Security Brief: NORTHCOM Week of July 5, 2021
Week of Monday, July 5, 2021 | Issue 19
Indirah Canzater, Hunter Engelhart, NORTHCOM Team
Fort Knox Fourth of July Celebration 2019
Date: July 7, 2021
Location: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Parties involved: Haitian government; United States (US) government
The event: On July 6, 2021, a group of 28 heavily armed men assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in his home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The First Lady, Martine Moïse, was also shot and is in stable yet critical condition. Although authorities believe the gunmen to be mercenaries, their affiliations, beliefs, and motivations are unknown. Promptly after news of the attack broke, martial law was enacted by the interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, the international airport was closed, and an investigation began. Police say that they killed four suspects following a hostage situation with officers, and other suspects have been apprehended. Two of the suspects are US citizens and the other suspects in custody are Colombian and said to be retired members of the Colombian military.
Following the assassination of Moïse, US President Biden stated that the US is ready to assist Haiti and ensure its safety. The US is currently reviewing a request from Haiti for assistance in the investigation of the assassination. It is unclear what other assistance the US may provide, but it could be sending military personnel to assist with security or monetary aid. In the past, the US has provided Haiti with a plethora of financial aid, so it is likely to occur again in this instance This is a positive aspect for Haiti and will not really have a negative impact on the US because it is unlikely that the monetary aid for Haiti will have a large impact on the current US debt.
The assassination is of US interest because Haiti is one of the US’s trade partners with a total of $2.3 billion worth of trade between the US and Haiti in 2019. Strong economic ties provide a large incentive for the US to help the Haitian government maintain order in the country. Considering that the political unrest in the country may worsen after the assassination and create problems with trade, the US should offer to send additional security along with financial assistance. It is critical that the Haitian government have strong security during this time because of the possibility of rampant gang violence in Haiti. If strong security is not set in place, the current situation could worsen resulting in an increase in gang violence.
Recently it has been reported that two Haitian-American citizens were arrested in Haiti with connections to the assassination. Due to Haiti’s overcrowded prison system, the two individuals will most likely be extradited by the Haitian government to face trial in the US. The involvement of US citizens in this assassination poses a risk to damage the relationship between the US and Haiti, possibly impacting trade between the two countries. As a result, it is key that the US fully cooperates in the investigation and assists the country in any way possible. US assistance and participation in the assassination of the Haitian president will show Haiti that the US takes this seriously and takes accountability for what their citizens did.
Date: July 2-5, 2021
Location: United States (US)
Parties involved: Gun owners across the US
The event: Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, the US saw a major spike in gun violence, a large chunk coming from continued gang violence within Chicago, Illinois. Over the span of three days, there were 540 shootings across the US, resulting in 516 injured and 189 dead. This is very worrisome for the US’s current issues with the rising trend of gun violence since spring 2021. Following this deadly weekend, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, declared gun violence a state emergency. So far, Cuomo’s action has been the only state government to address the massive spike in gun violence following the July 4 weekend. Governor Cuomo’s actions may serve as a driver to push other state governments to begin the process of implementing legislation to address gun violence within their respective states.
This increase in violence is specifically seen when examining the previous holiday weekend to this holiday weekend but also echoes the general increase in gun violence over the past year. Generally, major holidays see this increase because of factors such as increased alcohol intake and extended family/group contact. On such a big holiday weekend, it is important for law enforcement and the community to be extra vigilant regarding this spike of violence. This uptick in violence can be a threat to the safety of the community when celebrating the holiday with family. Law enforcement should prepare for an influx of calls relating to violence and guns during this time.
Specifically, this increase in violence needs to be carefully considered because of other contributing factors. This is one of the first major holidays since the COVID-19 vaccine has been administered on a mass scale, resulting in a dramatic increase in the amount of people in public settings. Due to the pandemic and controversies involving the police such as the murder of George Floyd, researchers are now attributing this trend of violence to a multitude of factors like social inequities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a decrease in gun violence intervention programs, and an increased strain between the police and communities.
Violence will likely continue to affect the poor and underserved communities in cities after the holidays because of the concerning factors mentioned in the previous point. Individual state governments should remain vigilant and continue to document any violence that occurs. This spike in violence will likely subside, as the trend is a decrease in violence after the holidays. However, because of the aforementioned factors, it is likely that violence levels will not level off to the original levels seen in previous years.
Date: July 8, 2021
Location: Washington DC, United States (US)
Parties involved: US troops; US Government; people of Afghanistan
The event: US President Biden announced on April 13, 2021, that all US combat troops will have withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. Since the April statement, there has been strong debate surrounding the implications that the withdrawal will have on the potential for violence and terrorism within Afghanistan and how the possible rise of terrorism will impact other countries. US President Biden responded to the debate by defending his original statement on Thursday, July 8, 2021, explaining that no amount of sustained US presence in Afghanistan could resolve the country’s own intractable problems. According to US officials, US troops left Bagram Air Force Base last week, making US President Biden’s plan of a total US troop withdrawal more than 90% complete. US President Biden has said that it is now up to Afghans to defend their country as there is nothing more that the US can do.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is highly likely to seriously impact the country’s stability. With the US pulling out of Afghanistan, terrorist groups face fewer barriers to carry out violence. Al Qaeda (AQ) along with the Taliban was never fully defeated in Afghanistan, only heavily weakened. With AQ and the Taliban still being present in Afghanistan, they remain a threat and as the US is pulling out of the area, it gives these groups the opportunity to grow stronger. The responsibility to keep AQ and the Taliban at bay will fall into the hands of the Afghan military once the US military fully withdraws from Afghanistan.
Strengthening terrorist groups, namely the Taliban and Al Qaeda, are serious concerns for the US and its allies. Though a more direct threat to Afghanistan, terrorists may use the country as a physical safe haven to train, equip, and reside instead of relying on more of a decentralized, virtual atmosphere that these groups have been using. This could also negatively impact the region and the rest of the world by allowing these groups the opportunity to plan more intricate attacks because of the increased ease of communication that will come with physical interaction. If terrorism stemming from the lack of US military strength in Afghanistan becomes too impactful, it may draw the US and allies back into Afghanistan in order to curb the increased presence in the country. This will continue the loop of US and ally intervention that President Biden is trying to end.
It is recommended that the US government and intelligence communities around the world continue to monitor Afghanistan after the US removes all military personnel from the region by watching for activity and recruitment from the terrorist groups. Continued monitoring of the region would allow intelligence agencies to detect if the region begins to become unstable and terrorist organizations use the country as a safe haven. The US would use the intelligence that they gather to inform other countries about a rise in terrorist activity in certain areas, rather than sending the military back into Afghanistan.
 Haiti police battle gunmen who killed president, amid fears of chaos, Reuters, July 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/haitian-president-shot-dead-home-overnight-pm-2021-07-07/
 Live updates: Americans claim they were just ‘translators’ in killing of Haiti’s President, judge says, The Washington Post, July 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/07/09/world/jovenel-moise-assassinated
 4th Of July Shootings Across The Country Killed More Than 180 People, NPR, July 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/07/06/1013251202/fourth-of-july-shootings-across-the-country-kill-more-than-180-this-year
 “Even Criminals Take a Holiday: Instrumental and Expressive Crimes on Major and Minor holidays,” Science Direct, 2003, http://www.sherrytowers.com/crime_and_holidays.pdf
 More than 180 people died in gun violence over the July 4 holiday weekend, CBS News, July 2021, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/shootings-gun-violence-180-people-killed-4th-july-weekend/
 Biden to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, The New York Times, April 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/13/us/politics/biden-afghanistan-withdrawal.html
 Biden defends pulling US out of Afghanistan as Taliban advances: ‘We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build,’ CNN, July 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/08/politics/biden-afghanistan-speech/index.html