CATF Reports May 4, 2016, 2:09pm


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 population gatherings.

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.

More News