After 20 years of an American-led coalition ending the rule of Taliban in Afghanistan, the 15th August 2021 saw US troops withdrawing from their positions, revitalising the Taliban, and allowing them to take over the capital, Kabul as the last troops left on the 31st August. With the Taliban taking back the power of Afghanistan since 2001, it has the potential to open the world up to extremist groups believing they can similarly do the same.
With the potential for more and more extremist groups to become active due to current circumstances, we investigate how the situation in Afghanistan could potentially spur on terror attacks on specific sectors.
One major sector, unfortunately, that a lot of terror groups targets are education institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities. These types of attacks, especially towards children within schools, often leave people speechless and wondering why they chose to pursue these sites.
According to Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, terrorist groups tend to target educational institutions as they are comparatively softer targets than military bases, government buildings, hotels, and embassies. Extremist groups know that many individuals are congregated within these sites, meaning they will cause mass casualties from their attacks. As mentioned, it is becoming harder and harder for groups to threaten high security sites like embassies, government buildings as they are naturally well-guarded, whereas educational premises are usually open to the public allowing for heightened threats.
With current situations, extremists will be looking for easy/softer targets so how do these educational premises protect themselves against threats and attacks? Demographics really need to be discussed for these heightened security measures as religious schools already experience heightened threats before the current situations started, meaning they are higher targets for these groups. Another demographic that should be examined is location, schools within the centre of London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool really need to consider higher security levels. Naturally they will have a higher capacity of pupils attending, meaning groups may target to ensure a larger casualty count.
Some say the same security measures should be taken for schools and universities as they are for other premises like government buildings. What are the key aspects they need to think of regarding terror threats? Most schools have effective CCTV within their premises, but not necessarily on the perimeters of their sites. They should be able to detect a potential threat from entering, rather than dealing with the threat once it has breached. Once detected, in conjunction with this, a high security physical system would then be able to delay the attack whilst authorities are informed.
With the Taliban having taken power of Afghanistan for the first time in 20 years, the Aviation Industry were put on high alert to terrorist groups and attacks looking to target airports and aeroplanes. According to the BBC News, various airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and United Airlines have all discontinued their use of the Afghanistan airspace, with Virgin Atlantic’s last flight over Afghanistan being the 15th of August. However, even with airlines rerouting and cancelling flights to the capital, they are still a high target for extremist groups.
Since 2001, airlines dedicated their security efforts into protecting passengers, staff and any other individuals that may be harmed if a terror attack were to take place on an aircraft by hijacking. However, the 2016 Brussels Airport & Atatürk Airport in Istanbul attack and the Fort Lauderdale shooting in 2017, increased demand for safety and security of passengers wherever they were, creating a new kind of focus.
So, what are the key aspects that airlines and airports must consider staying safe during these uncertain circumstances? Consistent with Airports Council International, airport operators need to carry out risk assessments to determine what measures are required to address such threats while promoting positive security culture regimes to enhance aviation security.
Protecting Open Spaces
Terror attacks on open spaces are scarily becoming all too familiar for most people living in cities. Looking at recent attacks shows just how dangerous these threats are to the public. This is because most use vehicles as a weapon to create mass casualties in their wake. Back in 2017, London saw themselves with two major terror attacks, both within open spaces and both using a vehicle as a weapon.
The Westminster Attack saw 6 people dead and at least 50 people were injured when the attacker mounted the pavement of Westminster Bridge, hitting pedestrians before hitting the street furniture. The attack lasted 82 seconds… A couple of months later 8 people were killed on June 3rd, 2017, when terrorists drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before launching a knife attack on Borough Market. This shows the magnitude of casualties in such a short amount of time for this vehicle as a weapon attack.
With COVID-19 forcing restaurants and cafes to serve outside, this cafe culture has stuck for many individuals enjoying the fresh air whilst they enjoy a morning coffee or their lunch break! But many of these establishments set up their outdoor seating arrangements alongside roads with no thought to security measures. This opens individuals up to potential terror attacks using vehicles. So how can open spaces be protected?
Surely streets and roads, with an abundance of cafes and restaurants serving outside, need to introduce some sort of street furniture or permanent hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) system to prevent the total devastation a vehicle can cause.
Another key aspect that has been investigated in recent years is more detailed checks on van rental in an aid to prevent terror attacks. According to The Times, the new standards, introduced by the British Standards Institutions (BSI) and sponsored by the Department of Transport (Dft), include a requirement to carry out background checks on those hiring commercial vehicles.
So, with the Taliban taking power of Afghanistan, we know there is potential for a surge of terror attacks on specific sectors and so keeping one step ahead is the way forward in national security and safety.