Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 6


New Zealand: Will New Zealand Look to Australia to Expand Anti-Terrorism Legislation?

Brian M. Perkins

On March 15, a mass shooting at the al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand left 50 people dead and at least 50 others injured. The suspect, Brenton Tarrant, is a 28-year-old Australian that authorities have described as a violent, right-wing extremist. Tarrant livestreamed the attack, and the video ultimately began circulating on the internet. The attack primarily underscored the threat of right-wing extremism in New Zealand, but it also pointed to how vulnerable the state could be to similar style attacks in the future and raised the specter of attacks motivated by vengeance.

Following the shooting in Christchurch, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) released a joint statement condemning the attack and calling on Muslims to retaliate. The groups vowed that the mass shooting would “not pass without a response”  (Jihadology, March 18). Countless other terrorist groups including al-Shabaab, Ansar al-Islam, Ansar al-Din, and pro-IS groups have issued similar statements threatening attacks against Westerners in New Zealand, Australia, and more broadly against the rest of the West (Jihadology, March 16).

Inconsistencies with the application of anti-terrorism laws will likely mean Tarrant will never actually face terrorism charges, despite politicians referring to the shooting as a terrorist attack. However, the violent incident coupled with calls for retaliation will likely lead to a political response that will serve to broaden counter-terrorism strategies as a whole rather than just addressing the particular brand of ideology underlying the shooting.

New Zealand has already rushed through proposed legislation to ban assault rifles and will likely look to review or amend other related legislation as a catch all. New Zealand does not have as broad or expansive anti-terrorism legislation as nearby Australia. In fact, anti-terrorism legislation in Australia seems to broaden each year, most recently with proposed laws allowing Australian dual citizens to be stripped of their citizenship, granting access to encrypted messaging platforms, and establishing that “there will be a presumption that neither bail nor parole will be granted to those persons who have demonstrated support for, or have links to, terrorist activity” (See Terrorism Monitor, January 11). [1] Meanwhile, New Zealand’s laws have remained relatively static, with only a few amendments to the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2007.

While Tarrant was not on authorities’ radar, among the top provisions of the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2007 that will likely come under review is a provision that limits warrantless surveillance to a 24-hour period as well as the state’s ability to monitor social media (, March 31, 2016). In view of preventing such attacks from recurring, politicians could seek to broaden the state’s ability to proactively surveil suspects for longer periods of time while expanding the scope of activities that might facilitate such surveillance.

New Zealand and Australia maintain a close counter-terrorism partnership and Australian legislation provides a ready-made template for New Zealand to draw from. However, doing so would be an outsized response given that the threat profile to New Zealand is still significantly lower than that of Australia and this specific attack and the subsequent calls for retaliation do not necessarily indicate an upward trend.


[1] See Justice Legislation (Links to Terrorist Activity) Amendment Bill 2018


Afghanistan: Taliban-U.S. Peace Talks Raise New Security Threats

Brian M. Perkins

Taliban and U.S. representatives concluded their most substantial round of peace talks in Doha, Qatar on March 12. The talks ended with some progress, but no final agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops and Taliban assurances that the country will not be used as a staging ground for attacks on other countries (Tolo News, February 23). The Afghan government has so far been left out of the process and is expected to remain out of the loop until the timeline for withdrawal is established and a new round of talks begin.

While the results of the latest round of negotiations have largely been viewed as welcome progress, with each side expressing cautious optimism, the prospect of a peace deal with the Taliban also presents numerous new security challenges. Aside from the most obvious challenge of attempting to bring longtime Taliban members into the government fold and integrating them within the administrative fabric, there is also a significant challenge posed by recalcitrant Taliban members unwilling to surrender, and the likelihood of disenfranchised members to join up with the local Islamic State (IS) branch, Islamic State-Khurasan (IS-K).

The Taliban and its associated groups, including the Haqqani Network, are relatively decentralized and often members’ allegiance is to their field commander and local comrades first. Although the Taliban has included prominent members from different cross sections of the group in its negotiating team, it is likely that many of the factions will be reluctant to lay down their arms, opting instead to continue their ongoing mission or, in a slightly better scenario, end the insurgency but continue reaping the benefits of other illicit activities—such as taxing poppy cultivation, illegal mining, or smuggling (UNODC, May 21, 2018). If there are factions that do not agree to lay down their arms, there will be a persistent threat that those who do are not genuinely doing so and will infiltrate various government, security, or administrative entities, or that some will eventually join back up with the factions that held out.

Another key scenario that should be closely monitored is the likelihood of Taliban members joining up with IS-K, which has surged in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region over the past year as core IS has lost territory in Syria and Iraq. IS-K and the Taliban have historically clashed over IS-K’s hardline approach, but that has not prevented disenfranchised Taliban members from joining the group (See Terrorism Monitor, August 10, 2018). IS-K has also recently softened its approach and rhetoric in order to draw in more recruits. IS-K, in many ways, poses more of a threat outside of Afghanistan than the Taliban does and, unlike the Taliban, has intentions to strike Pakistan as well. With IS-K’s significant number of foreign fighters and the core IS’ increased focus on turning toward other exploitable locations outside Syria and Iraq, Afghanistan could see a surge in foreign fighters and the recruitment of disenfranchised Taliban members.

In conducting peace talks with the Taliban, local and international security teams will need to come up with creative and well-laid plans to prevent the fracturing of the Taliban or a sudden surge in the ranks of IS-K. One significant issue in doing so is that an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops is foundational in securing a peace deal, and it is unclear how quickly the second order effects of a peace deal will present themselves.