Meeting Point in Yemen

Suddenly, it seems to hit home every day. Sunday night, an entire terminal of the Newark airport near New York needed to be evacuated because a man managed to pass the security check without having been screened. A bit earlier, America and Great Britain decided to close their embassies in Yemen because of the threat of the local Al Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the failed bomb attack during a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Friday, in Århus, the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was narrowly saved by the police when a Somalian intended to kill him at home with axe and a knife. On that same New Year’s Day, almost 90 visitors of a volleyball game in Pakistan were killed in a suicide attack.

Finally, on Wednesday, seven employees of the CIA were killed in Afghanistan in a comparable act, which was executed by an alleged informant of the intelligence service itself.

That Afghanistan and Pakistan are not safeguarded against violence – on the contrary, the trend seems to be that this area offers more hospitality to terror once again – has been known for a while already. That Yemen and Somalia are now also free havens for groups that feel connected to or are part of the network of Al Qaeda, seems new. Aside from piracy, violence in those two countries seemed to be determined locally. But that apparently has been a misconception for a very long time because it was in Yemen, a country that has not known peace since reunification after the Cold War in 1990, where bin Laden was born. And it was in Yemen that the suicide attack on the American torpedo boat destroyer, the USS Cole, was committed in 2000, the first attack of its kind. But a lot has changed recently. There are indications that a number of former prisoners who were detained for years by the U.S. in Guantánamo Bay now live in Yemen.

The sudden closing of the two embassies illustrates that, in the eyes of the United States and the United Kingdom, Yemen is disintegrating fast. That offers Islamic activists from the school of Al Qaeda the opportunity to settle there, just as Somalia is becoming a free haven thanks to the advance of the militias of Al Shabaab.

The Yemeni government in Sanaa receives help with funding, materials, information and training to combat the terrorist groups, but President Saleh is not a reliable ally in this effort. His own position of power and the continuous battle between the Shiite North and the Sunni South, which had the support of the Soviet Union until 1990, demands more of his attention than Al Qaeda.

The spread of terror networks to more and more areas where there is a lack of effective state power is painful, both for President Bush, who relied on a military siege, and for his successor, Obama, who strives more for a concentrated effort in Afghanistan and a political approach. But it is better to face these facts and to take a broad range of defensive measures than to continue with martial rhetoric that is hollow in practice.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply