(BBC – 15 March 2018) The trouble telling aid workers and foreign fighters apart – the Virginian


It should be easy to tell the difference between an aid worker and a jihadist, but the war in Syria shows that is not always the case. Finding a solution could help ensure aid still reaches the people who need it in future conflicts.

A desire to ease the suffering of ordinary Syrians during its years of civil war has been shared by many people around the world.

But getting aid into Syria and making sure it reaches the right people is extremely difficult.

The conflict is complex and jihadists took advantage of the ensuing confusion – particularly at the start of the war – with some aid money diverted and foreign fighters entering the country by posing as aid workers.

Charities and aid have been exploited by extremists in previous conflicts – in countries from Bosnia to Afghanistan.

So, how can they be stopped from doing so in future?

In Syria, research by the Lowy Institute shows how extremists have often portrayed themselves as champions of the oppressed, with many claiming to be working with children and orphans.

Full article at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42861695


I’ve met the author, and was part of a training activity that included us both once upon a time.  While I do not necessarily agree with all of his views, the question is a good – and troubling – one, with no easy answer. Most NGOs and International Organizations (IOs) have no or limited capacity to fully vet staff, even less so when staff are contracted directly in a conflict or a post-conflict zone, or even a relatively stable country office environment.  And this reality is not specific to jehadis, but any type of terrorist, insurgent or similar actor regardless of religion, ethnicity, etc.  One need only look at Africa, Latin America for non-jehadi examples. 

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9 Responses to (BBC – 15 March 2018) The trouble telling aid workers and foreign fighters apart – the Virginian

  1. Babak Makkinejad says:

    This author is discounting the responsibility of Syrians in this civil war – including the non-combatants.

  2. Peter AU says:

    “So, how can they be stopped from doing so in future?”
    Exploited? Or purpose designed and backed by states? White helmets, the various so called medical charities that operate in Idlib and other jihadist controlled regions of Syria, UK government some months ago putting together a container ship load of goods to be sent to Idlib (UK Foreign office were pushing that meme on their twitter account).
    The biggest problem is that it is states rather than individuals using NGO’s to support terrorists.

  3. catherine says:

    How do you mean?

  4. Cortes says:

    The tag at the end of the heartfelt plea for intervention in the letter accompanying this
    is fairly eloquent.
    I’m just surprised that the White Helmets haven’t been seen in Salisbury.

  5. J says:

    Off topic: Russian Defense Ministry’s official broadcaster Zvezda is set to air an episode on the Akula class Shchuka B nuclear powered attack subs. In it a sub officer Sergey Starshinov who was filmed in the show, the Russian Navy ordered close proximity positioning near U.S. Military bases during their exercises. When asked if the subs had managed to stay off U.S. radar during their mission, he repled “Yes. Our objective — to come and go undetected.: According to Starshinov the Russian subs came ‘close enough’ to U.S. shores but didn’t violate U.S. maritime borders, staying in neutral waters. The channel said that Russian nuke subs “reached the very coastline of the U.S.”
    The Shchuka B carries Kalibr/Granat cruise missiles, 553mm torpedoes, and can stay under for up to 100 days.

  6. J says:

    Off topic again: Russian doomsday torpedo Kanyon aka Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6, it’s 24M long, has a speed of (100knots 185kpm/h), range up to 10,000km, max operational depth 1000m, warhead 100 megaton thermonuclear (twice as powerful as their Tsar Bomba).
    It’s main launch platform Khabarovsk nuclear powered sub custom built to field up to 6 Kanyon torpedoes fired forward. The Khabarovsk sub is 120m in length.
    The Kanyon doomsday torpedo is said to be ‘salted’ with Cobalt-60, causing contamination off limits to humans for up to 100years.

  7. Charles says:

    According to the reports, the sub positioned itself outside American Territorial waters.

  8. Fred says:

    That’s a damn good question and all the major NGOs shoudl have some process to do just that, though I doubt they do. In a similar vein how do we tell the loyalty of H1B visa holders or green card lottery assistants, such as Mr. Awan? I believe the FBI only managed to arrest him at the airport, after his wife had already departed for home, i.e. Pakistan.
    How many company hacks are actually inside jobs by visa holders skimming information or purposely leaving security flaws in IT systems?

  9. different clue says:

    (reply to comment 10),
    I realize I am not the Virginian, but a thought occurred to me on how we can tell in a general way whether some of these hacks are done or prepared-for by visa holders doing IT work even without knowing which particular ones are doing it or might be doing it.
    As visas time out and expire on visa holders doing IT work, don’t permit any visas to renew. Make the holders of expired visas leave the country. Issue precisely zero new visas to anyone seeking IT work. Outlaw any employer of IT personnel within America from hiring anyone with a visa. If that can’t be done, at least have all government contracting agencies from the FedGov to the smallest townlet deny contracts to any company which hires anyone who is here on a visa.
    Eventually the visas and visa holders would be sweated out of the system. Then we could spend the next few years seeing if the level of hacking changes or stays the same. If it stays the same, maybe we conclude it wasn’t the visa holders in IT.

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