Strategic Intelligence Summary for 22 February 2018

Strategic Intelligence contains intelligence reporting on the state of global security and instability, geostrategic issues affecting the United States, pre-war indicators, and assessments on the current risk of war. This report is available each week for Strategic Intelligence subscribers.


 

In this Strategic Intelligence Summary: (4,926 words)

  • Trinidad and Tobago police break up terrorist plot
  • Brazil considers wider use of military in battling urban violence
  • ISIS gaining strength in Africa
  • New U.S. threat assessment says Russia, China would ‘justify’ ASAT attacks
  • U.S. focuses anew on hypersonic missile development as Russia, China make progress
  • Russian Strategic Missile Force received 21 ballistic missiles in 2017
  • Does the Chinese navy have a rail gun too?
  • NATO-Russia: U.S. stepping up naval patrols in Black Sea to ‘desensitize’ Russia
  • Middle East: The Syrian mess is getting more complicated
  • U.S.-Korea: Kim Jong-un may believe Trump will attack him
  • South China Sea: New detailed photos show China’s advanced militarization of South China Sea ‘islands’
  • Hundreds of migrants, human smugglers arrested in Mexico
  • MS-13 gang member arrested in Fla. after brandishing AK-47

In Focus: It’s been another interesting week of developments around the world but, once again, the Middle East remains the most volatile. Those who thought the winding down of the Syrian civil war was going to lead to a period of new stability are being proven wrong daily. The situation there has only become more complex now that ISIS is largely defeated. Great power war is still very possible here, even likely to some observers. Regional power war is almost a certainty (Israel and Iran come to mind). Meanwhile, new photos of China’s manmade islands show very advanced levels of development and militarization, making it less and less likely Beijing will be in any mood to abandon its positions. We learned also this week that Kim Jong-un may believe President Trump when the latter says ‘all military options are on the table.’ And the Pentagon has decided that the U.S. should have a much more muscular presence in the Baltic Sea as a counterweight to Russia.

As always, thank you for subscribing and enjoy this week’s Strategic Intelligence Summary. — JD


Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?

PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)

PIR4: What is the current security situation along the U.S.-Mexico border and south of the border?


PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

Trinidad and Tobago police break up terrorist plot

Police in Trinidad and Tobago reported arresting three more people in connection with a plot to carry out alleged terrorist attacks during a local carnival celebration. Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams told a news conference that seven people are now assisting the authorities in their probe of the alleged plot that some western governments have linked to a possible terrorist activity. “I wish to give the assurance to residents and visitors that the [police] continues to address the threat to disrupt Carnival 2018 festivities.” Canadian, United States and British authorities issued statements describing the events as a terrorist threat. [source] Analysis: U.S. troops participated in raids in the Caribbean nation to help local authorities capture “high value targets.” This region has long been an area of concern for the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community because it is a region believed to harbor ISIS sympathizers. Some citizens from T & T have traveled to Syria to fight with the now-nearly-defunct militant group. An October report by the Soufan Group, a security consultancy that tracks foreign fighters, said that approximately 130 Trinidadians have traveled to Iraq or Syria to become foreign fighters. [source]

Brazil considers wider use of military in battling urban violence

Leaders of South America’s largest country say they see benefit in utilizing the country’s military to combat rising levels of violence in Rio de Janeiro, and it may serve as a model for the rest of the country where violence is a problem. The army has officially taken over all duties from the city’s police force under a decree signed by President Michel Temer. The decree still requires approval by the country’s legislature, while opponents have asked the Supreme Court to suspend a vote in the legislature, claiming that the decision had “political and electoral motivations.” The decree came after Rio’s governor appealed to the federal government for assistance following an unusually violent Carnival, during which several muggings, armed robberies and other violent confrontations occurred. “It’s important to understand that Rio de Janeiro is a laboratory,” Institutional Security Minister Sergio Etchegoyen said of the decision to put troops in policing roles. “It’s the outward manifestation of a structural crisis.” [source]

Islamic State gaining strength in Africa

After being routed in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State terrorist/militant group is gaining a new foothold on the African continent. An ISIS affiliate that maintains loose ties to ISIS leaders in the Middle East is active and growing in western Africa and has now surpassed the Boko Haram terrorist organization as a threat, according to U.S. military officials at U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Indeed, the Islamic State West Africa is made up, in part, of former Boko Haram fighters, but the group is employing sophisticated battlefield tactics in excess of those used by Boko Haram. “Our greater concern now is the splinter group,” Col. Stephen Wertz, who manages AFRICOM efforts in western Africa, said. “We see them as a longer term strategic threat.” U.S. Special Forces teams have been active in Africa for years and continue to be; the highest threat regions currently are Niger, Nigeria and Mali. [source]


PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries? 

New U.S. threat assessment says Russia, China would ‘justify’ ASAT attacks

The newly-released 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community warned that not only are Russia and China improving their anti-satellite capabilities, but in a time of conflict both would justify destroying American satellites. “We assess that if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against U.S. and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil or commercial space systems,” the assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said. While the U.S. has benefited from a great deal of innovation in the space industry, so, too, have other countries, the assessment notes. “Foreign countries — particularly China and Russia — will continue to expand their space-based reconnaissance, communications, and navigation systems in terms of the numbers of satellites, the breadth of their capability, and the applications for use,” it said. Both countries are developing destructive and non-destructive counter-space weapons “for use during a potential future conflict.” In addition to kinetic and non-kinetic weapons, the assessment also notes that Beijing and Moscow are also launching “experimental” satellites that could be used to assist in their counter-space capabilities. [source] Analysis: This makes sense; denying the U.S. use of space for precision-guided weapons capability, surveillance, and communications is the ultimate anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy, since space has been a war fighting domain since we launched our first satellite for military use. The U.S. has one acknowledged anti-satellite system: The counter-communications system, which has a lot of latent capabilities, “particularly through its ground-based missile defense operations,” said Brian Weeden, director of planning at the Secure World Foundation.

U.S. focuses anew on hypersonic missile development as Russia, China make progress

As peer-competitor powers Russia and China continued their work over the past several years in developing the next generation of ballistic missiles — the hypersonic vehicle — the U.S. had fallen behind. China, in particular, has leaped ahead in development, already having conducted a number of successful tests. “China’s hypersonic weapons development outpaces ours… we’re falling behind,” Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the military’s Pacific Command, warned lawmakers recently. “We need to continue to pursue that and in a most aggressive way in order to ensure that we have the capabilities to both defend against China’s hypersonic weapons and to develop our own offensive hypersonic weapons.” In the FY 2019 budget, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency requested $120 million for hypersonic missile development, an increase over $75 million in the current fiscal year. [source] Analysis: Hypersonic ICBMs are game-changers. They can carry nuclear weapons, be launched from air, sea, and land platforms, and — importantly — are capable of changing direction in flight unlike traditional ICBMs, rendering current U.S. missile defenses moot. Plus, the sheer speed — a mile per second — makes them virtually unstoppable. What’s more, foreign media reports that China has already developed and, last year, tested a new type of hypersonic missile, the DF-17. The U.S. Office of National Intelligence has confirmed China “has tested a hypersonic glide vehicle.” Russia’s equivalent is called “Zircon.” Ours is the X-51A Waverider, which was first tested in 2012. It reached a speed of 3,600 miles per hour; future iterations are expected to travel even faster. But we’re behind the curve and China is ahead. Why? Because the Chinese are not part of a 1987 nuclear forces treaty signed between the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union; if they had been, over 90 percent of their current missile inventory would have been subject to its restrictions.  

Russian Strategic Missile Force received 21 ballistic missiles in 2017

Russian chief of the Defense Ministry’s Military Representations Department Col. Oleg Stepanov said recently that the country’s Strategic Missile Force received 21 ballistic missiles last year. “Overall, 21 ballistic missiles, 19 autonomous launchers, 33 combat duty support vehicles, 7 command posts and 310 other integral parts of the systems were delivered,” he said, according to Russian media. “A total of six launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles were carried out in 2017 to extend the warranty periods for the operation of missile systems that are on combat duty, and also for training purposes. The hardware showed its operation in a normal mode and the assigned tasks were accomplished,” he added. Commander of the 39th Missile Division Major-General Pavel Burkov reported on the acceptance and activation of armament, military and special hardware of Yars-S missile complexes. “The rearmament of the 357th missile regiment with mobile Yars-S systems was completed,” he said. The 39th missile division has been on “combat duty” since December 2017 comprising two missile regiments armed with mobile Yars systems and one missile regiment equipped with Yars-S mobile complexes. [source] Analysis: As Russia upgrades and adds new missiles to its strategic forces, China is also moving in the same direction. Fortunately, so is the United States. Ankit Panda for the Council on Foreign Relations reports: “U.S. nuclear forces, operated by the Air Force and Navy, have entered a years-long period that will see the modernization of warheads, bombs, and delivery systems. Many of these land-, air-, and sea-based systems, which constitute the so-called nuclear triad, entered service during the Cold War and will reach the end of their life cycles in the coming decades.” The cost of the upgrades between 2017 and 2026 is expected to be in the neighborhood of $400 billion.

Does the Chinese navy have a rail gun too?

The U.S. Navy has been developing a railgun concept for a number of years, but has yet to deploy one on a warship. The Chinese navy has apparently beaten the U.S. Navy to the punch. Multiple reports this month including photos claim that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has installed a prototype railgun on the Type 072III landing ship tank (LST) Haiyang Shan, #936. In addition to the gun there are also three shipping containers on the vessel, suggesting they could contain the electrical infrastructure necessary to ‘fire’ the gun. If it truly is a railgun, photos and analyses suggest it is similar in size to the U.S. version, a BAE 32 megajoule weapon that has been built for testing. The system is designed to fire 22-pound projectiles more than 100 miles and at speeds of Mach 7. Earlier, the U.S. Navy had planned to install the system on the USNS Trenton fast transport ship, but that was in 2016; since then the Pentagon has shifted funding priorities first to equipping conventional naval guns with the railgun’s low-drag, high-speed ammunition. [source] Analysis: The thing to remember is that just because the PLAN may have installed a railgun prototype on a warship doesn’t mean it’s a fully-functional system. As one assessment noted, “Engineers for this test, as with all railgun work, will have to overcome formidable challenges in material durability, power storage, and projectile guidance.” But if the Chinese are successful, it’ll be a naval game-changer. One other thing to keep in mind: The PLAN has been working on EMALS – state-of-the-art electromagnetically assisted launch system for future Chinese aircraft carriers (as has the U.S. Navy). Here’s another source.


PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)

NATO-Russia:

U.S. stepping up naval patrols in Black Sea to ‘desensitize’ Russia

U.S. foreign policy regarding the Black Sea has suddenly become more muscular.

The Navy will begin stepping up patrols there, to include multiple warship formations — the first such patrols in the Black Sea by American warships since 2014. The Navy has already deployed the guided-missile destroyer USS Carney to join the destroyer USS Ross already in the Black Sea. The beefed-up presence is intended to “desensitize” Russia to the presence of U.S. military assets in what is a strategically important region to Moscow and NATO.

The stepped-up U.S. presence comes as Russia continues to militarize the Crimea, which it “annexed” from Ukraine in 2014, in violation of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances — an agreement signed in Hungary on 5 December 1994 by the U.S., the Russian Federation and the U.K. that included security assurances against threats of use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The U.S. and NATO have, in recent years, accused Russia of deploying troops and other military systems to Crimea; new reports say that Russian submarines now operate out of the enclave.

NATO and U.S. officials have downplayed the increased American naval presence.

“Our decision to have two ships simultaneously operate in the Black Sea is proactive, not reactive,” Vice Adm. Christopher Grady, commander of 6th Fleet, which oversees U.S. naval operations in the region, told American media. “The continued presence of the U.S. Navy in the Black Sea demonstrates our enduring commitment to regional stability, maritime security of our Black Sea partners, and the collective defense of our NATO allies.”

There have always been tensions between U.S. and Russian forces operating in or near the Black Sea, but those tensions increased after the Crimea annexation. They include a number of often dangerous encounters and interactions between U.S. and Russian aircraft and warships.

Both the Ross and the Carney are equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, to which Russia is very sensitive. Both vessels are forward deployed to Naval Station Rota, Spain. They routinely patrol the Mediterranean and Black Seas. [source]

Outlook: It’s too soon to tell whether this is just a one-off or whether the president and his national security team have made a policy decision to challenge and check Russian aggression in the Black Sea. But it is safe to say that Vice Adm. Grady’s claim that the U.S. isn’t “reacting” to Russia is a smokescreen; of course we are.

And we’re doing it because no other navy in NATO has the combat power or the assets to do so — unless they acted in tandem, and even then, maybe. But the beefed-up U.S. naval presence also sends another signal, but not to Moscow, to the military alliance it leads: President Trump has moved on from his campaign rhetoric in which he questioned the necessity and utility of the NATO alliance. He’s all-in; now, if he can just get NATO members to ‘pay their fair share,’ they’d be better able to, in the years ahead, to shoulder more of the security burden in their own backyards.

How will President Putin respond? When taking Crimea, he acted on a calculation that NATO would not risk war over his actions; he was right. NATO probably wouldn’t risk war if Putin invaded Ukraine proper, in blatant disregard for the Budapest accords. But the U.S. is making it clear that there definitely is a line it will not allow Putin to cross through its beefed-up Black Sea presence.

Middle East: 

The Syrian mess is getting more complicated

About a week ago Western diplomats used a high-level meeting of NATO nations in an attempt to prevent what many see as a looming catastrophe: Members Turkey and the United States exchanging fire (and casualties) in Syria. The diplomacy comes at a time when U.S. and Turkish forces have come close to direct conflict. According to American media, Turkey remains upset with Washington over its support for Syrian Kurdish militants that Ankara considers terrorists; Turkey has been battling Kurds in a Syrian town, Afrin, and has threatened to go after Kurds in another town, Manjib, where several hundred U.S. Special Forces troops are deployed and where U.S. commanders on the ground have said they will stay.

Tensions are also being stoked inside Turkey, with media reports claiming that the U.S. provided Kurdish forces with a rocket that killed five Turkish soldiers Feb. 3 — Ankara has not said how the government determined where the rocket came from.

What is also complicating the situation is Turkey’s steady move towards Russia; the current row with the U.S. may be pushing Ankara even closer to Moscow, further threatening the integrity of the alliance, Russia’s primary rival. “The less our allies cooperate with us, the more we have to work with other regional players,” said Turkey’s ambassador to the European Union, Faruk Kaymakci. “This forced us to get closer with Russia and with Iran.”

Prior to the NATO meeting, White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster met Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chief adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, in Istanbul for talks, with both discussing issues that are negatively impacting relations, while agreeing to seek out ways to “jointly fight all forms of terrorism.”

Presidents Trump and Erdogan have also had frank and contentious discussions regarding the issue of the U.S. arming its principle partner on the ground in Syria, the YPG. Turkey claims that the U.S. is providing the group, which it considers part of the “terrorist” Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, with heavy weapons; the Trump administration says it is not. [source]

Outlook: By week’s end, the Turks were also warning the Syrian government against entering Afrin to defend the Kurds there, setting up yet another flashpoint and further complicating the situation there. [source]

President Bashar al-Assad’s government is backed by both Russia and Iran; any actions, therefore, taken against Syrian troops — especially as they sought to defend their sovereign soil — would be particularly troublesome for Ankara.

But a clash between a client state of Russia and Turkey would drive a wedge between Ankara and Moscow at a time when it’s relationship with a NATO ally is rocky. That may leave Turkey alone and friendless in a dangerous part of the world.

And we haven’t even tossed in the Israeli-Iranian-Hezbollah faction in this equation, which is percolating in the background.

Bottom line: The situation in Syria remains tenuous and fluid. It’s the most dangerous region on our radar at the moment, because there are so many potential tripwires among a growing number of regional players.

North Korea:

Kim Jong-un may believe Trump will attack him

A former North Korean official has said he believes the reason why North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is extending a diplomatic hand to South Korea is to buy time because he believes President Trump will attack his country.

A defector from the regime — former ruling party official Ri Jong-ho — said Kim wants to buy more time so he can develop his nuclear weapons program to maturity, which explains why he supported a joint Korean team at the Peyongchang Winter Olympics, according to South Korean media.

“Kim Jong-un is afraid that the U.S. will launch a preventative strike, and he is trying to buy time to complete his nuclear and missile programs,” said Ri, who worked for about 30 years in Office 39 of the ruling Worker’s Party, which was responsible for raising money for Kim.

Speaking at a Washington, D.C., forum amid broad speculation that the Olympics thaw will lead to wider talks between the U.S. and North Korea regarding denuclearization, Ri noted further that Kim “is struggling under the strongest-yet sanctions and military and diplomatic pressure, so he is trying to improve the situation by putting on a false front.”

He also refuted claims that the sanctions were not having any measurable effect on the Kim regime, which are the toughest in 25 years. As such, Kim is attempting to “create a hole” in the sanctions regime.

“Depending on the circumstances, North Korea could hold South Koreans hostage and continue its threatening provocations,” Ri said, adding that he also thinks Pyongyang managed to extract more money from Seoul in return for improving inter-Korean ties.

Ri also praised Trump’s efforts to highlight Kim’s human rights abuses, saying that is a powerful “weapon” against the North Korea leader and the most effect means of resolving the North Korean crisis. [source]

Outlook: Several experts have speculated that Kim was playing a hand here — feigning unity and cooperation at the Olympics mostly to buy himself some good will, which has happened. Sending his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who personally shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal leader who prefers diplomacy in dealing with the North rather than military force, was a masterstroke; her ‘charm offensive’ was greeted with resounding approval in the U.S. and Western media, all of which fawned over her presence.

But if this defector is correctly analyzing the situation, it’s clear that Trump’s refusal to take the military options off the table in dealing with the North’s nuclear program has Kim rattled and concerned. The analysis, however, also underscores a core fact about the nuclear program — that Kim will continue to pursue it as he believes it’s his ticket to regime survival.

Which means that Trump, who has pledged to stop Kim’s program from becoming a threat, will continue to threaten military reprisals.

That could happen asymmetrically. One report this week from an American foreign policy magazine that was highlighted in South Korean media said that Pentagon planners were considering the use of cyberweapons as a ‘first-strike’ against North Korea. “The first shot will be cyber,” it quoted a former U.S. intelligence official as predicting. Other officials said the process of getting the cyberwarfare infrastructure set up in the region has been in the works for six months. [source]

So clearly, as we suspected, the Olympics are being used to boost Kim’s image and that of his country, all while continuing to develop his program. The interesting part was to find out that he’s legitimately concerned about what Trump what might do, which is a win for the president and his foreign policy approach. That sounds like a legitimate concern if the cyber war report is accurate (and we believe it is).

South China Sea:

New detailed photos show China’s advanced militarization of South China Sea ‘islands’

As we’ve regularly reported, the Chinese government is continuing to build up its manmade South China Sea islets as it reinforces them with an assortment of military weaponry and systems. Some recently released, highly detailed photos. As noted in an American media report:

China has spent years building military outposts on a group of contested islands in the South China Sea — a project that has left the country at odds with many of its neighbors and the United States.

First, there was the dredging, in which ships sucked sediment from the seabed and pumped it atop formerly undeveloped reefs. Then came the buildings — once said to be for civilian purposes but which analysts now say are small military installations — followed quickly by international uproar.

But the building continued. Now, some of the islands that are part of the group known as the Spratlys, where China began large-scale development in 2013, have been transformed from barren reefs into military outposts, as seen for the first time in great detail in a series of new photos.

The media outlet claimed the photos came from a Philippine media outlet and thus could not be independently verified; neither the Philippine nor American military would do so. But on our examination, we determined there is no legitimate reason to believe the photos aren’t genuine. Also, experts the U.S. media outlet consulted say objects and buildings in the photos are consistent with satellite imagery they’ve studied.

Buildings and infrastructure include finished runways capable of accommodating fighters and bombers; radar installations; concrete plants; multi-story administrative buildings; solar panels; communications sites; lighthouses; Chinese navy and Coast Guard vessels; helipads; and in one instance a 100mm gun. Also noted in the images: Chinese navy troop transports and at least one amphibious dock warship.

Some of the developed islands, according to a graphic accompanying the report, are closer to China’s Hainan island. But several are scattered among other above-water land masses claimed by China’s neighbors in the middle of the South China Sea; several of those are claimed by the Philippines while others are claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan. [source]

Previous reports have noted that China, at least temporarily, stationed surface-to-air missile systems on at least some of its manmade islands, though the photos accompanying this latest report did not appear to show any.

Outlook: All in all, the level of development by China suggests that Beijing has increased its pace of construction in recent months, perhaps as a way of bolstering its case that the islands are now sovereign Chinese outposts, but most certainly as a means of making themselves more difficult to dislodge militarily.

China, meanwhile, is continuing to ‘negotiate’ a sort of “code of conduct” with neighbors who have rightful, rival territorial claims to their portion of the South China Sea, but of course, Beijing is dragging its feet in those negotiations. It very could be that once an agreement is finally reached — which will be one that inherently advantages China over its neighbors — Beijing will have every intention of abiding by it, having already staked its claims, fortified its land masses, and then enshrined ‘ownership’ of them via official agreement.

Make no mistake: Clearly the infrastructure — airstrips, radar, control towers, ammunition storage, troop presence — means that China aims to use these outposts to control the entirety of the region and in doing so make the rules. These bases, and China’s attempt to use them to enforce it’s own ‘code of conduct’ throughout the South China Sea, will run afoul of the economic and security interests of the U.S. and its allies in the region.

We continue to believe that China’s strong-arm tactics may work with its much-less-powerful neighbors but not the United States under Trump, or Japan under Shinzo Abe, thus we continue to forecast a rise in tension in the months to come.


PIR4: What is the current security situation along the U.S.-Mexico border and south of the border?

Hundreds of migrants, human smugglers arrested in Mexico

Mexican police have detained 229 migrants from Mexico and Central America who had been hiding out in safe houses the northeastern state of Tamaulipas as they waited to cross the border into the U.S. Mexican security forces also arrested six people who are “probably responsible for people trafficking,” said the Tamaulipas Coordination Group, comprised of both federal and state agencies, in a statement. Mexican soldiers, working with the state prosecutors office and the State Anti-Kidnapping Coordinator, raided a number of houses in the border city of Matamoroes after receiving an anonymous tip. “Several undocumented Central Americans said that they arrived in Matamoros in trailers,” and some added that they had paid $4,000 to be transported from southern Mexico, said the Coordination Group. In six of the safe houses, authorities found 128 migrants from Guatemala, 86 from Honduras, 11 Salvadorans, three Nicaraguans and one Mexican. Among the group were 109 minors. [source]

MS-13 gang member arrested in Fla. after brandishing AK-47

Sheriff’s deputies in Hillsborough County, Florida, arrested a “certified MS-13 gang member” after he allegedly brandished an AK-47-style rifle in a roadway in an attempt to stop traffic. Police said the suspect, Raul Garcia, Jr., is a U.S. citizen. He is a convicted felon who is barred by federal and state law from owning a gun. Callers to the Sheriff’s department said the man stood in the street with the rifle and yelled at them to stop. He also reportedly jumped in front of cars in an attempt to make them stop. When deputies arrived they found the suspect walking near a truck with the rifle. After ordering him to drop his weapon, he refused and fled on foot to a nearby wooded area. “A search assisted by a K-9 and a county helicopter uncovered a Norinco SKS AK-47 rifle. Deputies later found a green bag carried by the suspect. The bag reportedly contained three baggies of crystal methamphetamine, four meth pipes, and five .38 caliber rounds.” [sourceAnalysis: While this incident did not occur ‘south of the border,’ it most definitely is a south of the border problem. MS-13 originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s but draws the vast majority of its members from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, who enter the U.S. illegally. MS-13-related criminal activity has now spread to 22 states.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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