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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bureaucratic Response to Paris Attacks--Give Us More Money and Power

The Small Wars Journal has published a piece by John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus titled "Urban Siege in Paris: A Spectrum of Armed Assault." The authors write:
In 2009, we laid out a conceptual model of terrorist “urban siege” based on the Mumbai attacks.  As noted by several observers, the recent terrorist attack in Paris on the Charlie Hebdo offices may have succeeded due to the unfortunate fact that security officials expected other attack modes (such as airline bombs), not a run and gun in the heart of an urban center. 
While it would be tempting to posit Paris as another bloody data point explained by our conceptual schema, Paris is in fact cause for broadening and expanding it. Unfortunately, the world faces urban security threats that span a spectrum of organization and lethality.  Future threats may look like Mumbai (as has been seen in the Mumbai-like operation against the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi) or they may resemble Paris. And there is a large spectrum of threats that occupy the threat envelope in between.
 The solution (or at least, problems to be addressed) are, according to the authors:
The threat of simultaneous attacks, follow-on attacks, and the tangled web of influence this situation involves complicates operational response. Police must assume from now on that attackers might derive logistical support, inspiration, funding, and/or direction from a diverse combination of local, regional, and extra-regional sources. Moreover, they cannot also assume that one large attack by an attacker group is all they must contend with – synchronized attacks may occur designed to augment the execution and impact of one attack mission. Campaigns containing multiple simultaneous (or near-simultaneous) and/or sequential attacks (including attacks or engagements during exfiltration and escape) must be accounted for and demand the development and employment of operational art for urban battle. 
In other words, large cities need large counter-terrorism (and crowd control) units "equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and the machine guns that are unfortunately sometimes necessary in these ­instances.”

Of course, the authors' analysis is self-contradictory. While including the Paris attacks in their theory of urban "siege" ("I don't think that word means what you think it means"), they actually highlight the differences. The urban siege model was based on the Mumbai and Kenyan mall attacks (and supported by the Taliban attack on a Pakistani school). In those attacks, as the authors describe, a tightly coordinated group of heavily armed attackers went into their targets intending to hold the target (i.e., hotel, shopping mall, school) against assaults from military and police while executing as many hostages as possible. In Paris, the attack against the Charlie Hebdo office was undertaken by a small group (two, as far as we know) in a quick in-and-out attack who subsequently attempted to allude police and escape the country. The separate hostage situation at a kosher deli appears to have been largely independent of the Charlie Hebdo attack--obviously, it was in support of the attackers, but not necessarily coordinated together.

The Charlie Hebdo attack is an example of the decentralized attack--the opposite of Mumbai and Kenya. The ability to send in a paramilitary police force in armored vehicles and with machine guns 30 or 40 minutes after the beginning of the attack might have made sense in Mumbai and Kenya, but would have done nothing to assist in the Paris situation. In fact, the pictures we have essentially show hundreds of French police kitted out in their military gear, none of which prevented the terrorists from moving around Paris.

It is old-school police and detective work that is needed. And an armed populace that does not have to meekly wait to be slaughtered.

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