Sunday, July 24, 2011

Yemen - Much Worse Than You Think

Considering all the recent AQ attacks on the US have emanated from Yemen, from the underwear bomber, to the printer bombs, to the Time Square and subway bombers, if you are the least bit interested in what the US military is going to do next as a core focus of effort - keep reading.

Afghanistan is old news. The AQ center of gravity has gone critical in Yemen and is building towards a crisis in nuclear armed Pakistan. Deciding which is more important is dependent on a number of variables. Yemen is going over the edge, it does not have nukes but it is rapidly becoming about as perfect an example of an ungoverned space that is viable for a terror sanctuary as can be imagined. Amid the chaos, terrorists have already mounted several attacks on the US homeland.
The Saudis say Iran is financing the rebels — known as the Huthis — so as to create a pressure front against them, much the way Iran uses Hezbollah in Lebanon. .. “The Saudis are now putting strings on the money they give us,” I was told by Abdullah Rashid al-Jumaili, a tribal sheik from Jawf province, in the far north. “They want us to spread the Sunni faith, and to fight the Huthis.” ... “It seems there is now a struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for dominance in northern Yemen,” he said.
[from featured source below].
Pakistan has nukes, a large population and territory and sits at the center of a vortex of geostrategic issues that go way beyond Afghanistan to include India, China and Iran. In the next 5 years the two countries will be central to the future of AQ. The best antidote to AQ has come from within Islam - the Arab Spring. But the pressures for reform and the pathway to peaceful development has been different in each case. While the Arab Spring has found some purchase in Yemen, the countervailing forces seem to be with chaos, not better governance (democracy). Pakistan has completely missed the Arab Spring boat - because its socio-economic and political development is decades behind Egypt and the others, so noted an expert at a recent not for attribution event MIL INT attended.

On July 20, the NYT Magazine carried a very detailed and long story on whats really been going on in Yemen. It bears very close scrutiny:

The attack on May 29, with its deliberate cruelty and excess, confirmed what many Yemenis feared: that Saleh sees the democratic uprising as a greater threat to his power than Al Qaeda.
After decades of backdoor collusion with jihadis and armed rebels of all kinds [sound familiar? MI], Saleh and his generals may believe they can more easily defeat these warriors, or make deals with them.
Saleh seemed to view Al Qaeda as a bargaining chip, one that could be used to guarantee his own relevance as Yemen’s meager oil and water reserves ran dry. He paroled convicted terrorists, or allowed them to escape from prison, even as he cracked down on peaceful protesters. At the same time, his divide-and-rule policies left him more and more isolated inside Yemen. Eventually, even the Americans and their Saudi partners would turn against him, convinced he was more trouble than he was worth. 
“That is where I used to meet the thief,” he said, meaning Saleh. “He will use everything as a weapon in this fight — Al Qaeda, tribes, anything. I know, I was his friend.”

The president and his family have been skimming money from Yemen’s oil business for decades through an elaborate network of middlemen. They have also funneled hefty patronage payments to military and tribal leaders, including, until recently, the Ahmars. Estimates of the Saleh family’s holdings run well into the billions, much of it held overseas. But they have been spending it at a furious rate in the past few months, and not just on fuel subsidies to make up for Yemen’s dire shortage of gasoline. Tens of thousands of tribesmen are paid to show up for weekly pro-government rallies in Sana; reports of their stipends range from 7,000 riyals ($33) to 12,000 ($55) per day. For those not on the payroll, life has gotten measurably worse since the uprising began at the start of the year, with food prices rising fast and water and cooking gas increasingly scarce. If these trends continue, the appeal of hard-line Islamists or other extremists may grow, upsetting all calculations about the loyalty of Yemen’s military or its tribes. 
One possible future for Yemen is already on display in the country’s far south, where roaming bands of jihadis have taken over large swaths of terrain and the government seems powerless to stop them.... I asked him what happened to the Yemeni army. “It was a war,” he said. “The Qaeda people came with a huge number of armed men. There is army there, but they are exhausted from so many attacks. The fighters knew the army’s weak points. Besides, everything is divided now, the government, the army. They took advantage of this.”
Great intel report - the kind of detail that is needed to understand who, what, why and where... the question is when? Now seems like the right answer.

No comments:

Post a Comment