European Counter-Terrorist Units 1972-2017
In today's environment of frequent terrorist attacks across the world, it is perhaps difficult to understand that prior to 1972, no European country had a dedicated police or military anti-terrorist, direct-action unit. Prior to 1972, the threat simply did not exist to any great extent. After 1972, it did, and it has only gotten worse. The event that 'changed everything' was of course the Munich Olympics of 1972. These Olympics were the first in Germany since 1936, and they were very deliberately designed to showcase a peaceful, non-militarized society. Terrorists from the Black September group targeted Israeli olympic athletes and took hostages; in the badly botched police intervention that followed, multiple hostages and terrorists died.
Osprey's new book on European CT (Counter-Terrorist) Units since 1972 is an excellent overview of what has changed since 1972. Beginning with a brief description of the Munich events, it goes on to describe the creation of police and military CT units across Europe.
Pioneers: Germany's GSG-9 (early members) with their founder, Ulrich Wegener
The author does a good job describing the creation and organization of the early, most famous units such as the German GSG-9, the French GIGN, and the CT units of the British SAS. There is a short section describing each of the major national CT units such as those from the Republic of Ireland, italy, Spain, the Czech republic, and so forth. The section on each nation's units are lengthy roughly in proportion to the amount of action they have seen. Sadly this means a long section on the French teams; France has been hit hard by terrorists from the Charlie Hebdo incidents to the recent theater attacks.
French GIGN and Austrian EKO Cobra CT members
I commend the author for keeping his discussion of training and tactics very 'generic' so as to avoid giving away information that might help future attackers. He describes very basic tasks such as breaching and surveillance in terms that do not give away specifics; he generally avoids any detailed descriptions of personnel selection or specialized training. During the 1972 Munich incident, terrorists were actually able to track police movements on live TV.
Nice color plates of insertion methods
There is a fair amount of discussion of uniforms and weaponry, which may be of interest to modelers. Obviously the type of boot or pistol used by these teams is not what makes them elite!
"Your flight may experience delays...."
The author also describes the changing nature of the threat in recent years. Twenty or thirty years ago, terrorists usually had short-term objectives such as freeing prisoners and did not generally intend to die 'in action'; today, most Daesh-inspired terrorists, for example, intend to inflict as many civilian casualties as possible and intend to die during their attacks. This calls for much faster responses from CT units.
My only quibble with the author is his misunderstanding of the political nature of terrorism. Many who have not studied it closely believe terrorist violence is somewhat 'random' or, in the author's own words, 'nihilistic'. Nothing could be further from the truth. Terrorist groups plan their actions with easily-identifiable political goals in mind, and while the uninformed public may be blind to these goals, it is odd to me that the author is as well. There is nothing mysterious about it.
The 64 pages in this book are nicely accompanied by high quality color plates and lots of full color, well-printed photos of CT personnel.
Pros: Excellent wide-ranging coverage; well-written; very well-illustrated, good introduction to the subject.
Cons: Mis-states/misunderstands the clear political motivation of terrorist groups; this is a minor issue.
Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Osprey Publishing for this review sample.
Reviewed by Danny Egan
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