The ISIS attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, was a strike against both the British people and a symbol of American culture timed to coincide with President Trump’s visit to the Middle East and Europe.
None of this was coincidental. And it comes at a time when there is already much discussion and controversy in the United Kingdom over the national security course it needs to chart as it implements BREXIT.
So how do we – the British and the Americans – fight back?
Part of the answer is to rebuild the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into a NATO 2.0 that is a credible and effective counterterrorism and cyber warfare operation.
Tagged by Donald Trump as “obsolete” during his presidential campaign because of its lack of focus on terror (he has since changed his position), NATO 2.0 – with counter-terror at its center – would bring the organization into the 21st century to face 21st-century concerns.
Europe and the U.K. have suffered multiple and severe terror attacks over the past few years, primarily at the hands of ISIS. It is time we use the tools available to us to go after these terrorists on a broader and more effective basis.
NATO 2.0 needs to examine not only strategy and purpose, but technology and practical capability as well. This is not your father’s 1980s “air land battle” space of the Cold War with the Soviets.
NATO did engage in counterterrorism operations during the 1980s against the Soviet-funded and –backed terror organizations such as the Red Army Faction (RAF) and the Baader-Meinhof Gang. It is time for NATO to once again pick up counterterrorism and work it as a primary mission focus.
There are two key areas for NATO 2.0 to solidify and equip itself to meet the terror challenges of today:
First, counter-terror coordination and intelligence sharing, exchange and actions: in other words, enhanced “cross pollination” of counterterrorism units to take advantage of best practices used by each.
This would include U.S. and U.K. intelligence collection and special operations units, as well as the FBI and Scotland Yard, working together to first identify and then train to enhance “on target” Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP).
This would also mean having U.S. and U.K. special ops and intel personnel exchange and train for the latest Find, Fix, Finish and Exploit (F3E) processes. And increasing the use of both American and British special operation forces to enhance and support law enforcement activities to both identify early and conduct aggressive counterterror operations to disrupt and prevent attacks.
Second, the effective and tight integration of cyber and strategic communications, information operations and warfare: in other words, a coordinated cyber-information warfare effort with a primary focus on defeating the message and marketing efforts of radical Islam.
The U.S. and U.K. must face this terror threat jointly. And we must see Brexit as an opportunity for an even more cohesive Anglo-American strategy to protect the security of not only the U.K. and Europe but the international community and global stability as a whole.
Retooling NATO to deal with 21st century security challenges and to aggressively counter ISIS is a good place to start.
Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer is Vice President for Operations of the London Center for Policy Research, a New York City-based national security think tank, and is the author of the controversial New York Times bestselling "Operation DARK HEART: Spycraft and Special Operations on the Frontlines of Afghanistan".