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New security concerns in the region
June 10, 2017, 4:15 pm

Former United States Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff spoke to The Times, Kuwait in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Globsec conference — one of the top annual conferences on global security in the world — which was held in Bratislava, Slovakia at the end of May. He spoke about various security issues facing the region and some of the concerns of the international community on terrorism. Chertoff, an authority on security affairs was appointed as Secretary of Homeland Security in 2005 and was co-author of the USA Patriot Act.

“The development of new bomb technologies that can be packaged in small devices and dispersal of foreign fighters currently fighting with the Islamic State (IS) are two of the biggest regional concerns for security experts everywhere,” revealed Mr. Chertoff.

Elaborating on this he pointed out that, with IS rapidly losing ground in both Syria and Iraq, some of the fighters could go to other parts of the region, while a considerable number may go back home, which in many cases is Europe. Keeping track of them so that they do not end up being security threats is a major challenge; we need to ensure that Paris or Manchester is not repeated.

Disclosing another major security concern, Chertoff said, “Terrorists are increasingly using technology and one of reasons for banning laptops on board some airlines is because the bomb-makers are gaining more and more expertise in building bombs that can be contained in smaller amounts of space.”

Commenting on the approach of the United States, Chertoff said, “There is a lot of debate on why people become terrorists; some are alienated in their own country, while for others religion is the rationalisation for acts of violence. From extremist views of a particular religion is born an ideology that leads to terrorism.”

The US also does things that are sometimes unhelpful, such as making irresponsible comments and generalising, or pointing at a particular religion as being responsible for terrorism. This is a big mistake, the right way to approach is to work together on this as most people are good and want to be safe, but there are fringe elements who have to be dealt with differently. Alienating entire communities might not be a good idea.

On the present US administration, Chertoff agreed that there had been rhetoric during the election campaign that was unhelpful. But he pointed to President’s Trump recent speech in Saudi Arabia where he said it was a fight against good vs evil it was a welcome change from the earlier stand blaming religion for the problems.

On the level of preparedness by Gulf states, Chertoff said having worked with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states in the region he found that they were aware that they were in an area where there was a lot of danger and they had done a good job in building intelligence and defence capabilities.

Chertoff, who co-authored the Patriot Act, which is deemed to have made US a safer place, said it was time to refresh the technology and approach used at airport security. “Frankly we built our security around the way Al-Qaeda operated, which was to get on airplanes and blow them up. But now, we have to look at the way IS operates, which is to take any target even a few people and engage in a terrorist act.”

There is a need to think of new technologies and procedures to screen people with high risk and that process is now underway, even European airports are now considering this, he concluded.

By Reaven D’Souza
Managing Editor

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