it can work together with protection from service providers to counter cyber-attacks. The European Skills Agenda, adopted on 1 July 2020, supports skills-building throughout life, including in the area of security.

Background

In recent years, new, increasingly complex cross-border and cross-sectorial security threats have emerged, highlighting the need for closer cooperation on security at all levels. The coronavirus crisis has also put European security into sharp focus, testing the resilience of Europe’s critical infrastructure, crisis preparedness and crisis management systems.

President von der Leyen’s political guidelines called for improved cooperation to protect all those living in Europe. Today’s EU Security Union Strategy maps the priority actions, tools and measures to deliver on that objective, both in the physical and in the digital world, and across all parts of society.

The strategy builds upon progress achieved previously under the Commission’s European Agenda on Security 2015-2020 and focuses on priorities endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council.

It also recognises the increasing inter-connection between internal and external security. Many work strands will build on a joined up EU approach and implementation of the strategy will be taken forward in full complementarity and coherence with EU external action in the field of security and defence under the responsibility of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The Commission will regularly report on the progress made and will keep the European Parliament, the Council and stakeholders fully informed and engaged in all relevant actions.

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The Irony of Afghanistan: US Plans Departure amidst Anarchy

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A family runs across a dusty street in Herat, Afghanistan. (file photo) UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya

The peace and prosperity in Afghanistan have been a mere myth for decades. With a succession of invasion by a blood-ridden Taliban rule followed by a 2-decade long US invasion, the said country has seen little tranquillity when it comes to human rights and secure living. While the US vowed to ensure a democratic regime laced by a rule of law in Afghanistan, the withdrawal seems anti-climactic: especially after spending trillions of dollars and suffering thousands of soldiers in warfare. As the egress nears, however, the one glimmer of hope dwindles faster than expected. The hope of peace. It is ironic, however, as to how an invasion initially programmed to contain terrorism is culminating whilst the transition witnesses similar bloodshed and instability.

The Taliban have been infamous for launching attacks against the Afghan armed forces and the US military on a perpetual basis. Not to mention hundreds and thousands of civilians facing the raucous vigilantes for years. While the agreement ensured the safety of the foreign soldiers, however, the civilians continue to face the brunt. The recent attack in the capital city of Kabul is a prime example of how the world superpower leaves the battlefield after instigating the barbaric factions for almost 20 years.

The bombs detonated last Thursday in the neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, resonating the community pithing the peripheries. The Shia-Hazara community, the largest community in the region, was the main target (as it has been for years by both Taliban and Islamic State). The targeted school rendered a majority of female students who were conceived to be the main target instead of their religious affiliation. Regardless of the underlying intent, the attacks left 68 dead while 165 victims are still struggling in hospitals. The sheer brutality of the attacks signifies how brazen the rebels stand in their positions while the western powers stagger off the mainland under a facade of victory when all that has been achieved is a fragile democracy and a ravaged land that potentially stands open to any militant group even before the forces exit.

Surprising, unfortunate, and even maudlin is hardly the sentiment to describe the brutality. It is the outright indifference that incriminates the US in the warfare that follows its exit. As the officials collect stationery and books strewn across the street, doused in blood, the US is blame-worthy to the slaughter that would most likely not be the end of the tyranny of the militants. The fact that is ridicule-worthy, however, is that the Taliban attended the mediation talks recently and ensured order and calm in Afghanistan, attesting to their will to enforce Shariah in Afghanistan whilst not meddling or overthrowing the government in the ensuing of the US egress. Mere days and the streets are coated with blood especially as Eid festivities are marking the same streets scattered with the remains of the innocent.

While the Taliban denied any involvement in the recent attack, either side poses a problem. If the involvement is in fact a reality, like it has been on similar occasions in the past, the gruesome fact stands tall. No one can stop the Taliban from spreading chaos if they truly want to. The pervasive nature of their rebellion could be gauged by a thorough historical analysis. A group that reached the United States in 2001 and a group that could not be withered by legendary powers like the Soviet Union in the 80s. The Taliban have steered the negotiations and even the US is aware of the leverage they enjoy given it is their homeland whilst the foreign forces have failed to dent their vice-grip on the terrain of Afghanistan.

If, however, the Taliban are taken true to their word, this poses a far sinister possibility. The attacks signify an underground nurturing of an offshoot militant group, possibly the IS or Boko Haram. With US and NATO exiting in September, the Ghani-regime struggling to ensure stability, and the Taliban holding power in scores, anarchy is much more plausible than tranquillity. The US withdraws from the land in the name of ending the endless war. The reality, however, is that the US is receding from an endless war. The war that was ignited by the US would continue to burn with or without the US. The difference is the switch from armed personnel to innocent students and minorities. It is a matter of perspective and, well, ownership and acceptance.

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5th Generation Warfare: A reality or Controversy?

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In the truest sense, the constant repetition of phrase ‘the 5th generation warfare’ by our military leaders in every media conference has been true in the light of the exposition of the Indian sinister campaign against Pakistan in the ‘Indian Chronicles’. Those who were mocking the idea of 5th generation warfare in the context of Pakistan need to revisit their opinions, suggestions and warfare analysis.

Needless to say, Pakistan is facing enormous threats across its borders. The temperature has been red hot in the East and west borders of the country. Since the government of the Modi in its absolute fascistic endeavors took over the valley of Kashmir, the idea of the 5th generation warfare has become incredibly important to understand the volatile and emerging situations. While the India is accusing Pakistan regardless of its pathetic human rights violation in Kashmir, it seems that the war of demonization continues between these two arch-rivals.

Technically speaking, the dossier that Pakistan has recently published of its intelligence reports which clearly indicate the network of India that has been put in place to malign Pakistan and to come true in its ominous ambitions. In the light of the possible threats, Pakistan has to protect the CPEC projects from India and all the workings going on along the one belt and road project as we have undeniable evidence of the threats to the projects. Amid the rivalry of India and Pakistan, there is a play of world super powers as well as both America and China wants to expand their influence in the Asia, and Middle East.

If one belt and road initiatives stand tall in the face of the foreign funded attacks it would become the strength of the country in the near future. Along with protection of the OBOR projects Pakistan needs to understand the fact that it needs regional players to take part in OBOR extension to raise the stakes in it so that other regional actors will help making OBOR a successful economic venture. Since South Asia has been at the center of war from the last three decades only economic success is deemed to cut this root out. It will hopefully carry out people who have been radicalized because of the prolonged war on terror and the subsequent longest war of America in the Afghanistan territory.

The root cause of the Pakistani society of becoming violently rogue has been due to the pathetically designed strategic policies. Now, every effort on the part of the state must ensure economic progress. Wading into foreign wars, in the name of saving Islam has proved detrimental and counterproductive. The recent dossier that Pakistan has published largely identified this fact that the fallout of extremism and the wide network of India has exploited the regional issues, especially secessionists movements, in the country. It is time for our state to take responsible actions against these terror hideouts. Naming them or just publishing a dossier would not make difference until the whole infrastructure of the terror sites raze down to Earth.

The intelligence report that Pakistan has published certainly brought some results to the fore. One, India has been demonized subsequently more prominently in the Arnab Goswami case where it has been openly told to the world that India had fake surgical strikes inside Pakistan. This whole drama was just a political tactic by the BJP party to win in the general elections lately. This proved to the world that India has been maligning Pakistan and its interests in the world. But things are unsettling now. Time has come for India to take upon itself the weight of  its sinister plans against a neighboring country.

It is also theoretically important for the state of Pakistan to really see the emerging trends in the lens of 5th generation warfare as military cadre has been pointing repeatedly in every media conference. If one see the attacks on the infrastructure of the OBOR, insurgents activities along the Durand line, and through the case of Aranab Goswami case, it is vividly clear that the nefarious activities in the guise of 5th generation warfare are true.

There are many political commentators in the Dawn Newspaper who have downplayed the visible threats of 5th generation warfare calling it a facade because of their abnormal understanding of the emerging situation in south Asia. That is why to understand a situation like surgical strikes that too fake one, one is left with no choice but to look up to the themes like 5th Generation warfare.

Until we expose India and our many other enemies through precise and strategic actions with the help of our strategic think tanks, Pakistan will not grow up economically because for economic ease peace is the necessary condition. The core strategy of Indian so far has been deploying maximum pressure upon Pakistan. It is true that India has been successful in some way to malign Pakistan. Visibly, Pakistan has made a lot of investment in the building up of the infrastructure for OBOR projects but apparently our intra-regional trade has been dipped to 7.4 down from 12.2 percent in 2011. It means we have been massively slowed down by India with the help of rising up temperature at the borders and planning attacks inside the country.

All in all, 5th generation warfare has been true in the context of Pakistan. To understand this, we need to connect the dots. The connection of Pakistani intelligence dossier, to attacks inside the country, to Arab Goswami case  and to the Indian lab of disinformation proves the fact that 5th generation warfare is not lost on us. It is a time to rethink on these lines as we will have a tough time in balancing our economy through OBOR, opening intra-trade to maintain political instability in the country.

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China’s quad in the making: A non-conventional approach

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Politics of alliance can be traced to the ancient times of the East and the West. Since it affects the core interest and security of individual states, the leaders concerned seek for alliance partners in order to meet the threat they face and the gains they can expect from alliance. The U.S. has maintained its superiority in military and also created the largest alliance system in the world. Now seeing the rise of China as one strategic competitor in the 21st century, the U.S. has made all efforts to create a “quad” along with Japan, Australia and India in the Indo-Pacific. This leads to an inquiry into how China reacts to the containment led by the U.S.?

China has maintained the high-level of strategic partnership with Russia, Pakistan and now Iran. Yet they aim at strategic consensus, economic connectivity, mutual respect and equality in a challenge to any unilateral hegemony. Due to this, China’s version of the “quad” is more flexible and pragmatic in winning over states with different cultural, religious and ideological backgrounds. Yet the Biden administration has made it clear that it moves to establish a “quadruple” alliance along with Japan, Australia and India in order to insure the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific still to the U.S. favor. To that end, on March 12, the first summit among the four countries revealed their collective security talks on everything from vaccine distribution to fighting climate change, yet also including their viewing China’s efforts to modernize and professionalize its military as a strategic competition in Asia and the Pacific.

Only days after President Biden’s drive for a “Quad” in the Indo-pacific, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made his visit to China during March 22at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. This reveals the high-level quality of the relations between the two largest Eurasian powers and their agenda has deepened across nearly all dimensions of the comprehensive strategic partnership, such as from diplomacy and defense to economic and technology. The growing ties between China and Russia have aimed to establish a multipolar order that dethrones the US as the global hegemon. In light of the deteriorated relations between China and the U.S. alongside the EU, and between Russia and the Western bloc, the meeting is of strategic implications for China and Russia to consult regularly on the latest issues. Though not ready to forge a military alliance in a traditional way as indicated, China and Russia are actually confident in each other to meet any challenge of the world. The latest announcement that Russia and China would jointly construct a space station on the moon (ILRS) is another great leap forward in the establishment of what is described as the “Sino-Russian alliance in the making”. It clearly reveals that cooperation has become operationally more consequential than the frequently touted democratic partners between the U.S. and India.

During the 1990s,Joseph Nye warned the prospect of the “alliance of the aggrieved” coming from Russian and Chinese strong passion for national glory. Yet, it is very the awkward statecraft of the U.S. that has led China and Russia deftly to overcome conflicting national interests that should make them adversaries on the bilateral, regional and global issues. As Lavrov said prior to his visit, “the model of interaction between Russia and China is free from any ideological constraints. It is of an intrinsic nature, not subject to any opportunistic factors nor against any third countries.”

If the Sino-Russian strategic partnership is seen as the “strategic alliance”, the solidarity between China and Pakistan has been termed as “batie”, referring to “brothers in ironclad”. It is true that China’s normal relations with Pakistan started in 1951 and since1962, the bilateral relations have been transformed into a de facto alliance regardless of the differences in religions and ideologies. Cooperation has covered nearly all aspects from politics to economic and from military to foreign affairs over the past decades. Diplomatically, Pakistan has committed to one-China policy while China has made all endeavors to support its sovereignty, security and stability. Geopolitically, the two sides have worked closely on the joint projects like JF-17 aircrafts, civilian nuclear power plants and the peaceful settlement in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led NATO presence in the war-torn land is seen as a threat to common interest of the two countries and the stability in South Asia as well. Accordingly, Pakistan isseen as one of the key strategic partners of Beijing’s global links, along with Russia and North Korea.

Additionally, in China’s security and development agenda such as the BRI, Pakistanis sure to be a vital partner in light of the decades-long friendship and its location in South Asia near to Strait of Hormuz which links the Middle East. China has invested heavily in the region while it depends on oil, gas and many other energies. To that end, the project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been expected to enhance the strategic connectivity between the two sides to a new high-level strategic convergence. It is in a broader term, alliance forms when states have common interests and strong consensus to pursue them. For example, China, Russia and Pakistan have shared compatible interests in a constructive and inclusive solution to end the civil war in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through agreements on the formation of a coalition government with the participation of the Taliban movement.

Now an inquiry is whether China along with Russia and Pakistan would move toward a Eurasian bloc including Iran. On March 27, Chinese FM Wang Yi formally visited Iran, yet what China seeks for in the Middle East is not a traditional alliance like the NATO or the “Quad” in the Indo-Pacific as the U.S. has driven for. Rather, as Beijing reiterated, China acted to persuade the countries concerned to stay impervious to external pressure and interference, to independently secure its own interests in light of the regional peace and stability. Accordingly, China wants to project itself an image as a peaceful power unlike the U.S. and its allies which aim to pursue the exclusive privileges and unilateral interests in the Middle East and beyond.

During Wang’s visit, “the plan for China-Iran comprehensive cooperation” was signed with a view to taping the potentials for enhancing economic and cultural cooperation in a long run. It is said that a 25-year agreement would be able to upend the prevailing geopolitical landscape in the West Asia which has for so long been subject to the United States. Moreover, Iran has forged a de facto alliance with Russia and a strategic cooperative partnership with China. Yet, this plan is essentially a large-scale economic development agenda for Iran which has been illegally sanctioned by the United States. To that end, China and Iran vowed to support mutually on the issues related to their core interest and major concerns, including general opposition to any hegemon dictating international affairs. In effect, China has urged that the United States should first take a step to lift unilateral sanctions against Iran, and return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), instead of making unreasonable demands on Tehran.

Some people have argued that the interaction of China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran can everywhere outline new geopolitical vectors, which must be taken into account by the U.S. and its allies. It is also true that without the political involvement of Pakistan, China and Russia, the peaceful settlement of the crises in Afghanistan are quite unthinkable. First, China still follows its long-term principleof non-alliance in foreign affair. Second, though stronger economically, China is a new external power with limited knowledge of the region. Considering the prospect that a high-profile deal with Iran may have been met with some backlash from the Gulf states that traditionally see Iran as an adversary, a plan involving economic cooperation is more pragmatic and necessary. Politically it is wise and rational that China-Iran plan fits within its five-point initiative to achieve security and stability in the Middle East, such as mutual respect, equity and justice, non-proliferation of nuclear weapon, collective security and common welfare.

In sum, advancement of China’s quad requires even more focus and attention nowadays. In light of this, the best thing for China to do is to make sure a long-term stability and prosperity in the entire region. For sure, China has pursued its diplomatic goals in accordance with its ancient culture and contemporary grand mission.

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