Etudes réalisées

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By Jean-Vincent Brisset - 2006

The analyses appearing in this document do not represent the opinion of the Prospective Center of the Gendarmerie. They engage only the responsibility for their author.

Terrorist attacks are now a reality for most of the countries of Old Europe. Even if they are not very frequent, even if they generally have only limited effects, they created a feeling of vulnerability. This is now a daily concern for the majority of the populations. Up to now, local governments remain the only responsible bodies in charge for the actions taken to manage the consequences of these attacks. However, European solidarity becomes increasingly obvious for all, including this field.

The attacks are not limited any more to assaults using explosive, assassinations or aircrafts hijacking, as it was the case in the Seventies. It is necessary, from now on, to include threats of much greater scale, which sometimes are perpetrated through the use of not easily foreseeable means. Undoubtedly, the capability to use nuclear explosives or radiological, bacteriological or chemical agents is not any more the exclusiveness of the great nations. One can imagine that even terrorist groups completely independent of direct supports of official level can make use of it. To first thing to do to cope with this challenge is to develop the intelligence capability, which is the only way to have a chance to « kill in the egg » the carriers of those threats. However, one must admit that will not be always feasible.

It is thus necessary to try to learn, as soon as possible, how to react properly after the worst of the attacks, i.e. one using CRBN agents on a great scale. This comes immediately close to the goals of civil protection, that is the first actor for catastrophes and accidents, should they come from natural causes or not. However, one tends to work on scenarios, very realistic certainly, but too easily manageables at attacked nation's level. Trying to impose a better statement of a very heavy CRBN attack, a generic scenario, made of pure brain juice but implying hundreds of thousands of people, was systematically presented at the people met within the framework of the study. The size of its consequencies were such as the recourse to external assistances was unavoidable.

Attack's problematics

Before any other reflexion, it appeared necessary to draw up a panorama of the whole of the problems arising around such an event, created by the man and aiming at an harmful effect, involving a pollution/contamination of great magnitude. Sometimes, it will be possible, generally through the use of commando type brute force, to intervene before the irrevocable action is made, thus preventing the attack from reaching its goals, or, at least, by thus minimizing its consequences. But there are very few chances to have the opportunity to try and make successful such an action.. When the catastrophe cannot be avoided, it will be necessary to unroll a series of actions aiming at managing, if possible, the unmanageable.

The very first priorities are to extinguish the fire, understand what really occurred and disseminate alarm messages. At the same time, forces shall have to evacuate everybody from contaminated areas, without exposing the rescuers to ill-considered risks. Once these first aid actions implemented, one will be able to step to the following stage, i.e. emergency public health actions, such as basic care, decontamination, conditioning for treatments to come. At this moment, difficulties induced by the lack of medical and para medical assets are likely to concurse with heavy problems of law and order. At that step, the priorities remain that of convenient health care and of an orderly evacuation. In the same timeframe, the need to ensure the protection of the goods and the people will have to be taken into account. Of course, if it has not yet been done, the investigations and evaluations pertaining to the event should start. They are badly needed, both to provide essential information to the governing bodies and to know exactly what occurred and which are the consequences to be awaited for.

Right after a first batch of managed immediate actions, it will become necessary, mostly regarding the contamination of the zone, to throw in enough capable people, in order to take into account the management of sensitive perimeters and the follow up actions regarding the inhabitants concerned with the attack. That includes the implementation of concentric zones whose access is filtered, as well as that of the management of the decontamination assets entering and exiting the area. In the same time, it will be necessary to continue to ensure an administrative, judicial and consular follow-up to the benefit of the evacuated or moved people. This shall have to last as long as the whole of them will not have returned to a stable situation. Return to the status quo ante shall also be prepared from the very beginning, trough damage assessment and preparation of the rebuilding actions.

The whole of these actions cannot be properly managed unless the rescue and management teams can be assured of a high level coverage (EU, NATO or NU). One can also note that, on the spot and in periphery, the methods of command, coordination and control will be essential but still request some improvement. All of those should also benefit of a very solid legal framework, not to allow neither ambiguities nor blockings.

European cooperation

It will not be possible to launch any co-operation project - at the European level – unless a heavy attack occurs. It would thus have been necessary that the preparation of adapted means became a reality years ago. This is as well true at the level of personnel qualification management (qualifications, interworking, provision for rescue assets and equipments) that with that of the framework of use which will have had to be adapted (regulations and procedures) and prepared (common risk analyzes). Preparation also has to be validated, as well through suitable exercises that trough some experience feedbacks. One cannot say yet that, in this field, the European co-operation is about to reach achievements of scale.

However, the subject has been on the table from the day of the creation of Euratom. Not having caused much interest with the political leaders, it remained at sudies groups level. It led only to some consensus on realities of the treatment of the risks induced by the use of products with a strong radioactivity risk. The first confrontations between Europe as a whole and terrorism were perceived only as from the Seventies. They were then dealt in a purely judiciary manner. Under the pressure of a handle of practicians and other experts, some European authorities however continued to advance, very discreetly, towards a Community reaction to a catastrophe of great magnitude, technological accident or not, consequence of some bad luck or calculations of a terrorist group. The shock caused by the attacks of September 11 was revealing. Suddenly, the politicians felt obliged to include in their priorities the problems linked to massive scale terrorism. That resulted mostly in speeches, but was followed by the attribution of some subsidies to the preventive fight, mostly intelligence. The management of the consequences remained at a lower level of priority, until a second shock, that of the 2004 tsunami, highlighted the absence of visibility of Europe in its reaction capabilities after a catastrophe of very great importance. Within relatively short times, some theoretical and practical structures have been conceived and went into force. They now form the framework of the reaction capabilities of the European Union. Even if we are still far from what could be a Communitarian reaction capability, political and operational, there are, from now on, some truely existant and working European structures. The MIC, the SITCEN and the civ-mil cell of EUMS follow the situations and/or are same sometimes in position to manage them, at least partly. Most of their actions goes through a set of data bases and handbooks providing, inter alia, the diagrams of reaction and the lists of the points of contact making it possible to implement the planned reactions or of the exchanges of capacities. To support them, some intercommunication networks, often well protected, were set up and seem to give satisfaction. Most likely, if the European Constitution, such as it was proposed, had been accepted by the consulted populations, a great centralized organization able to manage the whole of European civil protection could have benne created very quickly. The failure of this proposal resulted in adopting a different approach, based on small steps and direct co-operations. The principal problem is the absence of a central level center of operations, able to work upstream (planning, knowledge of the resources), and then downstream, to coordinate the co-operation projects after an attack requiring a cooperation between member states..

However, all these potential co-operations do not develop easily. Each partner tends to set it's own limits, according to its conceptual visions and its financial capacities. The priority stands with the intelligence. The preparadness and post attacks actions remain at a lower priority level, with many differences (generally related to differences of appreciation of the concept of national sovereignty) on the framework of employment, the potential fields of co-operation, the law and order enforcement, the role of the armed forces. As for the European material assets, they simply do not exist yet.

Above all that, there is a real will to cooperate, which is translated in realities. The bi and multilateral agreements are mutiplying, most of them on a very pragmatic basis. Today, an attack of great scale would certainly give place to practical co-operations, based on "ad hoc" constructions, since there is no centralized command capability at the European level.

Many reflexions are in hand. During this study, the choice has been made to present and compare an almost administrative work, an internal proposal to the European authorities for a revision, the report presented by a high flight « chargé de mission » of and some "French" proposals. Some reflexion matters, which were released during talks, have been added : modular aproach, « one stop shop » concept, need for a think tank, global operations center concept...

All those viewpoints made it possible to draw a short picture of what the Gendarmerie could do, today and tomorrow, by using already existing capabilities or trough an extension of the efforts being done on some tracks. The first are already in place and can be used on very short notice (personnel posted abroad, reserve forces, experts, FGE). but the Gendarmerie must also develop certain capacities which it already explored. It can also plan to cooperate on some matters where it is not yet working.

In the absence of a central structure able to take control of all the aspects of civil protection at the European level, the Gendarmerie must position itself everywhere when it will be possible, by putting in front its specificities. This will allow her to defend its concepts of co-operation. It must do it with some self confidence, while keeping a great internal coherence.