(photo credit: ISLAMIC SOCIAL MEDIA)
A security simulation held Thursday at a counterterrorism conference in Herzliya saw players representing European decision makers respond to the scenario of an impending large-scale terrorist attack, organized by ISIS in Syria.
The simulation occurred at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s (ICT) 15th international Conference.
The players, representing decision makers in Belgium, grappled with multiple dilemmas before choosing to forgo air strikes in Syria in favor of arresting and prosecuting the terrorists, who were Belgian citizens, on Belgian territory.
The simulation began with a scenario in which the Belgian cabinet receives word of a group of seven ISIS operatives – veterans of battlefields in Syria and Iraq – using an apartment in a Syrian city to plot mass casualty attacks in Belgium.
In the game, the prime minister was played by Brian M. Jenkins, senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation, a US-based global think tank. The minister of defense was played by Bulgarian Ambassador Dr. Dimitar Mihaylov.
The minister of justice was represented by Dr. Daphné Richemond-Barak, head of the terrorism and international law desk at the ICT, and the minister of interior was played by Michèle Coninsx, president of Eurojust, an EU agency that deals with judicial reform.
Lt.-Col. Dr. Bryan Price, director of the Combating Terrorism Center of the United States Military Academy at West Point, played the national security adviser, while Lt.- Col. Edward Brady, of the US Army War College, represented the armed forces chief of staff.
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After first receiving word of the threat, the players begin scrambling to make initial preparations, seeking further intelligence, and communicating with other countries to ascertain data.
In the middle of this process, simulated ISIS terrorists returning from Syria strike Amsterdam with a bomb attack, killing 12 people, and ISIS announces the creation of a European province.
As intelligence on the planned atrocities in Belgium become more detailed, the decision makers learn that the perpetrators are all still in Syria.
“The Amsterdam attack was a ‘go’ signal. It will be a mass casualty attack... They are training with shooting, explosives, and hostage taking. They will enter Europe by disguising themselves as refugees. They meet almost every evening in An-Nahar Street. it is a busy place, many people live there,” the decision makers learn.
They debate whether to move air assets from Iraq to Syria and carry out an air strike on an apartment with five adults and six children inside.
The players examine the option of seeking the assistance and cooperation of other EU and NATO coalition members, but are told that foreign counterparts consider the plot a “Belgian problem.”
After a debate on the risks and benefits of bombing the apartment, the ‘prime minister’ rules against the air strike, since there are ample other opportunities to intercept the cell on its way to Belgium.
In the scenario, the players were able to order the arrest of seven terrorist suspects in Belgium, and secure the confession of five.
Summing up the simulation, Boaz Ganor, founder and executive director of the ICT, said, “We showed the complexities of the challenges that governments are facing today. We saw how dilemma after dilemma is developing.”
Ganor praised the decisions taken by the players.
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