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Our Next Wars: Yemen and Somalia

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Author Topic: Our Next Wars: Yemen and Somalia  (Read 748 times)
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« on: November 01, 2010, 09:52:08 am »

Shadow War in Yemen Could Heat Up After ‘Printer Bomb’ Scare

    * By Spencer Ackerman Email Author
    * November 1, 2010  |
    * 9:18 am

The intercontinental mail-bomb plot this weekend didn’t result in any fatalities. But if its real purpose was to draw the U.S. deeper into Yemen, where the plot was hatched, then it might be a different kind of success. An intense and more lethal CIA role in Yemen, without cooperation from the weak Yemeni government, might be imminent, indicating that another undeclared war is about to intensify.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan didn’t say it on the Sunday chat shows, but there’s a plan gaining momentum within the Obama administration to expand the CIA’s “operational control” over “U.S. hunter-killer teams” from the Joint Special Operations Command tracking al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate. The Wall Street Journal reports that the proposal would let the U.S. “unilaterally” attack al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — the presumed (but not directly accused) culprits of the plot –  while the Yemeni government retained “deniability” for counterterrorism raids. Most likely, that means official public denunciation of commando assaults and drone strikes from President Ali Abdullah Saleh while he privately winks at the operations and takes U.S. cash.

And if that sounds like Pakistan 2.0, it should. So far, the U.S. has largely relied on cruise missile strikes in Yemen, not drones. But drone strikes, the CIA’s preferred answer to terrorism, would tick up under the new plan. Since the drones require bases from which to fly, it’s worth asking whether Saleh will turn some of his air fields over to CIA Predator teams — as the Pakistani government secretly did. Saleh is on the verge of receiving a military aid package worth $1.2 billion from the U.S., which may help him decide. Whether by drone or by raid, target number one is likely to be al-Qaeda’s Yemen bombmaker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who may have made the bombs that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate in his underwear on Christmas. (A close second target is probably extremist preacher and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.)

The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas has hit record levels of intensity this year, with 92 attacks so far in 2010. As the Journal has previously reported, ever since al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula attempted to blow up a passenger aircraft on Christmas Day, there’s been congressional support for exporting that model to Yemen. A former Green Beret running for Congress, Tommy Sowers, signaled openness to that plan in a recent Danger Room interview. Why? Because shadow wars offer U.S. policymakers the tantalizing prospect of success without responsibility. But rarely can it be said that they actually work as intended.

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