Obama’s One Anti-Terror Success Story is Now Circling the Drain
There was a time President Barack Obama touted Yemen as a success story in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Pennisula (AQAP) had been heavily targeted in American drone attacks, and the administration considered the group contained. Today, our efforts against AQAP have been crippled by Yemen’s near-civil war. Forces backed by Iran control the capital city, terrorists are gaining ground in the southern and eastern parts of the country, and ISIS appears to being implementing attacks on Shiite mosques.
The Iran-supported Houthi militants overran the capital of Sanaa last fall, forcing Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to resign. Hadi fled to the southern city of Aden, where he has attempted to regain power ever since.
Adding to the crisis of a divided government, the Islamic State, a Sunni terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for bombings in two mosques frequented by Shiite Houthi fighters last Friday. The attacks killed more than 130 people and followed typical Islamic State signatures, aimed at igniting sectarian tensions to inspire Sunnis to join their ranks.
Yet AQAP has proven the greatest threat to U.S. interests. The group has tried to attack the U.S. homeland three times in the last five years, says Katherine Zimmerman, an expert from the American Enterprise Institute.
But the closure of the U.S. embassy and recent withdrawal of forces has hindered U.S. capabilities in fighting the terrorist organization.
Zimmerman says the partnership gave us sources on the ground, who provided human intelligence. He adds that we no longer have the intelligence necessary to conduct airstrikes, which has crippled our fight against AQAP.
Although AQAP is based in Yemen, it is linked to the central al-Qaida group in Pakistan, and is affiliated with groups in Somalia and Syria. Founders of AQAP fled to Yemen following the successful Saudi counterterrorism campaign in the first few years of the 2000s. The United States has used Saudi Arabia as a launching pad for airstrikes within neighboring Yemen.
Zimmerman also warned that militants might need to prove the group “still packs a punch” after the attacks on the mosques.