Caribbean counterterrorism and internal security officials forecast a challenging year ahead on the tropical archipelago. Individual political powers have not allocated adequate budgets for national security and law enforcement operations, sufficient consideration not being given to the eminence of post 9/11 threats. Assistance from America, Canada, China and the UK usually strengthens domestic operational capacity, intelligence exchanges, mission readiness and regional cooperation.
Local national security officials are cognizant of “terrorist threat priority.” The Islamic State (IS) lost most heartland territory in Iraq and Syria, but remains a global terrorist phenomenon. In 2018 the militant jihadist sect failed to keep possession of bases in Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) is a main area of concern for US military and intelligence communities, as the Caribbean Twin Island Republic is considered home to IS sympathizers.
At the peak of IS’ power T&T registered among the highest recruiting rates in the world. From the more than one hundred migrated Trinidadians seventy Muslim men joined IS as foreign fighters. The island is home to thriving international oil and gas industry therefore American officials are extremely cautious of a direct threat. Trinidadians can travel through the Caribbean island chain without visas. In2017 one Trinidadian convert was jailed in America for his role in a plot to attack New York’s JFK airport.
Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) remains separated in two rival sections. The Nigerian group is officially recognized. The second cell is led by Abubakar Shekau, a former ISWAP boss. This group continues to gain momentum, creating additional security headaches for Nigeria. During 2018 ISWAP gunmen attacked and overran seventy percent of military positions within areas of dominance.
Intelligence logistics dictated that 2014 was the only ratio of attacks and takeovers which compared to 2018. In 2015 fewer than fifty percent success ratio was recorded, which depreciated further in 2016 and 2017. The Shekau Boko Haram faction was vicious, but mostly static during 2018. It conducted frequent assaults and suicide bombings on soft targets, plus attacks and kidnappings that targeted refugee camps.
The Shekau faction continues as second fiddle to the al-Barnawi group. The terrorist organization benefits from deteriorating cohesion and morale of Nigerian security forces. Last year intelligence driven Egyptian counterterrorism operations against Islamic State’s splinter group Wilayat Sinai foiled its attacks in the Sinai and the Delta region. Despite such handicaps the terrorist group has persisted as a noted force on the peninsula and in the Nile Delta.
IS’ Wilayat Sinai demonstrated continued operational capacity, by conducting a steady stream of roadside bomb and ambush attacks against security forces stationed in the Sinai. During November 2018 the group’s gunmen killed seven Copts in Minya south of Cairo. Security forces thwarted several attempted attacks on the mainland. The terrorist group has maintained operational capacity plus significant amounts of explosives, firearms and equipment. Egypt’s heavy-handed counterinsurgency approach has been unpopular with the local population. Wilayat Sinai strategies have successfully alienated many Bedouin tribes on the peninsula.
Last year the Khorasan chapter of Islamic State proved a formidable threat, staging a series of large deadly attacks that targeted security forces in eastern Afghanistan especially Kabul. The militant extremists also launched terror offensives in northern Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Khorasan chapter has reinforced ties with local groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan that include Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the Pakistani Taliban. The Khorasan continues to maintain lucrative funding networks and directly oppose coalition security forces. The group also recruited foreign fighters that include Westerners to bolster its ranks.
Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.