The latest terrorist islamist attack that killed 4 people and wounded dozens more in Trèbes in southern France on March 23, 2018 has sparked a huge wave of anger among the French people. Especially after learning the death of Gendarmerie Nationale’s heroic lieutenant-colonel Arnaud Beltram who swapped himself for one woman taken hostage by terrorist Redouane Lakdim and later died from his wounds.
The awful truth is that such terrorist attacks, like many others in the past, should never have happened if the laws were fully enforced and the territory fully protected. French intelligence agencies, including the two biggest DGSI and DGSE, have been at the forefront of counterterrorism (CT) for decades and despite setbacks like yesterday’s, the number of attacks they’ve succeeded in preventing from taking place has been huge.
Against the backdrop, the difficulties of French CT have nothing to do with intelligence but everything to do with politics. From François Hollande to Emmanuel Macron, not to mention Germany’s Angela Merkel, political leaders have constantly ignored the recommendations from seasoned intelligence and CT professionals for at least 15 years.
Since the early 2000s, reports calling for a deep review of the no-borders policy of the European Union (EU) and for deep action against pro-terrorist preachers and potential operatives have accumulated, to no avail. Anger therefore keeps growing within French intelligence ranks, especially among top-ranking officers who quit the service not so long ago.
Although he was a duly noted potential threat to France’s national security and a multiple convicted criminal, terrorist Redouane Lakdim was allowed to reside in France and, apparently, also awarded French citizenship. French intelligence officers do a wonderful job that politicians dramatically damage by not taking obvious common sense decisions.
Around 15,000 to 20,000 people, inside France, are currently considered a threat to France’s national security. French domestic agency DGSI has around 4,500 employees. Politics, not intelligence, is fully responsible for the growing terrorist threat in France.