Foiled Bomb Plot Sparks Calls for Expanded Military Presence in Yemen

Would that make us safer?

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The U.S. is seriously considering sending elite "hunter-killer" teams to Yemen following the foiled mail bombing plot by militants in Yemen. The covert teams would operate under the CIA's authority allowing them to kill or capture targets unilaterally, The Wall Street Journal reports. Support for an expanded U.S. military effort in Yemen has been growing within the military and the Obama administration, according to The Journal. Now pundits in the blogosphere are echoing calls to ramp up special operations in the country.

  • Expect a U.S. Escalation, writes The Economist: "You can be sure that the US will be seriously considering amping up its semi-secret military campaign in Yemen. And you can be almost certain the US military and the CIA will redoubling their search for Mr Al-Awlaki."
  • It's Time to Get Serious About Yemen, writes Time's Robert Baer, a former Middle East CIA field officer:
We should seriously start wondering whether the bombs found on airplanes in Dubai and Britain are signs of a new, more dangerous wave of terrorism...These bombs have the hallmark of a higher degree of professionalism than we've ever seen come out of al-Qaeda. If al-Qaeda indeed made them, they've teamed up with true professionals.

Something else that should worry us about Yemen is that the militants there appear to have better intelligence and organization than al-Qaeda has shown in the past. Had the Yemeni suicide bomber managed to kill the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, it would have been a disaster for Saudi Arabia as well as the U.S... If indeed al-Qaeda's base is now in Yemen, we're facing a whole new dynamic.
  • The Bomb Plot Demonstrates the Importance of Our Involvement in the Middle East, writes The Wall Street Journal editorial board: "Whether in Kandahar, Mogadishu or the mountains of Yemen, the threat is from Islamic radicals with safe havens in ill-governed parts of the world. A counterterrorism strategy that merely attacks from offshore has major limitations, as we are discovering in Yemen. We cannot base troops in every country with an al Qaeda presence, but our involvement in some form with these sanctuary nations is going to have to be long-term."
  • No Time for Complacency, writes Jed Babbin at The American Spectator:

There are several lessons for us in this incident, as well as some for al-Qaeda.  One lesson is that over nine years, we have degraded al-Qaeda's capabilities by capturing or killing many of their leaders and operators.  But there is no reason for complacence:  al-Qaeda will do its best to outpace our intelligence gathering and try to recruit and train jihadis with higher IQs.   

The principle lesson is that we cannot allow Yemen to continue its harboring of al-Qaeda cells.  For the record, the USS Cole was in Aden harbor when it was attacked in October 2000, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39.  Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and al-Qaeda imam involved in several terrorist attacks including the Fort Hood massacre, is based in Yemen.
  • Hold On: Let's Not Overreact, writes Julian Glover at The Guardian:
A reasoned government might go on to make a series of sensible factual observations. It might note that Yemen is indeed a terrible state, but not, primarily because of imported terrorists. ... This is a catastrophe of a country, and we should help it. Talking up confrontation is about the most stupid response possible: all those bold claims that Yemen is the new Afghanistan, as if terrorists choose their battlefields as the fashion industry selects its autumn colours, are just what the men of violence hope to hear...

Where we fail is at home. The threat to the west lies in the west and from the west. It comes from cells of bitter and dangerous Islamist expatriates, in Bradford or Detroit, and from a foreign policy that has gone out of its way to allow them to believe quite wrongly that we want to destroy Islam.

We have become lost in a world of demented misunderstandings. We must not talk ourselves into making it worse.

  • Expanded Operations Could Backfire  This Morning, Steve Inskeep at NPR spoke with Gregory Johnsen, an expert on terrorist groups in Yemen. The Princeton University professor said previous special operations in Yemen have actually backfired making "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula more powerful, acting as a recruiting bonanza for the group."
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