Yemen sharpens debate: Are wars the answer to terrorism?
Critics say the US has put too much emphasis on large-scale military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yemen shows that Al Qaeda is too agile to be defeated by such a 'whack a mole' strategy, they say.
The emergence – or better said, reemergence – of Yemen and the Horn of Africa as a focal point of Al Qaeda-led terrorist activity aimed at the United States is sharpening a debate over how and with what resources the US has chosen to battle the global Islamist extremist threat.Skip to next paragraph
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With Yemeni connections to recent terrorist acts or threats in the US surfacing, some critics of the approach taken by the US since 9/11 say too much emphasis and treasure have been dedicated to large-scale military operations like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the US has become bogged down there, these critics add, an agile and mobile enemy has used convenient tools like the Internet and the lawless regions of failed or weak states like Yemen and Somalia to build networks and regroup after defeats elsewhere.
“It’s gotten to be like the old whack-a-mole game, where we’ve hit them here, but they’ve just popped right back up over there,” says Judith Yaphe, a former CIA Middle East analyst now at the National Defense University in Washington. “We’re not going to bomb our way to a solution in Afghanistan, and it’s not going to be by forgetting about all the other places where these groups have influence, either.”
US increasing counterterrorism aid to Yemen
The Obama administration is tacitly recognizing the validity of some of the criticism, announcing in recent days an increase in counterterrorism aid to the Yemeni government to take on extremist forces including those aligned with Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
Earlier this week Gen. David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, said during a visit to the Yemeni capital of Sanaa that American assistance for fighting the extremist threat will increase this year. On Monday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the Obama administration has requested security and development assistance of about $63 million for Yemen this year, or more than 50 percent over last year’s amount.
Moreover, Yemen can expect an infusion of money targeted specifically at counterterrorism, Mr. Kelly said – funding that reached $67 million last year.