Tag Archives: risk assessment

Five factors every MNC should consider when weighing travel security services and products

Reliable security products and services have become an essential part of business travel for Multi-National Corporations

You only have to pick up a newspaper on any given day to see that globe-trekking executives face more travel security risks than ever before. Multi-National Corporations operate where the resources are, and the resources can be in dangerous, insecure places, where both crime and terrorism are daily concerns.

Take the Niger Delta, for example. In just the past few weeks, a new militant group has trained its sights on the region’s major oil and gas MNCs. The attacks disrupted crude oil production, but they didn’t change the need for high-level executive travel to the facilities there. And they only heightened the need for comprehensive and effective travel security services. Along with the string of attacks, the militants announced that corporate offices and company staff might be targets, too.

Choosing the right travel security services

But recognizing the need for enhanced security and responding appropriately are two different things. The services and products needed to ensure travel security vary widely from one company to another, and from one location to another. It is critically important to pick the right vendor and choose the most relevant travel security services and products to ensure the travelers’ safety. “Security management should always make sure the right personnel and operational approach are implemented, tailored to the task’s itinerary,” MAX Chief Operations Officer, Mr. Shachar Kenion, explains. In other words, it takes planning, flexibility, know-how, and onsite experience to pull it off.

Using Nigeria as an example again, travel security services need to take into account the fact that different parts of the country call for different secure transportation missions. Travel from the airport in Lagos or Abuja calls for both a trained driver and an escort vehicle carrying armed police officers. Transportation on Victoria Island or Lagos Island is free from the high risks of the mainland, and an armed escort is not needed.

Details like that matter. So do the details involved in selecting the right travel security services. Here are some key factors to consider.

The roadmap for finding the right security service  

  1. Customization. No two operations are the same. But there is one thing every operation has to have. Customized solutions, tailored to the client’s specific needs, the location’s specific risks and challenges, and the client’s precise objectives. A customized plan for travel security services begins with risk assessment services that can include Master Security Plans, Risk Threat Vulnerability Assessments, Investigations, and Hotel Security Assessments, leading to the implementation of security plans. Those plans might include such elements as executive protection, secure transportation, evacuation and contingency planning, hotel security reviews, and medical support, among others.
  1. An ‘in’ with the locals. Often, it comes down to who you know. Or who your security services provider knows, to be precise. That means knowing the locals who have the most reliable information – and knowing how to find them, connect with them, and work with them at every phase of the operation. In fact, there is no more valuable resource for a service provider. Or the clients they serve.
  2. Laying the Groundwork. Sometimes a security operation can’t wait for the traveler to arrive before it has to move into gear. It may be necessary for an advance team to get on the ground early to learn the lay of the land, connect with all of the onsite resources that the client will need, and identify and address any issues that could get in the way. That is especially true in a volatile region where unexpected risks can flare up quickly. An advance team can get on top of current conditions and factor the most up-to-date intelligence into both planning and the operation itself.
  1. Personalization. The point of travel security services and products is to ensure safety, of course. But the best operations don’t stop there. They also support the client in the actual purpose of the trip – conducting business. Sometimes that means smoothing the way through bureaucracies or legal hurdles, or providing translation services. It comes down to making sure the client will not only be safe but also able to conduct business seamlessly at all times. Comfort counts, too. In fact, it is necessary, because the friction that comes from foreign travel can undermine the goals of the visit.
  1. Don’t settle for less than the best. The big picture matters, just as the details do. Behind each successful operation there needs to be absolute professionalism throughout the chain of command, and unfailing communication with the client and provider personnel alike. Onsite, there has to be a mission leader who knows every detail of every route and building layout. The locations of hospitals and police stations. The exits and entrances of every building in use. And how to make the right decisions in a split second if an emergency arises. There has to be vigilant and consistent supervision from above, too, with company officers overseeing the quality and efficiency of the operation and back office staff providing all needed logistical real-time intelligence support. And there has to be timely and reliable communication with the client’s own security management team at every step of the operation to keep them in the loop.

Obviously, choosing the wrong travel security services and products still might leave room to respond to risks that arise. But the right choice will mean totally avoiding those risks in the first place.

Strategic Analysis: Consequences of religious influences in the Syrian conflict

Shiite Muslims commemorate the Ashura holiday, the date marking the death of Hussein at the Battle of Karbala.

While discussing the bloodshed in Syria at a September 7 conference held in Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan drew a chilling parallel. “What happened in Karbala 1,332 years ago is what is happening in Syria today,” he said, comparing the Syrian revolution to the most divisive event in Islamic history, the Battle of Karbala.

Those in the West with any interests in the region have much to learn from Erdogan’s history lesson. What was originally depicted as a popular uprising against tyranny is now undeniably a war for religious supremacy in the Middle East. In this war, those Syrians who originally took to the streets in their aspirations for democracy have become the only guaranteed losers.

In the year 680 AD, Hussein Ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and 70 of his followers confronted 1,500 fighters from the Umayyad Caliphate in present day Iraq. Hussein had embarked on a crusade to wrest control of the caliphate from his archrival Yazid I, only to be slaughtered along with his family. Hussein’s followers would eventually form the Shiite sect of Islam, and remain locked in a bitter rivalry with Yazid’s fellow Abu Bakr supporters, whose descendants comprise the Sunni sect.
Continue reading Strategic Analysis: Consequences of religious influences in the Syrian conflict

Strategic Analysis: Curbing the rise of Kurdistan

On July 27, thousands of Iraqi troops, tanks, and artillery set out to seize the FishKhabur border crossing with Syria in Iraq’s northern Zumar district. But the days when Iraq could impose its will over the scrappy and restive Kurdish north are over. Blocking them were some 3,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, along with artillery – intent on proving that Baghdad’s supremacy is no more.  A tense standoff between the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga ensued, only to alleviate with American pressure and a fragile agreement between the two sides. The standoff reflected the situation at large: Iraqi Kurdistan is determined to rid itself of Baghdad, establish itself as a regional player, and use its burgeoning clout to serve as the protector of Kurds throughout the region. Most importantly, attempts by rival states to thwart Kurdish ambitions threaten to ignite a new round of Kurdish wars in a region already in flames.

Peshmerga fighters train in Iraqi Kurdistan

This border area is disputed by the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). FishKhabur has been under Kurdish military control for years, which Iraq claims is illegal and violates the country’s constitution. The KRG disputes this and is determined not to forfeit their only border crossing with Syria, nor to allow Baghdad to reestablish its influence in an area already “Arabized” and largely depopulated of ethnic Kurds.  Despite Baghdad’s official protestations, the reality is much more strategic. Continue reading Strategic Analysis: Curbing the rise of Kurdistan

Clashing for the Future of Egypt

Supporters of banned Salafi presidential candidate, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail demonstrate in Cairo (Getty Images)

The latest bloodshed in Cairo underscores worrying trends and emerging realities regarding Egypt’s internal security and political future. The recent clashes in the vicinity of Cairo’s Abbasseya Square illustrate the readiness of prominent political groups to forcefully impose their views, demands, and ideologies as they battle for the country’s new identity. Sadly for Egypt, this process has just begun and is not likely to end anytime soon; indeed, the bloody volatility in Egypt has not subsided since the events of January 2011.

Under these circumstances – from a security point of view – what is most important to note here is how the volatile political situation directly translates into an erosion of the security condition on the ground. Violence in downtown Cairo is often centered on political disputes, involving opposing factions, who are more prone to resolve their differences by force, as they believe this the most optimum course of action to achieve their goals.

Continue reading Clashing for the Future of Egypt

Israeli attack on Iran: Unlikely in the near term

By Ron G.

Throughout the last few months and even more so in the past few weeks, discussions of a possible Israeli strike on Iran has come to the forefront of the agenda for many politicians, security analysts, and entities with interests in the region. Despite the increased rhetoric on all sides of this issue, which has been enhanced with the coverage of a frenzied media, the reality is that the probability of such an attack against Iran likely remains low for the near term.

Iranian uranium conversion facility outside of Isfahan (AP)

The increased chatter regarding an Israeli strike  on Iran’s nuclear facilities is a direct result of decisions by both the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The decision to enforce such sanctions by the aforementioned powers likely arose due to three primary factors: the understanding that negotiations with Iran surrounding its nuclear program are futile, persistent pressure from leadership within the United States’ security and political leadership, and the over-implied threats by Israel that the military option is ‘on the table’.

Continue reading Israeli attack on Iran: Unlikely in the near term

The Tuareg Factor

One tribe’s cooperation with various militant groups will continue to challenge stability in some of Africa’s most vital nations

By Jay R.

Since the downfall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya early last year, weapons proliferation throughout the Middle East and North Africa is on the rise and of primary concern. It is now widely known that masses of Libyan weaponry have made their way into the hands of such militant groups as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Libyan weaponry has traveled as far as the Gaza Strip and appeared in hand of militant groups there.

Tuareg militants en route to Libya from Mali (Sahara Times)

With the recent unrest in Somalia and Nigeria, the above-mentioned groups have been deeply reported on. However, one tribe, heavily active in Africa’s Sahel desert region is operating under the radar in comparison. The Tuareg tribe, composed of 1.2 million people, is historically nomadic. They have long roamed northwest Africa, primarily through the nations of Algeria, Libya, Mali, and Niger. Today, the group has become sedentary, the result of which has seen the Tuaregs actively engage such countries, particularly the Malian government, for stakes in power sharing and wealth benefits from the country’s natural resources.

The ongoing battle for the Tuareg’s perceived rights most recently manifested in the two-year Tuareg Rebellion in Mali and Niger from 2007-2009. This rebellion was ended through a series of peace talks and amnesty allowances; however, the conflict persists to this day as the Malian government regularly takes on the Tuareg militants along the Nigerian border.

Continue reading The Tuareg Factor

Jos: The Window into a Nigerian Civil War

By Jay R.

The collapse of Africa’s most populous nation into civil war may hinge on the stability of one unsuspecting middle belt city

Nigeria’s Middle Belt region is where the country’s Christian south and Muslim north come to a head. This convergence of religion manifests in the capital Abuja, where the equally represented populations are generally tolerant of one another. In the nearby city of Jos whose societal make up is starkly similar to the capital, religious intolerance is brewing tension to a dangerous boiling point.

Security forces rush to intervene in sectarian clashes in Jos

Over the last twenty years, Jos has been plagued by sectarian violence which has claimed thousands of lives while displacing many others. In 2010, week-long riots resulted in the death of hundreds of locals and the destruction of churches and mosques alike. This steady campaign of attacks against places of worship has made chances of reconciling these populations a seemingly insurmountable feat. The people of Jos may not yet be cognizant of this fact, but the deteriorating security situation in the rest of Nigeria may have a far more tragic impact in a place with a deeply rooted history of intolerance.

Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north has become increasingly engulfed in a violent campaign by fundamentalist violence. On January 20, Nigeria’s second city of Kano was devastated by a wave of bombings by Boko Haram Jihadists against military, police, and government installations, killing upwards of 250 people. Continuous attacks like these, along with a previous Boko Haram warning for all Christians to leave the northern states, have incited nearly 35,000 people to flee southward thus far.

These newly created refugees, who are leaving with such panic and haste that they are not bothering to bring their most valuable of possessions with them, are making way for Jos. Positioned just outside of the Muslim north, Jos provides a convenient safe haven for Christian refugees as they journey towards the friendlier south. As many of those refugees opt to remain in Jos, they threaten to alter the delicate sectarian balance in the city, paving the way for shattering the city’s hard-won peace. Continue reading Jos: The Window into a Nigerian Civil War

Nigeria’s Struggle for Stability

By Jay R.   

Sectarian-fueled insurgency, secessionist movements, and widespread discontent amongst the population are just some of the issues facing Nigeria’s first truly democratically elected leader.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon

After his election, there was great hope for President Goodluck Jonathon amongst the populace. He was elected with 57% of the vote, after receiving significant support from the Nigeria’s youth, a key demographic in a nation whose average age is 19.  To them he represented a change from the past and would bring Nigeria to realize its true potential as Africa’s most populous nation with a plethora of oil and mineral resources.

It is clear now however, that charisma alone is not sufficient to rule a country that is so deeply rooted with sectarian divide and government corruption.  Jonathan’s obstacles were evident from the beginning when on that Election Day in April 2011, the predominantly Muslim northern states erupted in violent response to Jonathan’s success, leaving hundreds of people dead in the streets.  Continue reading Nigeria’s Struggle for Stability

The Battle For Arsal

By Daniel N.

One unsuspecting Bekaa Valley village has become the focal point of the battle for perceptions of the Syrian conflict.

Lebanese soldiers stand guard near the Syrian border. (El Riyadh)

Immediately after another deadly suicide bombing ripped through central Damascus on Friday, the Assad Regime, the Syrian opposition, and their allies abroad unloaded accusations as to the identity of the perpetrators. While opposition’s assertion of a regime-orchestrated conspiracy has fallen on deaf ears around the world, this latest bombing certainly bolsters Assad’s claim that radical Al Qaeda-linked militants have joined the ranks of collective struggle to topple him.  Regardless of the actual perpetrators, both Assad and the opposition understand that perceptions of Syria descending into sectarian chaos only further cement the international community’s hesitation to expedite his ousting. At the base of Assad’s claims lies the town of Arsal, a sleepy village in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, whose unsuspecting citizens have become embroiled in a heated debate which may just decide the outcome of the Syrian conflict.

Arsal was catapulted into the global spotlight immediately after twin car bombings struck Damascus on December 23, 2011. After the attacks, Syrian officials based their claims of Al Qaeda involvement on statements made days prior by Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn, who stated that Jihadists were infiltrating into Syria through illegal border crossings. Ghosn claimed that Arsal, a Sunni village of 40,000 people located 35 kilometers from the Syrian border, had become a hotbed for these activities. The statements sparked outrage amongst Arsal’s residents, who claimed that there was little evidence to suggest that the town was harboring Al Qaeda extremists. While village elders admitted that some local mosques were known as bastions of fundamentalism, they enjoyed little influence over the town’s residents.  In the days that followed, Arsal became the focal point of a heated debate in Lebanon over the existence of Al Qaeda extremists in the country.  Continue reading The Battle For Arsal

The Middle East and North Africa In 2012: What Lies Ahead?

By Max Security’s Intelligence Department

The feelings of hope and opportunity initially evoked by the Arab Spring have evolved into fear that the region may be sliding into a new status quo of instability. We sweep the region from Morocco to Iran to determine that 2012 will be one of the most crucial years in the modern history of the Middle East.

The Maghreb

The Muslim Brotherhood’s recently formed Freedom and Justice Party holds a press conference. The FJP is slated to win nearly 40% of seats in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliament. (Bikyamasr)

While North Africa by and large experienced the most significant change from the Arab Spring uprisings, it would be a grave mistake to place the fate of these politically diverse set of nations into one.  In Morocco, the people still have great respect for the region’s oldest monarchy, sentiment which prevented widespread unrest from engulfing the nation this past year. The recent victory of moderate Islamist factions in parliament forces the monarchy to balance between their wishes, while keeping Morocco an attractive address for foreign investment to keep the economy on its feet. While Morocco can be expected to remain relatively stable, a widening gap between rich and poor and growing unemployment only works to the favor of the liberal February 20 reformers and the outlawed Islamist Justice and Spirituality movement, which currently remain marginalized.

In Algeria, the situation is quite different. The country emerged unscathed from the Arab Spring, not out of any sort of respect for the military-backed government, but rather out of fears for a repeat of the country’s bloody civil war which is still fresh in the minds of most of the population. While stability prevailed in 2011, tensions are brewing beneath the surface as Algerians come to realize that they are indeed the last nation to tolerate a corrupt military dictatorship which has failed to provide both physical and economic security. The success of Islamist parties to the East and West has emboldened Algeria’s own conservative opposition to demand reforms ahead of the upcoming elections-slated for the Spring of 2012. Moreover Bouteflika’s ailing health places the military and its allies in a considerable predicament, as replacing Bouteflika without elections will only provide fuel to an increasingly disillusioned population. The loss of the Bouteflika regime would spell a considerable setback in North Africa’s war against Al Qaeda, which despite recent losses- still has its sights set on fomenting instability in Algeria.

Continue reading The Middle East and North Africa In 2012: What Lies Ahead?