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Security Brief: NORTHCOM Week of November 8, 2021

Week of Monday, November 8, 2021 | Issue 35

Indirah Canzater, Tiffany Dove, NORTHCOM Team


US Navy Holiday Celebration[1]


Date: November 8, 2021

Location: Ruoqiang County, Xinjiang, China

Parties involved: China; US; Maxar Industries; Chinese Foreign Ministry; US Naval Institute; Australia; United Kingdom

The event: US satellite images captured photos of mock-ups of a US Naval aircraft carrier in the desert of China. The images captured on November 7, 2021 were released to the public on November 8, 2021. Along with the aircraft carrier, at least one Naval destroyer was also photographed in the same area.[2] It is not known how similar these mock-ups are to the real Naval boats from the photos. According to the independent US Naval Institute, the mock-ups photographed were likely a part of a target range developed by China.[3] China has been looking to increase its control over the South China Sea by improving their military, including improvements to new devices and military capabilities.[4] When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, was asked about the photos, he explained that he had no information on the matter.[5]

The implications:

  • As China continues to grow its military capabilities through Naval improvements, and the development of various land, sea, and air missiles, tensions within the South China Sea are likely to rise. It is likely that the Chinese military is using the mock-ups to prepare how they might counter the US Navy. The replicas will likely be used to determine if China can use their new hypersonic missile to target US ships.

  • These improvements will likely cause more tension between the US and China as this will likely be seen as a threat towards US national security and overall movement of commerce and entities within the South China Sea.

  • As tensions continue to rise in the South China Sea among major countries such as the US, China, and Russia, it is likely that these tensions will turn into military action. With the recent AUKUS deal between Australia, the US, and the United Kingdom allowing Australia to get nuclear-powered submarines, and the continuing military improvements of China, countries will likely begin preparing for possible alterations within or outside of the South China Sea. This includes the possibility of both military and economic preparations.

  • As China will almost certainly continue building up their military strength and strategies, other countries will likely begin looking to improve their militaries to keep up with China. The US and other countries within the South China Sea such as Taiwan, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam will likely need to prepare for more pressure and military action from China as tensions continue to rise within the South China Sea.

Date: November 10, 2021

Location: United States (US)

Parties involved: US intelligence community (IC); US law enforcement; US public; Al-Qaeda; Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); Other foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs); Homegrown violent extremists (HVEs); Domestic violent extremists (DVEs); Religious communities; US federal, state, and local elected officials; US Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The event: On November 10, 2021, the DHS issued a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin warning against the elevated threat of domestic violence during the upcoming holiday season across the US. The greatest US threat is from lone actors and small groups involving violence. DVEs, HVEs, and other hostile foreign actor influences continue to be a major threat, especially Al-Qaeda and ISIS, using online platforms to encourage and disseminate violent extremist propaganda and actions. These actors have been increasing this activity since the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2021 attacks and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, proclaiming these events as US defeats. There is no current, credible threat to any determined US location.[6]

The implications:

  • Racially and ethnically motivated violent extremist groups will likely continue to grow due to the recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has caused tension among the US public. The upcoming increase in mass gatherings for the holiday season will very likely create a target-rich environment for violent extremists. Holiday celebrations for newly arrived Afghan refugees and the American Muslim community will be likely targets for DVEs, who are likely motivated by extremist views on ethnicity and race.

  • The upcoming holiday season combined with colder weather will very likely increase COVID-19 cases, as gatherings will mostly take place indoors due to the relaxed restrictions on masks and large gatherings. An increase in COVID-19 cases will likely cause increased public health restrictions, almost certainly increasing the likelihood for anti-government and anti-authority violent extremist aggression, especially from DVE groups. If this occurs, it is very likely that plots against elected government and public health officials would rise.

  • DVEs and FTOs will likely continue using online platforms and propaganda to recruit followers and inspire violent actions in the US. Exploiting US public issues will likely grow these actors’ influence as they will likely align their propaganda to target those susceptible to agreeing with their cause. Likely targets of DVEs and FTOs in the coming months include shopping malls, houses of worship, holiday celebration parties, and festivals, especially due to the commercial and business reopenings, and increased COVID-19 vaccinations.

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[1]Capt. Michael J. Coury, commanding officer of Naval Station Everett, and Bill Rody, dressed as Santa Claus, announce the lighting of Naval Station Everett's Christmas tree during a holiday celebration.” by Jeffry Willadsen licensed under Public Domain

[2] Satellite Images Show China Built Mock-ups of U.S. Warships, CNBC, November 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/08/satellite-images-show-china-built-mock-ups-of-us-warships.html

[3] Satellite Images Show China Built Mock-ups of U.S. Warships, Politico, November 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/08/satellite-china-us-warships-520271

[4] China uses maritime militia to assert claim on South China Sea, Aljazeera, November 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/19/china-supports-maritime-militia-to-assert-south-china-sea-claim

[5] Ibid

[6] Summary of the Terrorism Threat to the U.S. Homeland, Department of Homeland Security, November 2021, https://www.dhs.gov/ntas/advisory/national-terrorism-advisory-system-bulletin-november-10-2021


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