After Dusit attack move on to operational agility

In the aftermath of the Dusit Complex terror attack, there has been an avalanche of reactions from various actors and agencies in a bid to jump on the securitisation bandwagon.

While some of these activities are essential, some moves are reactionary, devoid of meaningful contribution to the overall redesign of the nation’s counter terrorism posture. One of the most striking proposals that has been floated by Fazul Mohammed, the Director General of the Private Security Regulatory Authority is to arm private security guards after fresh vetting and training.

This proposal at face value is nice, but on deeper consideration, offers merely a paracetamol effect in a situation where the patient needs surgery.

First, armed response to terrorism is usually the last line of defence after the terrorist has broken through the essential intelligence safeguards that are preventive.

By the time the enemy is at the scene of crime, such a foe has obviously superior firepower advantage that can only be countered by Special Forces who are well versed with kinetic warfare and the dynamics of Close Quarter Battle.

Even if the idea is to provide guards who can provide holding fire before the tactical teams arrive, questions abound as to the efficacy of a guard who is on rotation from one building to another, one employer to another and employed on a pay often less than $250 per month.

At the same time, lest we underestimate the capacity of the enemy who, now aware that there will be armed guards at the premise, will put their elimination and possession of the firearms as part of the attack strategy.

In other words, it is a possible scenario that a team of six attackers would easily come in with four armed, neutralise the guards and hand over the weapons to the other two and continue the assault.

Tactical training

Second, the suggestion of vetting and training of private security guards needs to take into consideration the level of security threats these guards will be exposed to and the tactical training they will undergo in order to be effective. Are they going to undertake the training given to G- Company of the GSU that handles protection of Government buildings and critical national infrastructure such as airports?

Are they going to get the training from licensed private security trainers and come for certification from a Government security agency or is Government going to lease out space in some of their facilities to train this cohort?

What standard issue weapons are they going to be granted and what will be their standard weaponry kit — rifle and magazines? How are they going to handle situations where the team supposed to take over their situation is delayed like in the case of Garissa University where the Recce team was delayed for hours?

Security ecosystem

Third, the private security regulatory authority is still at its infancy stages and is yet to establish robust protocols and operational frameworks capable of discharging this delicate mandate. The authority is short of adequate staff and will be reliant on staff seconded from other State agencies to discharge its mandate.

Crucially, the authority is yet to clarify whether it has taken any comprehensive study on the private security ecosystem; produced a status report and clusterisation of the entire manpower, asset base and training programmes currently in place and how the new proposal will fit in the overall national security architecture.

In simple terms, the authority has not provided a needs assessment and the corresponding operational strategy that will address current gaps in the tragic clash with terrorists. Should we still entrust it with this delicate assignment? Will it not succumb to the whims of private sector capitalists who will simply seize the moment and take over the firms to be earmarked for arms handling certification?

It is, therefore, important that the National Security Advisory Council takes charge of the post Dusit attack review and steer agencies away from kneejerk reactions.

This can be done by first establishing a multi-agency operational review taskforce to review the 2015-2018 terror attacks lull period, explore gaps in the present Prevention of Terror Act 2012 and resource the National Counter Terrorism Centre sufficiently to mount a massive public conscientisation campaign that will address public preparedness, response and participation across the counter terrorism cycle.

Once these factors are in place, proposals for how private security firms and licensed gun owners participate in the overall counter terrorism effort can be handled.

Mr Wanyonyi is Strategic Communications and Systems Thinking specialist. [email protected]

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Dusit Complex terror attackSecurityterrorismNational Security Advisory Council