Yemen is emerging as the new front in the war against al-Qa'idah at the same time the Obama Administration is sending tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan.
As President Obama himself has stated on more than one occasion, the mission of American forces in Afghanistan is to defeat al-Qa'idah. The President does not appear to be reading his intelligence reports - there are virtually no al-Qa'idah militants remaining in Afghanistan. They have moved - initially to Pakistan to escape American forces in late 2001, then to Iraq in 2003 to fight American forces there, then to Saudi Arabia as Iraq became a losing proposition, and now in Yemen after Saudi security forces ruthlessly pursued them in the kingdom.
If the real aim of the U.S. war on terror is to defeat al-Qa'idah, we are sending troops to the wrong place. The bad guys are in Yemen.
The image below is illustrative of the danger posed by al-Qa'idah in Yemen. This group is organized and apparently well-funded. This is their stationery - click on the image for larger view. Here is my translation of this particular bulletin, which gives some insight into who we are fighting.
The Al-Qa'idah Jihad Organization of the Arabian Peninsula
Soldiers of Yemen Brigade*
Expelling the Infidels** from the Arabian Peninsula
Bulletin Number 11
Martyred Heroes Abu Dijanah al-Hadurmi and
Ahmad bin Sa'id bin 'Umar al-Mushajari
May Allah receive them in martyrdom
* literally: battalions, but used by these groups to mean brigade
** literally: polytheists
The December 25 failed attack on an airliner by a Nigerian militant appears to have a Yemen connection - it is believed that 'Umar Faruq 'Abd al-Mutalib was trained in Yemen. This follows two incidents earlier this year with connections to Yemen. In November, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 people at Fort Hood. Hasan was being counseled by Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, an American of Yemeni descent now resident in Yemen. Al-Awlaki may have also been involved in the recruitment and training of 'Abd al-Mutalib as well. In July, a convert to Islam murdered an American soldier in Little Rock - that individual had received training in Yemen.
Yemen has a spotty record of dealing with terrorists. It appears that only when al-Qa'idah poses a threat to the government of 'Ali 'Abdallah Salih is any action taken against the group. Numerous detainees that have been repatriated to Yemen from the detention facility at Guantanamo have either escaped and remain at large or have rejoined the fight. Hopefully this latest incident will cause the Obama Administration to rethink its misguided policy about sending many of the Guantanamo detainees to Yemen in its haste to close the facility.
If the United States and the Obama Administration are serious about defeating al-Qa'idah, they need to focus more efforts on Yemen. The recent U.S. cruise missile strike is a good start, as are increased CIA operations in the country. As I have said before, the only way to deal with al-Qa'idah is to hunt them down and kill them. That means going after them where they are - and it's not Afghanistan. It's Yemen.
My earlier articles on Yemen:
- U.S. Air Strike in Yemen - kudos to President Obama (December 2009)
- Perspective on Yemen's recent violence (November 2009)
- Al-Qa'idah on the run - again (June 2009)
- Yemen's unique counterterrorism tool (February 2009)
- Yemen and the Guantanamo 245 (January 2009)
- Yemen - State sponsor of terrorism? (February 2008)
- Yemen Acquits Al-Qa'idah Members - A Surprise? (July 2006)
- Yemen - Ally in the War on Terror? (February 2006)
- The USS Cole - A Victim of Bad Policy? (December 2005 – reprint)