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#USEuropeanCommand hosts #SHAPE staff talks

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Senior leaders from US European Command (EUCOM) and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) met this week at EUCOM Headquarters to discuss a variety of key issues of mutual interest as part of the ongoing commitment between the two staffs to enhance understanding and transparency. 

Hosted by General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the talks this week were the second in a series of conversations that EUCOM and SHAPE have committed to as a way to improve processes, information‐sharing and partnerships. Building on the first staff talks last year, discussions this week focused heavily on exercises, training, logistics and mobility, and crisis response.

"The world is changing at an unprecedented pace,” said Scaparrotti. “We need to be ready and postured to counter the threats we face. We must be resolute and adaptable as we work together as a team to maintain our momentum."

SHAPE Chief of Staff (German) General Markus Kneip commented on the importance of training and the desire for continued dialogue to enhance capability between nations.  “We are continuing to work and plan together to build greater understanding between us,” said Kneip. “We must take deliberate steps.”  Rear Adm.

Paul Verrastro, EUCOM’s director of logistics, presented on the significant progress being made in the area of freedom of movement across borders with allies and partners and the collaboration with the commercial enterprise.  “Whether by rail, road or at sea, we are working closely together to ensure we are building the right infrastructure to support our mobility needs,” Verrastro said. “It’s all about alignment of effort.”

Kneip offered that the logistics work being done must complement one another and that a great deal of synchronization and coordination is necessary for the effort to work.  “We must be sure to avoid redundancy,” Kneip said. “By securing our responsibilities, we increase our common view.”

Exercises were also a focus area during the meetings. EUCOM and SHAPE leaders agreed that training together strengthens the Alliance. Through coordination and training, leaders identified the need to continue to focus on what each nation relies on to be successful as a warfighter.  “Planning is critical so that we may refine and modernize,” said Kneip. “We must focus on reality and how our processes and training will help us move faster.”  Scaparrotti emphasized the need for continued collaboration and communication between staffs and the importance of partnerships, which builds greater trust. “This is all about sharing information,” he said.

Scaparrotti concluded the meetings by complementing the progress that’s been made, the commitment to holding regular EUCOM SHAPE talks, and the importance of the partnerships between staffs.  “These discussions are worth every minute,” said Scaparrotti. “We live in a tough age, so we must do our very best to be ready. We exist to solve hard problems and this is where these conversations and the relationships come in. I appreciate all the hard work that is being done and the time everyone took to have these discussions.”

US European Command is one of two U.S. forward-deployed geographic combatant commands whose area of focus spans across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The command is comprised of more than 60,000 military and civilian personnel and is responsible for U.S. defense operations, relations with NATO and 51 countries.

Africa

New details released about the change of head of the Russian 'Wagner' group

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A recent journalistic investigation by Bellingcat reports about the change of the head of the Wagner Private Military Group. This joint investigation by The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel notes that the new head of the group may be Konstantin Pikalov, better known as 'Mazay', writes Louis Auge.

According to media reports, Mazay participated in the campaign of the group in the Central African Republic (CAR) in early July 2018. From the context of correspondence extracted by journalists of the publication, which concerns his activities in Africa, it becomes clear how influential Mazay is - it is reported that the military adviser to the Central African President personally followed his recommendations.

The media suggest that he was the one who co-ordinated the information and ideological work with the team in the Central African Republic.

Documents obtained by Bellingcat in electronic correspondence show that if Valery Zakharov was formally a military advisor to the CAR President, then Mazay was responsible for important military issues.

For example, one email contains a scanned letter from the local provisional authorities in the town of Bambari to the Commander of the Russian Armed Forces in the Republic of South Africa.

The letter (dated 13 May 2019) requested an urgent and private meeting to "discuss a particularly delicate situation in the town of Bambari". The letters mention that the Russian military command has sent instructions to Mazay for further action.

The change of the Wagner leadership, according to some experts, may be associated with a change in the format of group.

Dmitry Utkin, who previously headed the company and was responsible for the Ukrainian and Syrian fronts, may have left the group due to changes in the methodology and vector of work.

The private military company has moved from direct participation in military operations to the strategy of military and political training and interaction. According to sources, instead of participating in hostilities, the Wagner group is currently providing consulting and training support in a number of geopolitical hot spots in African countries, including Libya.

The change of the head of the company may be explained by a change in the regional orientation of the company as well. It means increased attention by the group to the African region, in this configuration the change of manager seems reasonable.

Based on an analysis of the information revealed this investigation, one can also draw a possible conclusion that Dmitry Utkin, who led the private military company for a long time, may now have been be killed. At present, his phone number is not functioning, and his regular trips from Krasnodar to St. Petersburg have stopped.

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#Terrorism in the EU: Terror attacks, deaths and arrests in 2019 

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Infographic on religiously inspired terrorism in the EU      
 

The number of terrorist attacks and victims of terror in the EU continued to decrease in 2019. Check out our graph to see the evolution of jihadist terrorism since 2014. There were 119 terrorist attempts in Europe in 2019 counting the ones that were successfully carried out and those that failed or were foiled. Of those, 21 are attributed to jihadist terrorism. Although they represent only a sixth of all attacks in the EU, jihadist terrorists were responsible for all 10 deaths and 26 out 27 people who got injured.

About half of terrorist attacks in the EU are ethno-nationalist and separatist (57 in 2019, all but one in Northern Ireland) with the other main categories of terrorists being far-right (6) and far-left (26).

The numbers of victims of jihadist terrorism has further decreased since its peak in 2015 and in 2019 the number of attacks foiled by member state authorities was double the number completed or failed. However, according to Manuel Navarrette, the head of Europol’s counter-terrorism centre, the threat level is still relatively high.

Navarette presented Europol’s annual report on terrorist trends to Parliament’s civil liberties committee on 23 June. He said that there is the same trend of online communities instigating violence in right wing and jihadist milieus: “For the jihadists, terrorists are holy war martyrs, for right wing extremists, they are the saints of a racial war.”

Fewer terrorist attacks and terrorism victims

Ten people lost their lives in three completed jihadist attacks in the EU last year in Utrecht, Paris and London, compared to 13 deaths in seven attacks in 2018.

Eight EU countries suffered terrorist attempts in 2019.

Twice as many foiled attacks as completed or failed ones

In 2019, four jihadist attacks failed while 14 incidents were foiled, compared to one failed atack and 16 foiled ones in 2018. In both years, the number of plots foiled by authorities is double the number of completed or failed attacks. Jihadist-inspired attacks mostly target public places and police or military officers.

The completed and failed jihadist attacks were mostly carried out using knives and firearms,. All plots involving the use of explosives were disrupted. The majority of the perpetrators were acting or were planning to act alone.

In 2019, 436 individuals were arrested on suspicion of offences related to jihadist terrorism. The arrests occurred in15 countries. By far the most in France (202), between 32 and 56 in Spain, Austria and Germany and between 18 and 27 arrests in Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands. This figure is also lower than the previous year when a total of 511 people were arrested.

The threat of radicalized prisoners

People in prison for terrorist offences and those radicalised in prison pose a threat. In many European countries, a number of radicalised prisoners will soon be released and this could increase the security threat, Navarrette warned. In 2019 one failed attack, one foiled and one successful one were carried out by radicalized prisoners.

EU co-operation

Reinforced co-operation between EU countries and information sharing have helped to prevent attacks or limit their impact, according to the head of Europol’s counter-terrorism centre. “Because of the information exchange, because of the connections that we have, member states manage to be early on the scene to identify the risks. For me it’s a good sign that two thirds of the attacks were identified and foiled thanks to the cooperation that is in place.”

Check out EU measures to fight terrorism.

No systematic use of migration routes by terrorists

Some have been concerned about the risk posed by migrants trying to enter Europe. Europol ’s report reiterates that as in previous years there are no signs of systematic use of irregular migration by terrorist organisations. In fact, in more than 70% of arrests related to jihadist terrorism, for which citizenship was reported to Europol, the individuals were nationals of the EU country in question.

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Cyber-espionage

Commission launches #Women4Cyber - A registry of talents in the field of cybersecurity

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On 7 July the Commission, together with the Women4Cyber initiative of the European Cybersecurity Organization (ECSO) launched the first online registry of European women in cybersecurity that will connect expert groups, businesses and policy makers to talents in the field.

The registry is an open, user-friendly database of women that have expertise in cybersecurity, aiming to address the growing demand for cybersecurity professionals in Europe and the related shortage of talents in the field. Its launch follows the European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience that the Commission presented on 1 July 2020.

A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said:  “Cybersecurity is everyone's business. Women bring experience, perspectives and values into the development of digital solutions. It is important to both enrich the discussion and make the cyberspace more secure.”

Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas  said: “The cybersecurity field is suffering a massive skills shortage. This talent shortage is exacerbated by the lack of female representation in the field. The updated Skills Agenda adopted by the Commission last week aims to close such gaps. A diverse cybersecurity workforce will certainly contribute to more innovative and robust cybersecurity. The registry launched today will be a useful tool to promote women cybersecurity professionals and create a more diverse and inclusive cybersecurity ecosystem.”

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “Over the years we have been promoting various successful initiatives aimed at increasing training in digital skills, notably in the cybersecurity field. Every cyber team needs to combine various skills combining data science, analytics and communication. The registry is a tool aimed at achieving better gender balance in the cybersecurity workforce.”

The registry, which outlines diverse profiles and maps various areas of expertise, is accessible to everyone and will be updated regularly. More information about the Women4Cyber initiative is available here, about the Commission Cybersecurity strategy here and you can join the Women4Cyber registry by clicking here

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