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Lapsed vigilance

The forums are still silent as to an AQAP statement (or any other one for that matter) on the kidnappings and executions. However, judging from the 1,069 people (at last check) who have viewed Abdulihi’s thread of his article in News Yemen in one of the more popular forums, claiming that al-Qaeda didn’t do it, there is a lot of interest.

So until there is something more for us to discuss, there is this intriguing article from Ali Soufan published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Soufan, of course, has a long history in Yemen – for those wishing to learn more you should read Lawrence Wright’s fine book: The Looming Tower.

Soufan’s article is quite good and I think he has some interesting things to say about defeating al-Qaeda in its various manifestations. But I’m not sure that his premise, at least when it comes to Yemen, is correct.

This is the initial part of his opening paragraph:

In mid-June, a group of tourists visiting Yemen’s tribal areas were brutally murdered by terrorists most likely connected to al-Qaeda. This tragic event underscores a particularly difficult challenge for the United States and its allies: as al-Qaeda’s activities are undermined in one part of the world, it adapts and moves its operations elsewhere.Yemen and Somalia — where the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab movement is now a major force — are the latest examples of this phenomenon.” [Emphasis added]

In my opinion this is not what happened in Yemen. It may be what is going to happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. Al-Qaeda re-grouped in Yemen because both the US and Yemeni government began to put other things first on their list of priorities. After November 2003, which I date as the end of the first phase of the war against al-Qaeda in Yemen (pithy, yes?), both governments began to move other things to the top of their list.

For the US it was democratic reforms and anti-corruption campaigns as part of the Bush administration’s desire to remake the Greater Middle East. For the Yemeni government it was a growing conflict with the Huthis in the north, which took off in June 2004.

The regrouping and reorganizing of al-Qaeda in Yemen is the direct result of lapsed vigilance on the part of both Yemen and the US. It may eventually be true that as al-Qaeda is forced out of certain areas they find their way to Yemen, but this hasn’t happened yet.

I pointed this – or at least tried to – in an article I wrote for the CTC Sentinel way back in December 2007, Issue 1 pgs. 14 – 15, for those looking to re-read the piece.


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