As the evidence mounts that alleged airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was equipped and dispatched to attack the United States by a branch of al-Qaida based in Yemen, some are asking whether the United States should launch a military offensive in that impoverished Arabian nation.
The answer, of course, is that it already has. In the past two weeks, Yemeni forces equipped with U.S. weapons and intelligence have carried out two major raids against the self-styled al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It's even possible that the group was decapitated a day BEFORE the attack on Northwest Flight 253, with an airstrike on a meeting that was believed to include AQAP's two top leaders as well as a radical sheik linked to the Fort Hood gunman.
If that's the case - and there has been no confirmation that the senior leaders were killed - the bungled airline attack allegedly carried out by a confused 23-year-old Nigerian could represent the highwater mark of an organization believed to have 100 to 300 members. Yet the group managed to issue a statement Monday claiming responsibility for the attempt to blow up Flight 253 and promising more operations - a threat reportedly echoed by Mr. Abdulmutallab during his questioning by the FBI.
To its credit, the Obama administration has already significantly stepped up U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen, which has been a trouble spot since the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. CIA and Special Forces personnel have been dispatched to the country to assist in operations and train Yemeni forces, and the administration is planning to spend $65 million on security assistance this year.
Still, Yemen's steady slide toward failed-state status in recent years means that it, like nearby Somalia, will probably demand concerted and multifaceted U.S. engagement for years to come.
- Washington Post
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