Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Yemen: New Front in the War on Terrorism

On Christmas Day 2009, a suspected terrorist aboard a plane landing in Detroit failed to detonate a bomb wired to his underwear. And so the world was reminded of Yemen, one of the Middle East's poorest and most fractious countries and an increasingly popular breeding ground for fundamentalist militancy — the would-be bomber, a young Nigerian man, apparently had undergone training on Yemeni soil. Since then, the world has become aware of the growing strength of a Yemeni wing of al-Qaeda that now may be more influential and tactically capable than its counterparts operating along the Afghan-Pakistani border. A recent series of intercepted parcel bombs intended for addresses in the U.S. were sent from Yemen. The country's reigning strongman, Ali Abdullah Salih, has governed for more than two decades but, beyond consolidating his grip on power, has done precious little to redress Yemen's many economic woes. Rule of law in certain stretches of Yemen is akin to that in the failed state of Somalia; its many insurgent factions and restive tribes wouldn't be out of place in Afghanistan or Iraq. Salih has pledged to root out the terrorists in his midst. Perhaps doubting his commitment and ability, though, the CIA has embarked on its own covert war of drone attacks and targeted strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in the country.