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DEEP Dive is a platform for podcasts and webinars that provides commentary on a variety of subjects covering international security and defence, counter-terrorism, and geopolitical current events. The primary purpose of this series is to inform and enhance understanding of the prevailing global challenges.

DEEP Dive seeks to engage and draw on the experiences of academics, journalists, and policy practitioners. The goal is also to learn more about those being interviewed in order to provide a unique perspective on what has shaped their careers as well as to discuss their current and future research.

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed in the DEEP Dive series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of NATO or DEEP.


Dr Sajjan Gohel

Production and Research Team

Victoria Jones

Marcus Andreopoulos

Key Reflections

* Tech Against Terrorism is a public-private partnership that works to counter terrorist use of the internet by working with the tech sector, international governments, civil society, and academia. 

* After the 2019 Christchurch attack in New Zealand, tech companies invested in combating online terrorist activity. The threat also diversified with terrorists using smaller tech apps and tools.

* Terrorist operated websites pose a threat to society. They bridge the operational and propaganda uses of the internet for terrorists, as well as acting as an archive for terrorist content.

* Online misogyny in the online space has evolved. Individuals who do not fit into conventional misogynistic groups espouse equally damaging and offensive content. Algorithms can be manipulated to promote such material.

* Violent extremists and terrorists use deepfakes and memes that can be utilised to communicate with each other, building a sense of community and concealing offensive language from unknowing outsiders. 

* The hybridisation of online threats has meant that different communities have been brought together. This poses a risk as people who may believe in more innocent conspiracy theories are sharing forums and online spaces with terrorists and violent extremists.

Key Reflections

* The coup in Niger was fuelled by a group within the military who were in dispute with President Mohamed Bazoum’s governance.

* The populations of Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali, want to reinvent their country’s relationship with external forces. 

* Russia is not perceived as the saviour in West Africa, but has instead branded itself as being anti-West, exploiting ideas on the moral, ideological, and political levels. 

* Jihadist groups in the Sahel are not just military actors, they behave as shadow governments dealing with issues pertaining to justice and education. However, this comes at the cost of local communities who are experiencing dire humanitarian challenges.

* Sub-Saharan Africa requires more global attention and respect. It is a region with a considerable amount of natural resources, technological and educational capacity, and great importance demographically, with one of the youngest populations on earth.

* Africa has been the priority for ISIS especially Mozambique, the DRC, northern Nigeria, and the Sahel. They are interconnected and extremely powerful on a technological, financial, and personal level. It is possible that these groups will conduct attacks further away from these territories.

Key Reflections

* Despite the Wagner Group’s mutiny, Vladimir Putin still relies on the private military company and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to act as arms of the Russian government in other parts of the world, such as Africa.

* Russia’s agenda in attacking grain stores at ports on the River Danube is to cause hardship in the Global South as a means of putting pressure on Western governments to end sanctions in response to potential concerns of a famine.

* There are concerns that Iraq’s new government has sectarian elements with ties to Iran. Pro-Iran Shia militias are utilised to advance Tehran’s political goals.

* The Taliban is not a coherent entity, but rather a very fractious organisation consisting of various factions, wherein moderate elements have less power than the hardliners.

* The Afghan Taliban benefited from Pakistan’s support in their return to power in Afghanistan. However, much to the Pakistani military’s chagrin, the Taliban have not clamped down on the TTP, who have proliferated and come back to haunt Pakistan.

* Pakistan’s government is firmly controlled by the country’s military and intelligence establishment. Politicians who attempt to step over red lines will be punished.

Key Reflections

* When conducting research with court documents, a human understanding of the different patterns and quirks of individual prosecutors and courts is more valuable than using a computer or algorithm. 

* Online tools such as PACER and courtlistener.com work as good starting points for research into court records. However, these systems are not the most user friendly and require some experience to get the best results. 

* Court records can provide researchers with a sense of the priorities of particular administrations or states, allowing for comparisons of how certain crimes are prosecuted. 

* If one knows what to look for, trends begin to emerge from court records research that can flag what to pay attention to regarding future challenges. This can be applied both to the behaviour of terrorists and that of hostile state actors. 

* Law enforcement and security agencies today, particularly in the United States, are dealing with a fractured threat. This includes the idea of so-called “salad bar extremism,” where terrorists mix and match elements from different ideologies to construct a new hodgepodge worldview of their own.

* Building relationships with mentors and cultivating curiosity are key in terms of creating a successful career in the realms of national security, journalism, and other related fields.

Key Reflections

* Interpol facilitates information sharing throughout its 195 members, allowing each nation to better understand the evolving threat landscape.

* When Interpol was founded, it was acknowledged that organised crime and terrorism transcends borders. As a result, the organisation prioritises border security, ensuring that threats, including returning foreign terrorist fighters, are stopped at their source.

* Another core value that underpins the work of Interpol is capacity building. Whilst the organisation strives for a unified, robust response across the 195 membership, not everyone is equal in their capacities and capabilities, making training, support, coordination, and equipment sharing essential. 

* Interpol has 19 different databases; it is important to have a central repository of such information to better coordinate amongst different member states and achieve the most effective and efficient responses.

* Interpol brings member states together with mutual interests so that they can then collaborate and work together to develop appropriate solutions bilaterally or multilaterally when various challenges arise.

* There are currently 71,000 Red Notices, over 7000 of which have been made public, for wanted offenders. The goal is to encourage communities to participate and offer any information they may have on these individuals, and to foster cooperation between relevant members.

Key Reflections

* There are major concerns surrounding the convergence of misinformation, borderline content, and foreign interference that can lead to violent extremism. 

* Failing to anticipate the next iteration or innovation that movements and groups can take could lead to the mainstreaming of extremist ideas within society and the broader political spectrum. 

* Terrorist and violent extremist actors use end-to-end encryption and encrypted services for sharing propaganda, recruitment, and planning attacks. There remains a lack of data on these phenomena, as those technologies are still relatively new. 

* Compromising the integrity of end-to-end encryption and internet security is not an option. There are, however, other types of data, such as metadata, which can be leveraged to disrupt terrorist and criminal activities provided the harvesting of that data is done within clearly defined legal frameworks. 

* It is possible to regulate virtual currencies to prevent malicious abuse by actors who seek to circumvent banking systems in order to coordinate fundraising, including crowdfunding.

* There are concerns regarding the ways that artificial intelligence (AI) can be weaponised, especially through disinformation and the blending or the creation of content that could be used to undermine trust in governments.

Key Reflections

* Wars are psychological, and Ukraine has maintained the psychological momentum against Russia on its side, whilst building and sustaining an alliance of support for Kyiv. 

* There is an intelligence bias known as mirroring, where actors incorrectly assume their enemy thinks like they do. The Russians believed this about the Ukrainians, which contributed to Moscow’s misunderstanding of Ukraine from the outset of the war.

* Issues such as morality, religion, and ideology are often perceived to be part of key narratives and fault lines driving violence in conflict but can actually serve to reduce conflict. 

* Drones are developing greater importance both in terms of reconnaissance, but also when it comes to conducting actual operations. They are becoming smaller, whilst still retaining their effectiveness. 

* Lessons learned from the war in Afghanistan can be applied to Russia’s war in Ukraine, such as having a realistic and well-resourced strategy that is aligned with overarching goals. 

* Private military companies like the Wagner Group have been utilised by the Kremlin as a quick way of generating military power. 

Key Reflections

* The Christchurch Call was established in the aftermath of the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack in New Zealand. It is a collaboration between governments, tech companies, and civil society to ensure that terrorists and violent extremists cannot use social media to amplify their attacks. 

* The social media amplification of the Christchurch shooting was unprecedented, going from 200 viewers of the livestream to millions being exposed to reuploads of the video after the event. 

* The Christchurch Call demonstrates the importance of a whole of society approach to countering terrorism and violent extremism online. Governments, tech companies, nor civil society would be able to solve this issue by themselves. 

* NATO members and partner nations were pivotal in the establishment of the Christchurch Call, with the initiative launched at the Tech For Good summit hosted in France, eight weeks after the attack.

* Leaders of the Christchurch Call community do not want to be static and focus solely on past events, instead they are looking at ways to innovate and respond to the ever-changing nature of the online environment.

* Whilst the Christchurch Call focuses primarily on countering terrorism and violent extremism online, there is a connective tissue between this issue and other adjacent ones, all of which involve the exploitation of online platforms.

Key Reflections

* Astropolitics refers to politics in space. Over time, what happens in space will shape human history as much as mountains, rivers, and seas have on Earth.

* Countries that adhere to the non-binding Artemis Accords are actively seeking to return humans to the Moon by 2025, with the ultimate goal of expanding space exploration to Mars and beyond. 

* The UAE and Japan are both heavily invested in space exploration and dual-use technological development. 

* China is seeking technological supremacy in space, aided by junior partner Russia. This can be thought of as a Space Race 2.0, which is primarily driven by economics and obtaining rare earth materials and metals embedded within the Moon. 

* State sovereignty in space will become more contentious when political and military ties start to fray between countries. Scientific links could help bridge some divides. 

* There will need to be cooperation between governments and private companies in space when it comes to exploration and financial imperatives.

Key Reflections

* We are moving from a multipolar to a bipolar world, with China on one side along with Russia as a junior partner.

* For Vladimir Putin, a thriving democratic Ukraine, geo-politically important, and close ties to former Eastern Bloc states like Poland, is a political challenge for the Kremlin. 

*  The withdrawal from Afghanistan led Russia and China to believe the West is in decline. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has rekindled a willingness in the West to stand together.

* China will support Russia diplomatically, tactically, and materially, but there will be limitations due to concerns about secondary sanctions from the U.S. China will push the West to consider Beijing’s role for future negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.  

* China has played a deft hand in bringing a truce between Iran and Saudi Arabia, demonstrating Beijing’s desire to strategically position itself as the leading global problem solver.

* The Ukraine crisis features in China’s strategic mindset surrounding its Taiwan policy and its tensions with India in the Himalayas. The Quad is evolving into a bloc to counter China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific. 

Key Reflections

* The Ukrainian military is succeeding in the information battlefield by utilising social media to directly challenge Russian propaganda and disinformation.

* Social media influencers in the battlefield space can support military contingencies through sharing information about humanitarian operations or enemy attacks that have been successfully countered. Doing so helps to create credibility. 

* There are four types of technologies that power social media disinformation campaigns: text command platforms that create relatively believable text; text-to-image generators; deepfake videos consisting of virtual face transplants through software; and synthetically generated images and avatars that are assembled in any language and background.

* There are concerns that as artificial intelligence (AI) advances, both domestic and foreign state actors could use deepfake material to derail particular politicians or parties when it comes to election campaigns.

* Technology can potentially discern whether something is fake or not. However, with high-end deepfake videos, it is becoming harder to detect with the naked eye. Synthetically generated content is easier to discern—for now. On social media feeds, many could get misled by artificially generated images.

* The big tech industry actors could regulate themselves, but this won’t prevent others from letting AI proliferate.

Key Reflections

* Toxic ethnic politics in Afghanistan could potentially lead to the federalisation or the breakup of Afghanistan as a single country.

* The many Afghan opposition groups to the Taliban lack cohesion. These groups, operating in different countries around the world, need to come together, form a single entity, and come up with ideas for governance the way an opposition government should.

* The Taliban’s model of governance is not sustainable. Using force on the population will not work when that population is hungry and impoverished. This raises the potential for a popular uprising against Taliban rule by the people of Afghanistan. 

* Pakistan’s support of the Taliban in Afghanistan has now come back to bite it, as the country faces threats from the Taliban’s Pakistani offshoot known as the TTP, who receives support from the Afghan Taliban.

* High-ranking Taliban members and their families who live abroad should be named, sanctioned, and have their passports removed.

* Foreign governments should not recognise the Taliban, and international NGOs should be more transparent about the challenges they are facing from the Taliban government in Afghanistan, rather than feeling forced to pander to them.

Key Reflections

* The drivers of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network are power and money in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They engage in diversified commercial and criminal activities  and are heavily invested in the agricultural industry, mining, pine nuts, and real estate.

* Taliban factions are some of the biggest drug dealing cartels in the world and control heroin and methamphetamine production and supply globally. 

* China is interested in Afghanistan’s natural resources including lithium, uranium, and copper. Beijing has sought to enhance its relations with the Taliban. 

* The IS-KP attacks in Afghanistan, including against Chinese nationals, bear the hallmarks of the Haqqani Network. ISK-KP serves as a convenient proxy for the Taliban. The situation is very murky. 

* Taliban ideology controls Afghanistan and unifies the factions in taking away the rights of women through the misogynistic Ministry of Vice and Virtue. The Taliban exploits the West’s human rights concerns as a distraction from their other nefarious activities.

* The Haqqani Network remains close to al-Qaeda. The Taliban have made Afghanistan a safe haven for terrorist groups and once again transformed South Asia into the most dangerous part of the world. 

Key Reflections

* There are many people at the highest levels of Taliban leadership in Afghanistan who have foreign passports. This includes Taliban spokesperson, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, whose real name is Hassan Bahiss. Balkhi is a New Zealand passport holder who once lived in Hamilton. 

* In addition to their misogyny, the Taliban regime have also been clear and direct about their homophobia. There is daily persecution of the LGBTQ community in Afghanistan. 

* The Taliban have adopted a policy of coercive intimidation towards foreign journalists, arbitrarily detaining them. On occasions, mobile phones were confiscated, and journalists were forced to write messages under duress designed to absolve the Taliban. 

* The Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) have been using social media to monitor articles that journalists have written about them before they took control of Afghanistan in August 2021 as well as thereafter. 

* When journalists have refused to comply with the Taliban’s draconian rules, they have been  threatened with violence and even death. 

* Journalists and photographers that captured images  and video footage of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Kabul residence have been arrested and detained for long periods. 

Key Reflections

* The proliferation and diversity of communication methods represents a real challenge to law enforcement today, who must keep up with the technology as it develops.

* Following the money is key to disrupting and dismantling serious organised crime groups. Much of the money being used to support the Taliban regime now has its origins in organised crime, spanning decades.

* There are parallels with law enforcement and the private sector security. This includes dealing with risk management and ensuring the safety of staff.

* Teamwork and interoperability are essential to counter-terrorism work, as is adaptability, since agencies have to collaborate efficiently and effectively in real time to foil potential attacks.

* Women in national security are increasingly taking on important roles and provide unique skill-sets to aid counter-terrorism operations and crisis situations.

* People from diverse backgrounds should be encouraged to work together in the field of international security, as sharing different perspectives and approaches allows for better operational ability overall.

Key Reflections

* The U.S. Helsinki Commission was established on 3 June 1976 as part of détente during the Cold War, to monitor human rights conditions in Europe. It is based on the idea that human rights within a given country was a subject of legitimate scrutiny for all countries.

* The commission is a bipartisan, independent agency, which operates like a congressional committee, holding hearings, issuing statements, going on international travel, and engaging in inquiries.

* In the United States Congress, there is a sense of bipartisan and bicameral backing when it comes to the issue of Ukraine. Discussions focus on Putin’s malign influence internationally as well as the moral element of the war itself and what it represents in principle.

* Active collection of evidence to document Russia’s war crimes and human rights abuses in Ukraine is ongoing. The need for an official genocide resolution is important, both symbolically and practically.

* The Wagner Group is known to carry out nefarious activity both in Ukraine as well as in other theatres, such as Mali and Syria. There is bipartisan support in the U.S. to label the entity as a terrorist organisation.

Key Reflections

* The phenomenon of ‘code-switching,’ in which individuals switch from one extremist ideology to another one, has some core components including antisemitism, toxic masculinity, and intolerance towards a democratic, pluralistic society.

* In a short span of time, sovereign citizen conspiracy theories have managed to spread globally and are believed to have fuelled the 2022 plot to overthrow the German government. 

* Social media platforms have amplified the threat of conspiracy theory-based terrorism throughout the pandemic. In some cases, teenagers and children have been lured into extremism from online gaming platforms. 

* Specialists with an expertise in countering violent extremism are needed if deradicalisation is to work. Those working in mental health are well-placed to understand the factors that fuel radicalisation. 

* The Mothers for Life Network was established to connect parents whose children had gone to join the so-called ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria. It has provided a support structure for the communities and families.

* ‘Disguised Compliance,’ where people pretend to take part in deradicalisation programmes only to commit an attack after, is a concern. Voluntary deradicalisation may improve the chances of individuals cooperating.

Key Reflections

* The pandemic has radical subcultures, such as alt-jihadism, which overlaps with neo-Nazis. There is cumulative learning across extremist groups.

* In both neo-Nazi and jihadist movements there is a strong prevalence to violently abuse and control women. Both want to return to a distant past, where women had no rights, absent of societal structures.

* Women play a prominent role in terrorism, as recruiters, groomers, and perpetrators of violence. Some of them have a femininity crisis. There are comparisons between male and female suicide bombers in the radicalization pathways.

* It is becoming harder to distinguish between an online threat and an unfolding plot. The language and narratives produced in communications by terrorists can be used to improve their detection and prevention practices.

* Russian-sponsored media outlets give airtime and repeat the hashtags and campaigns driven by extremists and other fringe communities. Ideology does not matter as long as it creates chaos within Europe and North America. 

Key Reflections

* The ISIS affiliates in Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa are growing in momentum, recruitment, funding streams, technology, and ability to launch attacks.

* Throughout 2022, ISIS have attempted various daring operations to free prisoners in facilities in Iraq and Syria. Although the strategy is not new, every prisoner freed is a surplus for ISIS.

* Nations are divided over repatriating their citizens from ISIS detention camps in Syria. These camps have become cesspools for extremism, but equally, bringing people back is not straightforward since many in the camps are radicalised.

* ISIS is becoming more prominent again on social media and has intensified its efforts on platforms such as Twitter, where previously banned accounts have become active.

* The pandemic and Putin’s war in Ukraine have taken some focus away from counter-terrorism, but Belgium still has 125 terrorist fighters unaccounted for. Some in prison, due to be released, have claimed their ideological beliefs remain extreme.

* The Kremlin-affiliated private military company, the Wagner Group, has been engaged in the destabilisation of Syria as well as countries in the Sahel, exploiting natural resources.

Key Reflections

* The gathering and data flow of signal (SIGINT) and human intelligence (HUMINT) have been impeded by the pandemic and emerging technology used by hostile actors.

* Canada has three primary investigative priorities: counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence, and counter-proliferation. Within this, foreign interference is playing a more prominent role.

* Intelligence agencies and law enforcement need more resources to deal with the multiplicity of threats ranging from violent ideological movements to state-sponsored clandestine activity.  

* China is getting more attention in the West especially over issues pertaining to their actions against Taiwan, the Uyghurs, Tibetans, and those from Hong Kong.

* The threat from al-Qaeda, ISIS, and affiliates has not disappeared in the West. Plots continue to be detected and foiled.

* The repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and their wives and children from camps in Syria is a massive dilemma with no obvious solution. Security concerns remain. Prosecution of those behind the most egregious actions should be pursued in Syria and Iraq. 

Key Reflections

* Both al-Qaeda and ISIS have strong representation through their affiliates in the Sahel region, West Africa, as well as the Horn of Africa and East Africa.

* There are concerns about terrorist travel in the post-pandemic era. Terrorists may find it easier to travel to places for training, recruitment, funding, and propaganda.

* An Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban has the potential to become a safe haven for terrorists once again. There are a number of terrorist entities operating there which include al-Qaeda, the ISIS Khorasan branch, and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

* Cocaine trafficking routes between Latin America and the Middle East have fuelled the drug trade expansion and could converge with the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

* There remains an ongoing challenge in the prevention of the procurement of arms and explosives by terrorists. In addition, a terrorist organisation’s’ level of operational success can be quantified with data including casualty rates.

* Neo-Nazi extremist groups are very active on social media and use digital platforms and encrypted messaging channels to spread their conspiracy theories as a call for violence. 

Key Reflections

* The gas leaks on the Nord Stream pipeline are due to deliberate sabotage, with Russia being the most likely suspect.

* The Kremlin feels that it might lose the war in Ukraine and has resorted to military conscription to reinforce their positions along the frontlines. This has led to Russians fleeing the country, demonstrating the unpopularity of Putin’s mobilisation drive.

* Russia is using private military companies like the Wagner Group and recruiting people from prisons. However, this is not an unusual strategy for Moscow who have utilised this strategy for other conflicts in the Middle East and Africa.

* As winter approaches, it will become harder for Russia and Ukraine to continue fighting as the terrain and conditions become more difficult to navigate.  

* The protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, at the hands of the regime’s Guidance Patrol, has created a spark that is now spiralling across Iran with mass protests by men and women. This is emboldening Iran’s civil society.

* Calls to impose tough sanctions on Iran because of the violent tactics used by the Iranian authorities against protesters may not bring about direct change or end the theocratic regime. 

Key Reflections

* The 2012 Benghazi attack was a coordinated al-Qaeda operation against United States government facilities in Libya. Many of the culprits remain at large ten years later.

* Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was directly involved in the Benghazi plot. Contrary to some perceptions, al-Zawahiri was more than the figurehead of the terrorist group, but in fact, the operations chief.

* Libya has suffered conflicts, attacks, and assassinations since the overthrow of its dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Libya’s insecurity has knock-on effects for the Maghreb but also Sub-Saharan Africa and the Mediterranean.

* Ayman al-Zawahiri’s discovery in a Haqqani Network safe house and subsequent death by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul demonstrates that the Taliban retains very close ties to al-Qaeda. It is likely that many other al-Qaeda figures are receiving sanctuary from Taliban factions.

* As conditions are conducive for radicalisation in Afghanistan, there remains a potential for foreign fighters to travel to the country for terrorist training before returning to their respective nations to plot and plan attacks.

* Russian private military companies (PMCs) are state-sponsored actors that have committed egregious human rights abuses and terror in Syria, Mali, and Ukraine. They are supported by Russian oligarchs close to the Kremlin.

Key Reflections

* The NYPD’s primary role is to protect New York City, but also support other cities
and nations through sharing intelligence, resources, and capabilities.

* Largely due to the pandemic, there is a growing problem involving young individuals who use terrorist tactics whilst conflating conspiracy theories and
personal grievances, mixed with mis—and dis—information online. They are ideologically agnostic. 

* A fundamental distrust of institutions is often at the root of radicalisation and violence. This is a common facet many different groups share, which transcends

* Information today is easily weaponized for nefarious purposes by state and non-state actors. It is crucial that the public is aware of this dynamic so that they can
better navigate the information landscape. 

* Russia’s war in Ukraine is forcing law enforcement agencies to monitor asymmetrical and paramilitary groups that are being sourced by individuals who
seek military training and then return to their home countries. 

* Women are increasingly taking on important positions in the national security arena, but more can be done with focused recruitment and dispel the myth that these
are career paths inimical to women. It is important to get more women into fields focused on dealing with the repercussions and implications of misogyny in terrorist

Key Reflections

* One year since the West pulled out of Afghanistan, the country has encountered numerous economic, social, and political challenges as the Taliban’s model of governance lurches the nation towards state failure. 

* The Taliban show no signs of allowing women to play a meaningful role in Afghan society. They will likely go further with more draconian misogynistic policies.

* Hardliners in the Taliban including Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Interior Minister, and Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Supreme Leader, wield significant influence and control, as does the Defence Minister, Mullah Yaqoob.

* Al-Qaeda will grow as a threat in the coming years as it builds its ‘safe bases.’ The group’s anti-Western platform remains intact, and there has not been any fragmentation with its affiliates in South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

* Pakistan enabled the Taliban to seize control of Afghanistan, but problems have emerged in the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) relationship. The Taliban object to Pakistan erecting a border fence and continue to harbour the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who have increased attacks inside Pakistan. 

* Pakistan is experiencing political and economic turmoil in large part due to the policies of its former prime minister, Imran Khan, who is also pushing anti-Western conspiracy theories that are increasing his popularity within certain segments of Pakistani society. 

Key Reflections

* Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contributed significantly to the Swedish and Finnish decisions to join NATO. Although both countries have worked very closely with NATO since the 1990s, they had remained outside of the alliance.

* Sweden and Finland have been cooperating with NATO for decades with the purpose of increasing military interoperability at the highest possible level, so that in case it became necessary to join, it could be attained without much delay. 

* The Kremlin failed to anticipate that Sweden and Finland would choose to join NATO and demonstrated a huge misunderstanding of bilateral relations with both Nordic countries. Despite initial threats, Moscow has been powerless to halt Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO accession. 

* The aftermath of World War II resulted in Finland losing territory to the Soviet Union but avoiding occupation on the condition of neutrality. The period of Finlandization resulted in Soviet interests negatively impacting on Finland’s foreign and domestic policy.

* Finland has been prepared for potential Russian hostility for many years and has developed strong intelligence in this realm. Finland is aware of all the different clandestine tools the Kremlin adopts.

* There is a harmonisation between the Nordic and Baltic Sea security architecture. Finland and Sweden joining NATO is a game-changer for regional security. 

Key Reflections

* Structural changes were made to the Sri Lankan constitution by the Rajapaksas, a sibling regime. Nepotism removed the checks and balances and independent institutions were politicised including the judiciary, police, and military.  

* The Rajapaksas accumulated significant debt through large borrowings mainly from China, as well as investments on strategic projects that did not bring any tangible returns and exacerbated already existing problems.

* Sri Lanka needs to immediately recalibrate its foreign policy and once again pursue a rules-based international order. Sri Lanka is an island sitting at the geostrategic location of the Indian Ocean region. 

* Sri Lanka needs to re-engage with multilateral security mechanisms like the Quad, which can also provide support in curbing the terrorist threat in South Asia and enhancing international security.

* The political vacuum and economic instability in Sri Lanka could enable organised crime to flourish. The island nation may also be used as a hub for narcotics coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan by sea. International cooperation and greater intelligence sharing are more essential than ever before.

* The largest tourism markets for Sri Lanka were from Russia and Ukraine. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine amplified the economic problems of Sri Lanka post-pandemic, and the resulting rise in global oil prices compounded Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. 

Key Reflections

* The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has sought to foster strong international partnerships that are critical in successfully countering cross-border criminal syndicates, terrorist groups, and hostile state actors. 

* Global policing faces the challenges of borderless entries and crimes, evolution in the cyber realm, worldwide instability including the consequences of COVID-19, and the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. 

* Australia is part of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which concluded that a Russian-supplied Buk TELAR surface-to-air missile system was used to down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014. Several Russians stand accused of orchestrating the atrocity. 

* Operation Silves in 2017 involved Australia’s law enforcement and intelligence community disrupting the most serious terrorist plot the country has ever faced, with ISIS plotting to bomb a plane flying from Sydney to the U.A.E.

* Currently, espionage and foreign interference have become Australia’s principal security concerns. Hostile state actors seek information about strategic capabilities, economic and policy priorities, technology, and defence. To counter this, multilateral partnerships such as with the Five Eyes and the Quad have become even more essential. 

* It is vital to actively encourage, recruit, develop, mentor, and bring women through ranks of law enforcement and provide opportunities to advance their career pathways in counter-terrorism and national security. 

Key Reflections

* The importance of multilateralism and cooperation has become even more relevant in the post-pandemic era.

* The future of multilateralism rests on how it coalesces around addressing common security themes, which were not being thought about 20 years ago.

* Multilateralism needs to be strengthened to address non-traditional security issues such as climate change, poverty eradication, and free and fair elections, because these are drivers of some of the major international security concerns.

* Diplomatic multilateral agreements are the only way to prevent and end conflicts, to preserve the international order and obligations.

* The debate over what constitutes a foreign fighter has become more complicated due to events in Ukraine, which can be exploited by some entities, making it harder to reach consensus and agreement on terminology.

* The dilemma of foreign fighters and their families in Syrian camps remains an ongoing challenge. Resolving it will require unprecedented global cooperation.

* The lack of democracy, civil society, and effective rule of law, coupled with ungoverned spaces, exacerbates and leads to the growth of potential terrorist organisations. 

Key Reflections

* Since the Taliban seized power, they have issued over a dozen decrees directly aimed at undermining women’s rights. Taliban leaders fear no consequences and should be sanctioned from travelling abroad.

* Women who were present in every sphere of Afghan society are now banned from working by the Taliban, who have once again turned Afghanistan into the worst country on earth for women. 

* The Taliban’s repressive attitudes towards women are not native to Afghanistan, which has a rich history of female poets and artists. The Taliban are trying to reinvent the cultural role of women in society, including the type of clothing they should wear. 

* As women’s rights collapse in Afghanistan, extremism will flourish with foreign terrorist fighters traveling to Afghanistan, motivated by state-sanctioned misogyny.

* The notion of the ‘moderate Taliban’ was initiated by Pakistan, who lobbied for the Taliban’s global legitimacy. The stark reality is that the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al-Qaeda cannot be separated, due to ideological ties and intermarriages. 

* The Taliban have been financed through the trade of narcotics. Despite their assurances to stem the drugs trade, the Taliban are enabling the proliferation of heroin and methamphetamines. NATO DEEP’s publication, Narco-Insecurity Inc., details the social impact and wider security consequences of the Taliban’s ties to narcotics. 

Key Reflections

* The West has understandably focused and prioritised its efforts in helping Ukraine, but as a result, the Taliban have seized this opportunity to undermine the civil liberties of Afghans, especially women, and carry out extrajudicial killings. 

* The Taliban remain the same entity they were when they first ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. They retain close ties to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, as demonstrated by the Haqqani Network, who are the main authority in the country. The presence of IS-KP also complicates the security situation. 

* The Taliban’s order for women to cover up from head-to-toe is designed to reinstate their misogynistic agenda, whilst also punishing male members of Afghan households who don’t enforce the draconian policy.

* Before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women constituted a significant number of the workforce, and many were breadwinners. As the Taliban banned women from society, many have become destitute and forced to beg as a way to earn money. Almost 90% of the population is starving. 

* Taliban fighters have received a distorted religious education in Pakistani madrassas that is incompatible with current Afghan cultural norms. 

Key Reflections

* The importance of multilateralism and cooperation has become even more relevant in the post-pandemic era.

* The future of multilateralism rests on how it coalesces around addressing common security themes, which were not being thought about 20 years ago.

* Multilateralism needs to be strengthened to address non-traditional security issues such as climate change, poverty eradication, and free and fair elections, because these are drivers of some of the major international security concerns.

* Diplomatic multilateral agreements are the only way to prevent and end conflicts, to preserve the international order and obligations.

* The debate over what constitutes a foreign fighter has become more complicated due to events in Ukraine, which can be exploited by some entities, making it harder to reach consensus and agreement on terminology.

* The dilemma of foreign fighters and their families in Syrian camps remains an ongoing challenge. Resolving it will require unprecedented global cooperation.

* The lack of democracy, civil society, and effective rule of law, coupled with ungoverned spaces, exacerbates and leads to the growth of potential terrorist organisations. 

Key Reflections

* Documentaries have served as primary source information vividly depicting the challenges of radicalisation and extremism permeating through society. 

* The documentary Insha’Allah Democracy on former Pakistani military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, evolved from being about a former key figure in the War on Terrorism to becoming political satire of a man who courted the West whilst at the same time tacitly supporting terrorist groups.

* The radical Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) has grown in popularity in Pakistan and become a political force. Under the pretence of blasphemy, its supporters have murdered secular politicians and foreigners and have been courted by the now-ousted former prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan.

* Documenting extremist groups and their leaders, whilst being objective, still inevitably carries risks, threats, and repercussions. Some of the entities being filmed like the notoriety.

* It is important to challenge the post-9/11 rhetoric that there was a war between religions and cultures. Much of this was due to failing to learn from lessons of history. 

* It is important to challenge the post-9/11 rhetoric that there was a war between religions and cultures. Much of this was due to failing to learn from lessons of history. 

Key Reflections

* What happens in Ukraine will reveal a lot about what the 21st century will look like. Undermining Putin’s agenda will strengthen democracies for the future.

* Russia’s military has been depleted due to the resilience of the Ukrainian people. Putin wants to try to retain and extend control in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv needs to be provided with sufficient arms to defend itself.

* The ability to deal with global threats from a position of strength requires unity, democracy, and multilateral alliances such as NATO and the Quad. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has unified NATO’s resolve. 

* China is trying to tread carefully over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Beijing’s rhetoric may support Russia, but China will not go further for now. 

* The Haqqani Network could once again make Afghanistan a safe-haven for terrorists including al-Qaeda and ISIS to use as a launchpad to attack the West. 

* The Abbottabad operation in Pakistan that found and eliminated Osama bin Laden demonstrated the effectiveness of counter-terrorism cooperation and resilience.

* Women need to be given the same opportunities as men to serve in combat positions in the military.

Key Reflections

* Zalmay Khalilzad’s Doha deal with the Taliban resulted in the drawdown of international troops and contractors who were supporting Afghan forces, contributing to the collapse of Afghanistan’s security apparatus. 

* Al-Qaeda are operating openly in Afghanistan and still allied to the Taliban. 

* Pakistan’s military doctrine of ‘Strategic Depth’ in Afghanistan supports the internationally proscribed Haqqani Network, who are the real authority in the Taliban.

* The Taliban have been fighting against the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). However, on occasions they have also been tactical allies. 

* The Taliban are supported by money from narcotics especially heroin and methamphetamines. 

* China and Russia want to treat the Taliban as the recognised authority in Afghanistan. China has enormous desires to mine rare earth metals.

* The role of women’s rights in Afghanistan has been severely curtailed by the Taliban.

* During Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Taliban carried out many extrajudicial murders.

Key Reflections

* There is a generational difference in ideological motivation between the terrorists that got involved pre-9/11 versus more of the millennial and Gen Z jihadists that came of age during and after the Arab Spring.

* Al-Qaeda are in Afghanistan, adopting a low profile and biding their time. Great power competition could serve as a distraction, enabling jihadist groups and affiliates to grow and expand globally. 

* Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri created a cut-out within al-Qaeda called al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which could be used to plot attacks regionally, away from Afghanistan.

* Tunisian terrorists have been the middlemen within the jihadist movement, making them well-connected and active in multiple theatres of conflict including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, and Syria.

* Tunisians comprised the largest number of ISIS’s rank and file. They benefited from the vacuum that emerged in Tunisia after the Arab Spring, which provided the space for extremist groups. This also contributed to instability in Libya.

* The convicted Pakistani terrorist Aafia Siddiqui is a huge cause célèbre for global jihadists including al-Qaeda and ISIS. She feeds into the narrative of freeing female prisoners.

Key Reflections

* President Richard Nixon, an ardent anti-communist, sensed an opportunity for the U.S. to pull China away from the Soviet Union. Mao Zedong was receptive because of ensuing border tensions with the Soviets.

* Pakistan became the essential go-between and couriers for Mao and Nixon due to having been very friendly with China and the U.S. at that time. 

* China today represents the legacy of both Mao and Deng Xiaoping. Mao instituted the political thought and political instruction. Deng initiated the unsurpassed economic development. 

* Xi Jinping has asserted his authority on the Chinese Communist Party both politically and economically. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a cornerstone of both dimensions. For foreign policy, relations with Russia have primary importance. 

* The resources that China has put into the BRI in Pakistan is not currently paying dividends. The Gwadar Port could still become an important hub for the Chinese navy. 

* The emerging relationship between China and the Haqqani Network (HQN), who rule Afghanistan as part of the Taliban, is precarious. It remains to be seen if China and the HQN can cooperate on economic and security issues.  

Key Reflections

* Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is on a scale that we thought was confined to history in Europe. It was also planned well in advance.

* Vladimir Putin has scores to settle originating from the end of the Cold War, and that mindset cannot be changed. Ukraine is a key feature of that.

* Putin has become paranoid and isolated. He has reduced the number of people advising him because he doesn’t like opposing viewpoints.

* The narrative of NATO threatening Russia has always been a red herring, and the irony is now by occupying Ukraine, Russian troops are physically closer to NATO member nations.

* Hybrid and grey zone threats have aggressively featured in the Russian strategy against Ukraine. This includes cyber threats and false flag operations, as well as tactics to cripple Ukraine’s economy. 

* Russia needs to be halted in escalating tensions via economic and diplomatic means as well as sanctions and revoking the visas of the family members of leading Russian officials and oligarchs who live in the West.

Key Reflections

* Terrorist financing needs to be seen from the organisational/group level as well as the operational cell and individual levels. 

* If one can limit or control the amount of money that a terrorist organisation has access to, one can limit the scope and scale of their terrorist activity. This is a constant battle.

* Terrorists have exploited the pandemic for fundraising activities including selling fake personal protective equipment (PPE) online in an effort to raise money.

* Some terrorist groups have several different and overlapping areas of money management because they are generating revenues from a variety of different sources.

* There are many barriers to the effective terrorist use of cryptocurrency. Currently, it is being used more for extremism financing, the foundational precursor from which terrorism develops.

* The Taliban and other groups that operate within Afghanistan’s borders are all looking for ways to raise money off the Afghan economy. That includes narcotics production, drug trafficking, and taxation.

Key Reflections

* The global terrorist threat in non-conflict zones is comparatively low due to counter-terrorism cooperation and the pandemic, which has limited people’s travel. However, it is important to avoid complacency. 

* The threats in conflict zones remain at serious levels, and affiliates of ISIS and al- Qaeda are able to exploit safe havens in conflict zones, which could lead to the regeneration of their operational capabilities.

* The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is ominous for the international community and potentially beneficial for al-Qaeda who have adopted a mode of strategic patience and are growing in confidence.

* The Haqqani Network is committed to the strategic interests of the Taliban, but it has the operational and tactical autonomy to pursue its own strategic objectives.

* Al-Qaeda is embedded in conflict zones and getting involved in various regional and local conflicts such as in the Sahel and western parts of Africa.

* The camps and prisons in north-eastern Syria for ISIS fighters and their families are not strong or well-fortified. Prison breakouts serve as an important propaganda tool for ISIS.

Key Reflections:

* The Taliban victory in Afghanistan has given an enormous boost to the morale of terrorists throughout the region.

* The role of ISKP in Afghanistan is very murky as it is not a monolithic organisation and has ties to Taliban factions. These include the Haqqani Network who also have a long association with al-Qaeda.

* The Pakistani military’s strategic support for the Taliban in Afghanistan strengthens the forces of terrorism that threaten the very nature of the Pakistani state.

* Iran has aspirations to be the dominant player in both the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.

* Backed by Iran, the Houthis in Yemen are a very well organised, disciplined organisation and have advanced their strategic interests in Yemen against Saudi Arabia.

* The combination of location, leadership, and success in counter-terrorism has made Jordan a key and stable ally against al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Key Reflections:

* Russia’s interests in counter-terrorism, geopolitics, the Arab Spring, and espionage all converged as part of a ‘disinformation fusion centre’ to malign as well as spread propaganda and disinformation.

* The Kremlin’s synergy is unique as there is connectivity between their intelligence services and cyber community, creating an ecosystem using oligarchs, expats, and influential foreigners as extensions of power.

* Russia’s current campaign against Ukraine is deliberately less noisy in the information space compared to before, but troop mobilisation on the border suggests a much more direct and hostile intent.

* Russia dominates the disinformation output, whereas China is more advanced in the use of artificial intelligence and synthetic media. Globally, Russia seeks to degrade, China opts to usurp.

* The battlespace is divided up based on language and platform, and China wants to expand its influence internationally. China will likely overtake Russia in a few years.

* China is operating at four levels: technology infrastructure, social media applications, global content, and control of the internet and media environment. 

Key Reflections:

* The blurring of borders and change of geopolitical structures has created gateways to human trafficking, drug smuggling, corruption, espionage, and terrorism.

* Hezbollah with Iran’s guidance, funding, and support has been able to exploit the Lebanese diaspora around the world including in South America.

* There is a convergence in Europe between crime and extremism with regular interchange between criminal gangs and ideological radicals. 

* The Mumbai Siege Attacks represented one of the most important cases in terrorism as it demonstrates the interplay between Pakistani military intelligence, the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group and al-Qaeda, all of which have had ramifications globally.

* Investigations into the September 11 attacks have demonstrated angles involving Saudi nationals that require further analysis and introspection.

* The rise of China has resulted in the West shifting its geopolitical priorities to address the activities of the Chinese state, involving commerce, defence, espionage and intelligence. Australia has been the frontline for the West in its strategy to counter China’s expansion. 

Key Reflections:

* Human intelligence (HUMINT) needs to be enhanced amidst the potential regrowth of trans-national terrorism and the importance of great power competition. 

* The Haqqani Network played a decisive role in facilitating the Taliban’s military victory in Afghanistan and retains very close ties with al-Qaeda.

* All the Taliban factions, including the Haqqanis, maintain strong ties with the Pakistani military establishment, thereby undermining the West’s mission to develop a stable Afghanistan. 

* Ideological sympathy for terrorist groups within the Pakistani military has threatened the stability and control over its nuclear weapons. 

* Counter-terrorism options in Afghanistan are fewer and more logistically challenging. Equally concerning is the ability to conduct counter-intelligence and run a HUMINT network securely.

* The West needs to get smarter about Russia, who are buoyed by the West’s departure from Afghanistan and want to be a central player on every stage.

* China is trying to find a balance with the Taliban whilst attempting to promote their Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and increasing its leverage over Pakistan.

Key Reflections:

* With an unfolding terrorist attack, it is essential to have well-drilled, experienced teams with the right skill-sets whilst making split second decisions in high conflict and highly charged situations.

* The pandemic and resulting global lockdowns have created a situation in which people are gestating over propaganda and imagery in their homes and becoming radicalised. The full consequences of the pandemic for terrorism are still to manifest and will unfold over time. 

* The rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan will have consequences that could eventually impact on the UK directly, with the potential resurgence of al-Qaeda and other groups. British nationals may then be encouraged to travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIS have also not been eradicated.

* The more the West withdraws from the CT sphere, the easier it gets for terrorist groups to become resurgent, especially considering that the terrorist ideology has not gone away. 

* Threats posed by state actors are dealt with in a similar manner to those posed by terrorist groups. In both cases, there is a need for information sharing and cooperation among governments, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement.

Key Reflections:

* The current period is ‘The Dangerous Decade’ of which the most consequential developments will stem from the Indo-Pacific region.

* The seas and shipping lanes are the arteries to history, geography and geopolitics and are so intrinsic to our lives.

* The Quad is growing in importance and will likely become a multilateral institution.

* China wants to build its military to the capacity of being able to take Taiwan before defence agreements and alliances grow between Western and Indo-Pacific nations.

* Afghanistan will serve as a platform for terrorism. The Taliban have not changed and will support terrorist groups and suppress the rights of women.

* China’s relationship with Pakistan and Afghanistan is part of its geo-strategic outlook.