Non-State Actors: Growing National Security Threat


By Magharebia – Al-Qaeda creates Touareg-led brigade | القاعدة تنشئ كتيبة بقيادة طوارقي | Al-Qaida crée une brigade dirigée par des Touaregs, CC BY 2.0,


“Armies are always training to fight the last war.”  Old military saying.

The Houthi attacks on merchant vessels in the Red Sea serve as a stark reminder of the threat non-state actors pose to the security of the United States and the world. Australia’s dispatch of its navy to participate in Operation Prosperity Guardian, despite being half a world away from its shores, underscores the global nature of the crisis posed by non-state actors. With their emergence, traditional concepts and strategies of warfare are rapidly becoming outdated, prompting a critical need for a new approach to national defense. Simply relying on conventional military might is no longer sufficient; the Department of Defense must adapt and innovate to effectively counter evolving threats.

Simultaneously, the ongoing threat from state actors armed with conventional and nuclear weapons underscores the complexity of modern security challenges. Additionally, the potential for state sponsorship of or influence on non-state actors introduces further complexity, requiring military strategists to adopt a balanced and nuanced approach to effectively tackle these diverse threats.

Transnational terrorist organizations and transnational crime groups are growing in number and in their geographic range. Islamic extremist groups have cells all over the world and are often aligned with local crime or terrorist organizations. Transnational organized crime, such as “mafia” from Russia, China, or Albania, is engaging in a wide variety of business lines from prostitution to drugs and gambling. Increasingly, financial crimes such as telephone and internet scams or credit card theft or cloning can be traced back to these groups. The internet and modern telecommunications allow them to work from anywhere in the world. AI and language tools help them overcome natural barriers that once suppressed their activities. And open US borders allow these groups to place agents within the U.S.

The Mexican drug cartels are a prime example of a modern, transnational crime organization. In addition to flooding America’s streets with illicit drugs, they are also the largest human traffickers, bringing illegals into the United States. They have associations with street gangs in the US who help with drug distribution, managing prostitution, as well as doing collection and enforcement. Throughout Latin America, cartels have destabilized the local governments and economic system to such a point that they are driving a flood of illegal immigration into the United States.

Russia’s private military company (PMC), Wagner Group, or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Force (IRGF) operate in theaters ranging from Africa and the Middle East to Central and South America. They provide training, weapons, sometimes money, and combat support to despicable actors around the globe. While the Kremlin or Tehran may be controlling the reins of these attack dogs, both governments can claim plausible deniability and dispatch these forces to undertake operations that would trigger an international incident or a war if conducted by uniformed armies.

State-supported militias are changing the face of warfare. The United States was accused of war crimes for bombing Houthi positions in Yemen, with critics arguing that Yemen and the Houthis are not synonymous. And while bombing Tehran would most likely cripple the IRGC’s destabilizing activities, it would be considered a crime under international law.

Along with the rise of state-supported threat actors are private companies that sell their services to combatants. Elon Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company provided Starlink terminals to Kyiv, and the Canadian geo-intelligence firm MDA provided the Ukrainians with satellite imagery to track Russian troop movements. These are examples of Western firms aiding “the good guys” as chosen by their governments. But what about foreign firms from threat countries assisting the “baddies”?

The US is now sanctioning or considering sanctioning a number of Chinese firms that are aiding Russia. At the same time, China, taking a cue from Russia’s Wagner Group, is expanding its Private Security Companies (PSC), deploying them around the world. Compared to Wagner, there is much less risk that they would actively engage in combat, but they pose a tremendous espionage and diplomatic power threat, as they saturate pockets of the globe where China has investment interests.

Cyber threats, hacking, are a growing area of concern for the US government. These can come from state actors, non-state actors, private companies working on behalf of a foreign government, or transnational criminal or terrorist organizations. With the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital platforms, small, well-equipped, and well-trained groups can pose as great a threat as a large conventional military, taking down US infrastructure, telecommunications, or financial networks. Unmanned systems (UxS), killer drones, and additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) multiply the danger.

The new nature of warfare is that wars are undeclared and unconventional. A response from the US military would be called a war crime by the international community. And so, each threat is being handled in isolation, and the resolution of one attack does not prevent the next one. To adequately protect the nation, the intelligence agencies, along with Homeland Security, Space Force, and the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Agency (CSIA), will play a larger role. At the same time, because these threats can emerge from anywhere at any time, there are likely to be restrictions on personal freedoms in the US, a precedent most of us do not want to see.

The post Non-State Actors: Growing National Security Threat appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

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