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The Global Challenge of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism

Published Sep 22, 2018
Updated Jul 10, 2020

The Global Challenge of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism provided vide the US Department of State. Bureau Of Counterterrorism And Countering Violent Extremism, Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 is as per succeeding paragraphs.

The use of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) materials and expertise remained a terrorist threat in 2017. The harm caused by ISIS’s repeated use of sulfur mustard in Iraq and Syria over the past three years vividly exemplified this threat. Terrorists’ stated intent to acquire, develop, and use these materials has not waned. The United States has continued to work proactively to disrupt and deny ISIS’s – and other non-state actors’ – CBRN capabilities.

A number of international partnerships have either the explicit or the implicit purpose of countering the CBRN threat from terrorists and other non-state actors. The United States routinely provides technical and financial assistance and training to partner nations, and to international organizations, as necessary, to help strengthen their abilities to adequately protect and secure CBRN-applicable expertise, technologies, and material. U.S. participation within and contribution to these groups is vital to ensuring our continued safety from the CBRN threat.

Nuclear Security: The United States continued to advance the objectives of the 2016 Nuclear Security Action Plans for the United Nations (UN), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), INTERPOL, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The United States also actively participated in the multilateral Nuclear Security Contact Group (NSGC) to sustain high-level attention and momentum for building a strengthened, sustainable, and comprehensive global nuclear security architecture. The United States continued to support the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Security (DNS), whose mandate is to strengthen nuclear security worldwide. Overall U.S. contributions to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund for FY 2017 totaled US $15,025,000. The key mission of DNS is to assist member states in preventing, detecting, and responding to threats of nuclear terrorism. This is achieved through the development of guidance as well as the provision of training, technical advice, peer reviews and other advisory services. The Division convened an annual conference that allowed States to share best practices and lessons learned across many aspects of nuclear security.

G-7 Global Partnership: The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (GP) was launched at the 2002 G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Canada to prevent terrorists, or states that support them, from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction. Today, the GP has expanded beyond its original G-8 (now G-7) membership to 30 countries and the European Union, with Jordan being the newest member in 2017. The GP remains a vital forum for countries to exchange information on national priorities for CBRN programmatic efforts worldwide, and to coordinate assistance for these programs. In 2017, the GP issued statements in support of the Global Health Security Agenda and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI): Launched in 2003, the PSI has increased international awareness and capability to address the challenges associated with stopping the trafficking of WMD, WMD-related components, and their means of delivery. The PSI remains an important tool in the global effort to combat CBRN material transfers to both state and non-state actors of proliferation concern. Since its launch, 105 states have endorsed the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles, by which states commit to take specific actions, consistent with their respective national legal authorities and relevant international law and frameworks, to support efforts to prevent the trafficking of WMD, related materials and their delivery systems. In 2017, there were 14 bilateral and multilateral activities designed to promote and exercise the Critical Capabilities and Practices to diminish the likelihood that WMD materials fall into the hands of state and non-state actors of proliferation concern.

UN Security Council resolution 1540: In 2017, the United States was actively engaged in strengthening implementation of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1540 (2004) through partnerships with other UN member states and international and regional organizations. The 1540 Committee has become a critical part of the international framework to control proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery to non-state actors. The Organization of American States used funds the United States contributed to the UN Trust Fund for Global and Regional Disarmament Activities to hire a UNSCR 1540 coordinator to promote increased implementation of the Resolution in the Western Hemisphere.

The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT): The GICNT is an international partnership of 88 nations and five official observer organizations dedicated to strengthening global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to a nuclear terrorist event. In 2017, partner nations hosted nine multilateral activities under the auspices of GICNT across the areas of nuclear forensics, nuclear detection, and emergency preparedness and response. These events raised awareness of the threat of terrorist use of nuclear and radioactive materials, and provided opportunities for countries to share information, expertise, and best practices in a voluntary, non-binding framework.

Nuclear Trafficking Response Group (NTRG): The NTRG is the U.S. interagency group charged with coordinating the U.S. government response to foreign requests for assistance with incidents of illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive (R/N) materials. The U.S. Department of State chairs the NTRG, which includes representatives from the U.S. government’s nonproliferation, law enforcement, and intelligence communities.

Counter Nuclear Smuggling Program (CNSP): The CNSP advances U.S. national security by enhancing global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to terrorist acquisition and use of nuclear and other radioactive (R/N) materials. The U.S. Department of State, with support from its U.S. interagency partners, conducts diplomatic and programmatic activities to secure vulnerable radioactive sources, strengthen partner countries’ R/N smuggling-related legislation, train prosecutors to support R/N smuggling prosecutions, build nuclear forensics capabilities, and strengthen national-level interagency coordination for responding to R/N smuggling incidents. In 2017, the U.S. Department of State used CNSP funds to conduct or support more than 20 counter R/N smuggling-related activities and strengthened its partnerships with key donor countries and international organizations, such as INTERPOL and the IAEA, to leverage respective efforts.

Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program: The EXBS Program contributed to U.S. national security by helping partner countries fulfill their international obligations and commitments, including those related to UN Security Council resolution 1540 and adherence to the guidelines of multilateral export control regimes, and by developing, strengthening, and institutionalizing related border security enforcement best practices. In 2017, EXBS sponsored 400+ activities for 60+ countries, trained 2,000+ officials, provided inspection and detection equipment worth more than US $4 million, and worked on several border security infrastructure development-related projects. EXBS has begun to reorient program focus towards top national security priorities such as the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and disrupting Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s WMD-related procurement networks.

Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence (NSDD): The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence (NSDD) collaborates with partner countries to build their capacity to deter, detect, and investigate illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials. NSDD’s assistance to partner countries’ national nuclear detection architecture included deployments of radiation detection technologies for use at official crossing points (land, air, and seaports), unofficial checkpoints (land and sea borders) and interior locations. NSDD coordinates its capacity-building activities with multiple U.S. government agencies as well as other international nuclear security assistance entities such as INTERPOL, the European Commission, and the IAEA. Further information on this program is available here.

Global Threat Reduction (GTR): Through GTR, the Department of State’s Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) worked to prevent states and terrorist groups from acquiring or proliferating WMD to attack the United States. In 2017, CTR’s nuclear, chemical, and biological security programs implemented capacity-building projects to ensure foreign partners addressed proliferation and WMD terrorism threats emanating from the Middle East, Africa, and South and Southeast Asia.

To counter ISIS, CTR trained and equipped Iraqi counterterrorism forces prior to military operations in Mosul, Tal Afar, and Hawija, and helped secure weaponizable chemical and biological materials in newly-liberated areas. In Syria, CTR organized the provision of chemical weapons detection, sampling, and protective gear for civilian first responders operating in country. CTR programs in 2017 also trained Libyan partners to neutralize weaponizable chemicals and provided medical training for Yemeni first responders on chemical injury diagnosis and treatment protocols.

To prevent bioterrorism attacks, CTR secured dangerous pathogens in Yemen, where critical security upgrades at vulnerable laboratories were completed in 2017. CTR also trained law enforcement personnel to identify potential bioterrorism threats and rapidly detect and respond to potential bioterrorism incidents.

Biological Weapons Convention Inter-Sessional Work Program (BWC): The December 2017 BWC Meeting of States Parties adopted a final document with new language on a program of work for the 2018-2020 intersessional period. This new program of work entails several expert working groups that will meet annually to address topics including national implementation and international cooperation. The United States will continue to press for greater efforts to acquire better information about and promote international cooperation on BWC States Parties’ measures to implement the Convention. The United States advocated a range of efforts to: criminalize and deter malicious use of biological agents; promote sustainable, effective approaches to laboratory biosecurity; raise international awareness of the need for appropriate, balanced oversight of dual-use life science research with significant potential for harm; and identify and address impediments to international coordination and response in the event of a bioterrorism attack or a significant disease outbreak of unknown origin.

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW): In response to the growing concern about chemical weapons use by state and non-State actors, the OPCW Director-General established a sub-working group on Non-State Actors (SWG) to stimulate discussion and generating specific recommendations that the Technical Secretariat and/or States Parties could implement to address the non-State actor challenge now. Many of these actions were memorialized in the October 2017 OPCW Executive Council decision, “Addressing the Threat Posed by the Use of Chemical Weapons by Non-State Actors.” Additionally, the Director-General established a Rapid Reaction and Assistance Mission (RRAM) to provide assistance to states parties impacted by chemical weapons use by both State and non-State actors.

The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) continued to investigate credible allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria. In 2017, the JIM confirmed that the Syrian regime was responsible for the April 4, 2017 sarin attack in Khan Shaykhun, in addition to three previous incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria. Further, the JIM confirmed ISIS was responsible for the September 15-16, 2016, use of sulfur mustard in Um Housh, in addition to a previous use on Marea in 2015.