Yemenis Wary of US War on Al Qaeda
Offensive tactics from both the U.S. and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are increasing. Yemen’s military carried out a four-front assault in the south that was directly guided by American troops at a nearby airbase. President Barack Obama‘s counterterrorism advisor John Brennan paid a visit to Yemen recently and met with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. White House spokesman Jay Carney did not give specifics in his briefing, but said, ”We obviously have a keen interest in working with the Yemeni government in the fight against extremism there, and that was certainly part of the discussion. But the relationship is broader than that.” Hadi was pleased with the increased U.S. cooperation against AQAP, affirming, “The move toward the pursuit of terrorists is irreversible.” On the other hand, U.S. intelligence reported that AQAP has ”a whole outfit designated to target the U.S. homeland,” including ”several types of bombs” that could get past airport x-ray screening machines.
The intensified campaign against AQAP, however, is fostering increased anti-western sentiment that worries experts. Salem al-A’wash, a tribal leader in Shabwa province, said Yemen’s fractured security and political instability are only worsened by U.S. drone attacks. A senior Defense Ministry official in Yemen urged ”tough limitations” to ensure that the U.S.-Yemen war on AQAP remains under the authority of the Yemeni government, worried about increasing hostility toward his own government that risks being seen as a tool of Washington. James Traub asks, “How long until the blowback comes?” and gives an overview of Obama’s counterterrorism strategy thus far. Former head of the CIA counterterrorism center, Robert Grenier, worries that the drone strikes are only pushing more Yemenis to extremism.