Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interesting Read

on Yemen and the battle with Al Qaeda for it, this one from last week's The New York Times' magazine section

It really is frightening because we are dealing, like we are in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a government that is too weak, too corrupt and too unpopular to be considered a credible ally in the war on terror.


"Meanwhile, the United States grew increasingly concerned about Al Qaeda's growth in Yemen and about Saleh's tendency to see it as a family problem, solvable through dialogue. Veteran jihadists were said to be coming to Yemen from Afghanistan and Somalia. Last summer, Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the overall commander of American military forces in the Middle East, visited Sana, and the number of American military trainers working with Yemen's counterterrorism forces quietly grew. In the fall, a select group of American officials met with Saleh and showed him irrefutable evidence that Al Qaeda was aiming at him and his relatives, who dominate Yemen's military and intelligence services. That seems to have abruptly changed Saleh's attitude, American diplomats told me. The Yemenis began to mount more aggressive ground raids on Al Qaeda targets, in coordination with the airstrikes that began in December.

But the strikes and raids were a short-term tactic. The real problem was that Yemen, with its mind-boggling corruption, its multiple insurgencies, its disappearing oil and water and its deepening poverty, is sure to descend further into chaos if something does not change. Everyone has acknowledged this, including President Obama and a growing chorus of terrorism analysts. So far, the calls for action have yielded nothing. I spoke to a number of American officials in Washington and to a variety of diplomats at the embassy in Sana. They all told me the same thing: no one has a real strategy for Yemen, in part because there are so few people who have any real expertise about the country. No American diplomats travel to the provinces where Al Qaeda has found sanctuary. Even the Yemeni government has great difficulty reaching these places; often they have no idea whether airstrikes or bombing runs have hit their targets, because they dare not show up to check until days afterward. "


and Al Qaeda's response to this corruption and failure to govern?

"If Wuhayshi and Raymi want to recreate the original Al Qaeda in Yemen, they also seem to have learned from its mistakes. Starting in 2009, the group used its Internet magazine and intermittent videos to make increasingly passionate appeals to the people of Yemen - and especially to its tribes. The magazine echoed populist discontent about government corruption, unemployment and unfair distribution of revenue from Yemen's oil, much of which comes from the very areas where Al Qaeda is active. The articles often show a deep understanding of local concerns; one issue in 2008 included an anguished complaint about the government's mishandled response to a flood in the eastern province of Hadramawt.

Al Qaeda's Afghanistan-based leadership reinforced the tribal message in early 2009, when Zawahiri issued an audiotape addressed to "the noble and defiant tribes of Yemen," urging them to rise up against Saleh's government. "Don't be less than your brothers in the defiant Pashtun and Baluch tribes," he said. "Don't be helpers of Ali Abdullah Saleh. . . . Support your brothers the mujahedeen." At the same time, the group strove to marry members to tribal women and mediate tribal disputes."


They are winning the propaganda war by default while we bomb the country while backing a weak and corrupt autocrat because he is the only one we've got.

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