Second Thoughts About Taliban Peace Talks

By Corri Zoli

(Re-published from Newsday | Sept. 9, 2019) Two U.S. soldiers were killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, from small-arms fire during combat late last month. We likely won’t know specific details about the service members’ identities or circumstances for some time.

“The deaths of the U.S. soldiers run against the grain of many Americans’ usual assumptions about war.”

But what we do know is that ongoing attacks by the Taliban will test America’s resolve to end what President Donald Trump has called an “endless” war. In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly is reluctant to sign an “agreement in principle” between the Taliban and the United States, brokered by U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. And, the president has decided to cancel peace talks with the Taliban, at least for now.

Secondly, the deaths of the U.S. soldiers run against the grain of many Americans’ usual assumptions about war — and this post-9/11 war in particular — and most Americans’ feelings about losing service members in asymmetric conflicts.

The two service members were fighting on behalf of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support — a noncombat “train, advise, and assist” mission of more than 17,000 troops in Afghanistan, which started Jan. 1, 2015, after the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ended Dec. 28, 2014.

While commanded by U.S. Army Gen. Austin Scott Miller, as the name suggests, this is a NATO mission. NATO allies with the Afghan government made the decision in 2012 (it has been reaffirmed frequently) to develop Afghan military capacity to defend and protect its citizens.

While Americans’ own security interests are at stake in this mission — no one wants to see another attack like 9/11 by al Qaeda operatives harbored in Afghanistan — the enormous investment in Afghanistan’s military capacity and security infrastructure comes at great price to Americans and citizens from other NATO-member states who have died in these combat and noncombat missions. Clearly, even this noncombat mission is beset with the armed conflict and violence associated with combat missions.

Of the 17,000-plus troops, the United States (8,475), Germany (1,300), and the United Kingdom (1,100) have provided the vast majority of “boots on the ground.” NATO members France and Canada, for instance, have zero troops in the fight. When U.S. administrations from Clinton to Trump pressure NATO members to contribute more to their own defense, the issue is not only about raising their GDP percentage contribution to NATO’s defense budget, it is also who is actually fighting in these security initiatives that European and NATO partners have deemed a priority …

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Corri Zoli Comments on Foreign Countries’ US Travel Warning

Japan joins list of countries warning of U.S. travel, Venezuela lists Tennessee city

(WZTV Nashville, TN | Aug. 7, 2019) Japan has joined a list of countries issuing travel alerts for the United States in the wake of two mass shootings over the weekend.

The country of Venezuela warned their citizens to avoid cities they called the “20 most dangerous in the world,” based on a report from Forbes Magazine. Among the cities listed are Memphis, Tennessee, Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia …

… A national security expert from Syracuse University called the travel advisories likely political in nature. Corrine Zoli, Director of Research for the university’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism says “there is likely a political message embedded in especially Venezuela’s travel alert in light of President Trump’s announcement on Monday of expanding US sanctions, which will freeze all Venezuelan government assets and ban all Americans from doing business with Maduro’s administration.”

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Corri Zoli Explores Terror’s Organizational Tactics in Terrorism and Political Violence Article

Zoli, Corri & Aliya H. Williams G’17. “ISIS Cohort Transnational Travels and EU Security Gaps: Reconstructing the 2015 Paris Attack Preplanning and Outsource Strategy.” Terrorism and Political Violence, 31 (June 2019).

In this article Zoli and Williams explore the underappreciated role of organizational tactics in terrorist violence in an understudied single case: ISIS’s execution of the Nov. 13, 2015 Paris attacks.

It is one of the first systemic reconstructions of the journeys made by two ISIS strike cohorts in the coordinated attacks, as teams traveled from the Levant to Europe. In contrast to other high-profile attacks, terrorism scholars have not undertaken a detailed reconstruction of this event, even while open source information is now available. By examining the transnational travels of foreign terrorist fighters, the authors identify ISIS’s distinctive terrorist outsourcing strategy in which operatives used their experiences to adapt to changing security conditions, while EU governments revealed limited responses.

Both elements in this tightly-knit dynamic—terrorist outsourcing savvy using FTFs and EU security policy failures—were necessary to achieve this high-profile attack.

Zoli’s and Williams’ essay contributes to descriptive empirical and theoretical knowledge of terrorist tactical innovation and adaptive operational learning, as these capacities are enhanced by on-the-ground organized networks to increase organizational (versus so-called “lone wolf”) campaign success. By using a single case interdisciplinary and exploratory framework, the authors claim that terrorism studies can delve deeper into superficially understood phenomena to isolate concepts with future cross-case value, such as cohorts and tactical adaptation.

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Corri Zoli Presents Terrorism, Security Papers at ISA 2019

Corri Zoli, Director of Research at the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, presented two papers and was a panel discussant at the 2019 International Studies Association Annual Convention in Toronto, Canada, on March 27 and 28, 2019.

At the Wednesday session of “Revisioning International Studies: Innovation and Progress,” Zoli presented on the “Challenges for Contemporary Special Operations Forces” panel. Her paper—”Terrorist Critical Infrastructures, Organizational Capacity and Security Risk”—joined others on topics such as computer-mediated threat assessment, weak states, ethic conflict, and terrorists’ use of emerging technologies.

On Thursday, Zoli joined the “Shaping the National Security State” panel and read “Leviathan Revisited: Assessing National Security Institutions for Abuse of Power and Overreach.” Other papers on this panel addressed civil‐military relations, the defense industry, and Cold War Military Balance.

Later in the same day, Zoli was the Discussant on the panel “New Directions in Qualitative International Studies” chaired by Eric Stollenwerk of Freie Universität Berlin. This wide-ranging discussion looked at modern qualitative international studies through the lenses of multi-method research, philosophy, autoethnography, and public diplomacy.

 

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Corri Zoli Interviewed by CNY Central About the New Zealand Mosque Shootings

(CNY Central | March 15, 2019) “We bring in a new perspective on an awful topic a woman we turn to often in times like this. Corri Zoli is an assistant professor at the Maxwell school at Syracuse University … why the recordings? why record what you’ve done?”

“I think this is a kind of classic terrorist tactic that we’ve been seeing since you know 2010 at the least where ISIS and al-Qaeda. I remember in the Toulouse attacks in France, for instance, where they recorded the attacks against a Jewish school with a GoPro video” …

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Corri Zoli Analyzes Immigration Debate on WAER

SU National Security Researcher Takes Fact-Based Approach to Charged Immigration Debate

(WAER | Jan. 8, 2019) A Syracuse University researcher is trying to take the politics and emotions out of illegal immigration and border security, even with the president’s address to the nation Tuesday evening. Dr. Corri Zoli is Director of Research at the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism. She says the political dynamics on both sides are counter-productive to arriving at a more permanent solution for the southern border.

“We’re seeing right now a real spike in unaccompanied minors and children essentially being dragged across the border.”

“If Congress had done a better job at clarifying immigration rules, laws, and statutes, which have been in need of reform for the last decade plus, then we wouldn’t have this level of resorting to politicizing this issue because it would be clarified in the law.”

So, Zoli says what we’re left with is a largely unsecured border that leads to a legal, humanitarian, and resource crisis. She says Department of Homeland Security data show tens of thousands of people affiliated with drug and human trafficking cartels are penetrating the border every year.

“We’re seeing right now a real spike in unaccompanied minors and children essentially being dragged across the border. Why are they doing that? Because the complexities of our law create incentives for traffickers to have a child with them” …

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Mythbusting: INSCT, IVMF Veterans Research Reported by Military Times

(Military Times | Jan. 5, 2019) Here’s something everyone can agree on: The way the public views veterans isn’t always accurate.

Take the assumption that all veterans have served in combat and have post-traumatic stress disorder, for example. Or that people only go into the military because they can’t get into college.

Those are just a couple of the “persistent, recycled myths” about veterans that Syracuse University researchers addressed during a session at the Student Veterans of America National Conference Friday, using both federal data and an 8,600-person survey of the military community to debunk some of the most common misconceptions about the nation’s youngest generation of veterans.

On one hand, studies by Gallup, Pew Research and others have shown there is “enormous public support (for the military) but at the same time a tremendous gap in knowledge about who we’re supporting,” said Corri Zoli, director of research at Syracuse’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism. “They don’t have a lot of granular detail about who they’re supporting and why.”

Myth 1: Veterans are a small subset of the population

The number that’s often thrown out is 1 percent, but that applies to active duty troops, researchers said. As of 2017, federal data show veterans make up 8 percent of the U.S. population, with post-9/11 veterans the fastest growing group among them.

Myth 2: Veterans join the military because they could not get into college and are uneducated

According to federal data collected in the 2017 Current Population Survey, 35 percent of post-9/11 veterans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 31 percent of all veterans and 32 percent of the general U.S. population.

Rosalinda Maury, a researcher with the Syracuse Institute for Veterans and Military Families, said education benefits tend to be a top recruiting incentive, and the military promotes and prepares service members for post-secondary education …

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Searching for Justice: The Courier Speaks to Corri Zoli on the 30th Anniversary of the Lockerbie Disaster

Staring into the ‘bowels of hell’: Lockerbie disaster 30 years on and the ongoing transatlantic search for justice

In an exclusive interview marking the 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, Michael Alexander speaks to an American terrorism expert whose university is marking the loss of 35 of its students in the attack – and hears the ‘hellish’ memories of several journalists who covered the aftermath.

(The Courier | Dec. 21, 2018) Cruising at a height of 31,000 feet and packed with students embarking on the long journey home to America for Christmas, passengers on board New York-bound Pan Am flight 103 were just 38 minutes into their flight from London Heathrow when at 7.03pm on December 21, 1988, a bomb exploded on board as the Boeing 747 flew over the Scottish borders.

“I had a briefing fairly recently from the FBI and the Scottish prosecutors on this. They talked about the various leads that they were pursuing in this long process.”

As well as killing all 259 people on the aircraft, the falling debris which hit the town of Lockerbie two minutes later, also wiped out 11 people on the ground.

As bodies, luggage and debris tumbled six miles through the sky, the most devastating carnage in the town came as the wings containing thousands of gallons of aviation fuel exploded on impact – gouging out a huge crater in Sherwood Crescent and obliterating two houses and their inhabitants with it …

… It’s a chapter which is of particular interest to terrorism expert Dr Corri Zoli – Syracuse University’s director of research at the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, and a teaching professor of law.

In an exclusive interview with The Courier, she revealed she was recently briefed by the FBI and Scottish prosecutors on the ongoing criminal and civil cases against alleged co-conspirators.

While she knows there was controversy around al-Megrahi’s prosecution, she thinks there was “good strong evidence” for him being involved – particularly as the late Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi admitted his country’s involvement in 2003.

She’s confident that, despite the complications of a trans-national investigation and liaising with “unstable” countries like Libya, further prosecutions will take place.

“I had a briefing fairly recently from the FBI and the Scottish prosecutors on this,” she said.

“They talked about the various leads that they were pursuing in this long process.

“They actually were closer to finding information in part because there has been destabilisation in Libya.

“They were getting access to records they hadn’t been able to gain access to before. So I do think there will be that level of justice in terms of prosecuting people beyond those who have already been prosecuted.”

Dr Zoli, who has worked at Syracuse since 2009, said the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 was “shocking” in all the ways that terrorist attacks are shocking.

It was atypical in that hijackings were the most prevalent form of terrorism at the time and, some 13 years before 9/11, it was unusual in that it targeted Americans. It was also relatively rare for bombs to eliminate aircraft in flight.

However, the fact there were 35 American students on board from a single university was in itself “quite unprecedented” …

Staring into the ‘bowels of hell’: Lockerbie disaster 30 years on and the ongoing transatlantic search for justice

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Corri Zoli to Attend UNSC Counterterrorism Special Meeting on the “Madrid Principles”

Zoli_UN_MeetingINSCT Director of Research Corri Zoli has been invited to attend a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee on Dec. 13, 2018, in the Economic and Social Council Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York City. The meeting will discuss “Security Council Resolution 2396 (2017): A Review of the Madrid Principles,” a document that provides guidance to member states on stemming the flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) across national borders, while staying compliant with human rights laws and norms.  

In particular, explains UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Chair Gustavo Meza-Cuadra in his letter of invitation, the special meeting will tackle the issue of FTFs “in light of the evolving threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, particularly FTF returnees and relocators and their family members.” The review of the Madrid Principles also will examine gaps that may hinder states’ abilities to detect, interdict, prosecute, rehabilitate, and reintegrate FTF returnees and their families, as well as identify good practices.

Among the working sessions will be those on “border security and information-sharing”; “global research perspectives on cross-cutting trends”; “countering incitement, recruitment, and violent extremism”; and “judicial measures, international cooperation, and prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration strategies.” Invited discussants include Edmund Fitton-Brown of the Analytical and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the ISIL and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee; Elisabeth Neugebauer, Deputy Special Representative, International Criminal Police Organization; and Tanya Mehra, International Centre for Counterterrorism, The Hague.

The Madrid Principles were developed from a July 2015 special meeting hosted by the Government of Spain and co-organized by the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), with which INSCT collaborates on counterterrorism prevention. This Madrid meeting was attended by member states from every region of the world, as well as representatives of international and regional organizations, universities, and civil society groups. Discussions and technical sessions identified 35 guiding principles that were subsequently adopted by the Security Council and offered as a practical tool for use by member states in their efforts to combat terrorism.

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Corri Zoli Discusses Mail Bomb Attacks & Domestic Terrorism on Spectrum News

Are Recent Suspicious Packages an Act of Political Terrorism?

(Spectrum News | Oct. 25, 2018) One after the other, suspicious packages were delivered to the media and liberal leaders, many in New York City.

“This is a very painful time in our nation. It’s a time when people are feeling a lot of hate in the air,” said Bill de Blasio, (D) New York City Mayor.

Some are calling it domestic terrorism and others call it political terrorism.

“Someone one who might be trying to use scare tactics or trying to enhance political passions, make partisan divisions worse,” said Corri Zoli, Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism Research Director.

It is a scary thought for a country largely functioning on a two-party system.

Zoli said, “It’s not accurate to characterize opposition groups as enemies in a two-party system that structures the United States.”

But, is that what we’re seeing?

In 2017, the target appeared to be on the other side of the aisle, members of Republican Congressional baseball team.

“Is this a retaliatory attack for those attacks? This is the problem with polarization. You get these kind of escalating dynamics…clearly this is an expression of partisanship gone awry,” said Zoli …

Watch the whole segment.

 

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