Las Vegas Hosts Counterterrorism Debate as City Confronts Security Challenges

Posted on: December 17, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: July 11, 2018, 07:29h.

Las Vegas is no stranger to security issues, and the city is certainly on heightened alert following the October 1 mass shooting that left 58 people dead and over 500 others injured.

counterterrorism Las Vegas shooting
Security experts at a UNLV panel say lone wolf attacks, like the one carried out by the Las Vegas shooter, are difficult, if not impossible, to prevent. (Image: Wikipedia)

Those concerns were again on display Monday, when the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) hosted a debate on the changing role of America’s military, a conversation that included discussions of counterterrorism efforts at home and abroad.

The debate was sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Charles Koch Institute in partnership with Politico, as part of a series of thematic discussions on the future of American foreign policy. The debate lasted for nearly 90 minutes, and covered topics ranging from America’s continued presence in Afghanistan to relations between the United States and Russia.

Lone Wolfs Most Difficult

The topic of security of Las Vegas and its massive gaming and tourism industry wasn’t directly broached. But the problem of lone wolf attacks, both from foreign and domestic actors, was a major point of discussion when it came to debating counterterrorism.

“In ways Americans will never know…between the FBI, the CIA, our intelligence entities and our security forces, the work that has been done to try and protect the United States has been enormous,” said retired general John Allen, president of the Brookings Institution. “It is the lone wolf, though, that is always going to be the challenge for us.”

Allen spoke specifically about Monday morning’s attempted attack at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City, where a Bangladeshi man identified as Akayed Ullah detonated a crude bomb, primarily injuring himself and causing minor injuries to three others. While Ullah said he was inspired by ISIS, authorities quickly determined that he had worked alone in planning the bombing.

“This is the perfect example of the kind of individual who is a lone wolf, operates completely ‘in the dark’ as Director Comey called them,” Allen said. “That’s the individual that’s most challenging for us.”

Las Vegas Bolstering Security

While Allen was largely talking about terrorism by individuals who are aligned with radical Islamic groups, his same concerns of individuals who can plan an attack in secret with few (if any) warning signs could also apply to domestic attacks, such as the October 1 shooting planned and carried out by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas.

That mass shooting has prompted Nevada lawmakers to take additional steps to ensure the safety of visitors to the city over the coming New Year’s Eve holiday. 358 National Guard soldiers will be deployed to the Las Vegas Strip, Fremont Street, and at McCarran International Airport, at a cost of $357,000.

That’s a major increase in the security presence seen last year for the holiday, when 160 troops were stationed at key positions in the city. In addition, the entire Metropolitan Police force will be on duty for New Year’s Eve. Las Vegas is the second most popular destination for ringing in the New Year in the United States, with only Times Square in New York drawing a larger crowd.