MACOMB, IL — There is rarely a lack of national and international news stories tackling the complex realities of terrorism, counterterrorism and homeland security. Headlines about the prisoner swap between the United States and the Taliban (resulting in the Taliban's freeing of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S.'s release of five senior Taliban commanders in U.S. custody) and the Syrian election amid that country's civil war appear at the top of leading international news-gathering organizations' — the New York Times, the Washington Post, BBC News and CNN to name a few — websites almost daily.
Keeping track of the deluge of this type of news coverage is just part of what Western Illinois University's Director of Homeland Security Research Program Dean Alexander does on a constant basis. Alexander, an associate professor in Western's School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA), teaches LEJA and homeland security courses. (The School of LEJA's homeland security minor is one of the top five minor programs offered at WIU; as of Spring 2014, 279 students were enrolled in the minor program.) He also conducts homeland security-related research, writes articles for security publications and presents at international conferences on a regular basis.
In late May, Alexander published "Syria's Siren," an article in Intersec, The Journal of International Security, which expands on the opinion piece, "Restrict flow of foreign fighters to Syria," he published in the Peoria Journal Star April 19.
"That article supports recent revelations of the first suicide bombing by a U.S. born individual, Moner Mohammad Abusalha, in Syria, last week, as well as about Mehdi Nemmouche, the shooter at the Jewish Museum in Brussels last month, who also trained in Syria," he noted. "Syria is increasingly viewed as a hotbed and training ground for trans-national jihadists," he added.
"The multifaceted concerns about this emerging phenomenon include the prospect that Syria comes under control of these jihadi forces; that Syria becomes a failed state with ungovernable areas (see Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq); that Syria becomes a permanent terrorist training base for foreign fighters to wreak havoc in neighboring states and beyond, including the West; and that stability is undermined in the Middle East," Alexander explained in both the Intersec and Peoria Journal Star pieces.
In regard to the recent news of the former Taliban prisoner Bergdahl and the exchange of Taliban commanders, according to Alexander, it sets a bad precedent.
"It will likely encourage more kidnappings of U.S. soldiers and civilians in the U.S. and abroad," he noted.
Currently, Alexander is in Romania, where he presented his research on family-affiliated terrorism at the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center in Bucharest. (In January 2014, Alexander published "Terror in the Family" in Intersec, an article about the Boston Marathon bombers, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, which highlights the threat of radicalization within families.)