So al-Qaeda verges on the edge of “collapse.” At least according to the CIA, if only it can push the network over the cliff with another dozen well-placed drone strikes. Citing previous remarks by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and a response from several anonymous officials, The Washington Post races down the blurred line between genuine optimism and propaganda.
“I’m not sure I would have chosen ‘strategic defeat,’ ” said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official, who cautioned that al-Qaeda’s ideology will continue to spread even without its original leadership. “But if you mean that we have rendered them largely incapable of catastrophic attacks against the homeland, then I think Panetta is exactly right. We are within reach of rendering them to that point.”
Beyond bin Laden, “we have eliminated a number of generations of leaders,” this official added. “They have not had a successful operation in a long time. You at some point have to ask yourself, ‘What else do we have to do?’”
How about not systematically isolating America in Yemen, which the Pentagon openly declares as al-Qaeda’s new stronghold?
As The Washington Post reports, “AQAP, as the Yemen-based group is known, has emerged as the most dangerous of those affiliates.” Left out is the disastrous state of U.S. policy in Yemen, where military support for Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime and ongoing political obstruction have turned the majority of protesters against the U.S. government. Talk to Yemen’s revolutionaries and they will reject al-Qaeda’s ideology - now southern tribes have turned against its advances - but nowhere is the corrupt Western tyrant more alive than in Yemen.
Concerns do exist that Yemenis will embrace AQAP in greater numbers if their revolution is foiled by Saleh, Washington and Riyadh. Yet the Obama administration is determined to steamroll U.S. military operations into the country, sacrificing long-term politics to exploit a short-term “opportunity” to eliminate AQAP’s leadership. This policy is wholly contradictory; the quickest, cheapest means of defeating AQAP is supporting Yemen’s revolutionaries.
However Washington and Riyadh, bent on increasing Yemen’s instability to justify their hegemony, remain unwilling to give up their prized colony on the strategic Gulf of Aden.
Despite Yemen’s perceived relativity to al-Qaeda’s story, the inclusion of AQAP strikes a juxtaposition within The Washington Post’s narrative. While the story leans towards al-Qaeda’s defeat, current U.S. policy in Yemen will never defeat AQAP’s ranks or its ideology. This futile strategy is then enumerated as if to instill confidence in U.S. readers. None of these details are new; it is simply jarring to see them packaged together.
The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command is already known to operate “Special Operations advisers... alongside Yemeni forces,” and “pilot drone aircraft from above.” We know that two U.S. warplanes and a drone “nearly eliminated” AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, something the CIA is now repeatedly reminding the U.S. public in order to legitimize further military escalation. It was Saleh’s new information flow, also designed to win U.S. support, that kicked off the latest flurry of drone strikes.
We know that, because of these operations, “the Obama administration is bolstering the CIA’s role in Yemen, seeking to replicate its pursuit of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The agency is expected to work closely with Saudi Arabia, exploiting the kingdom’s close ties to Yemen’s most influential tribes in an effort to develop new networks of sources on AQAP.”
Finally, in conjunction with Saleh’s regime (or perhaps not), “the agency is building a desert airstrip so that it can begin flying armed drones over Yemen. The facility, which is scheduled to be completed in September, is designed to shield the CIA’s aircraft, and their sophisticated surveillance equipment, from observers at busier regional military hubs such as Djibouti, where the JSOC drones are based.”
We know that the Obama administration is covering Yemen’s disastrous foreign policy with military smoke-screens. Less clear is why the Obama administration feels so confident that these operations will succeed in “dismantling” AQAP. How can al-Qaeda die so long as AQAP flourishes?
Unless the plan is to keep al-Qaeda alive.