In the weeks before Tunisian security forces ambushed and killed a team
of Islamic terrorists, U.S. military advisors reportedly working with the CIA
had succeeded in tracking down the group’s leader, Khaled Chaib. The terrorists
had just massacred nine people at a Tunisian museum, causing Chaib and his crew
to rise immediately to the top of the U.S. target list. After U.S. intelligence
and military forces intercepted Chaib’s communications, they were able to not
only forward Chaib’s travel plans to Tunisian forces, but they also helped the Tunisians prepare for and
rehearse the successful attack that killed the man.
This example - and thousands more like it occurring with almost daily
frequency in the global war against terrorism - points to up close U.S.
collaboration with its trusted allies. Bilateral tactical assistance like that
reflected in the Tunisian case is one effective form, but there are other modes
that blend U.S. strategic collaboration with its traditional allies to shape
counterterrorism strikes that are far more effective than either could affect alone. One of the best illustrations of a U.S. partnership
working to benefit vulnerable nations is the country’s alliance with Australia
- and more specifically, with the constellation of Australian security agencies
that starts with the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).
Although it receives limited attention in the U.S. media, Australia has
one of the most advanced and effective national security operations in the
world. This can be traced in part to a historic devotion to preparedness, but
also to the fact that Australian authorities have long been aware that Islamic
fighters returning to their island homelands (that include Australia) from
Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria pose a direct and serious threat to the country.
Thus far, the danger appears to be in check.
U.S.-Australian security relations rose to a new high in January when
President Obama, in a White House ceremony, called out the Australian
government for innovations in countering Islamic
extremists’ courtship of youth through innovative media campaigns. While the January event did not underscore
Australia’s contribution of intelligence to help guide successful U.S. drone
strikes, one report validates the importance of collaborative intelligence
sharing. Specifically, Australia participated in providing
targeting data on a Yemeni physician who had perfected the surgical insertion
of suicide bombs, carried by extremists devoid of suicide vests, into large
The Australian-U.S. security partnership is one of the oldest and most enduring alliances, going back over 75 years and formalized beginning with the
1951 ANZUS (Australia-New Zealand-US Security Treaty), fashioned after NATO. The
mutual respect which the U.S.-Australian collaboration engendered resulted in a
lengthy, praiseworthy article published in 2007 in the CIA’s internal
policy journal, Studies in Intelligence.
A later article, more analytic but equally positive, addressed legislative steps taken to integrate Australia’s military and
foreign intelligence agencies into a more coherent national security enterprise.
Their cooperative relationship should be regarded as a positive example in a
time when the intelligence community is dealing with transnational challenges
and its success is resting - to some extent - on intelligence sharing.