Yemen is a Near-Perfect Haven for Terrorists from South Asia

Yemen is a Near-Perfect Haven for Terrorists from
Op-Ed The Independent
Assertions that "Yemen is tomorrow's war" are unhelpful; while Yemen will not replace South Asia as the central front in the war on terror, it is nevertheless a critical state of concern that will require long-term attention to target the sources of its instability.
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This week, Yemen has catapulted to the top of the international security agenda. Two recent counter-terrorism operations in Yemen directed against al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), followed by the group's claim of responsibility for last week's botched attack on a US airliner, have focused global attention on what some are beginning to refer to as the next Af/Pak.

The past year has seen the emergence of a resurgent al-Qa'ida organisation in Yemen, with the clear intention and capacity to mount operations regionally and internationally. Still, assertions that "Yemen is tomorrow's war" are unhelpful and inappropriate.

Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula is now a clear priority for American national security officials. Over past months, Yemen has gained prominence as people began to recognise that the rapidly deteriorating security and stability situation presents a near-perfect environment for al-Qa'ida to operate in.

Yemen is facing a host of challenges, including a civil war in the north, a secessionist movement in the south, looming economic crisis, resource depletion, and rampant unemployment and corruption. The central government does not have the capacity or authority to exert full control throughout the country. As Sana'a's control slowly recedes, it is in the emerging under-governed spaces that it is feared extremists and terrorists will seek new safe havens.

Over the past six months there have been several press accounts of al-Qa'ida operatives fleeing Pakistan and heading to Yemen and Somalia. According to intelligence sources quoted in media reports, as counter-terrorism operations degrade al-Qa'ida capacity in Pakistan's tribal areas, terrorists have sought out new sanctuaries in Yemen's under-governed spaces.

Yemen is increasingly discussed in Washington as a counter-terrorism priority second only to Afghanistan and Pakistan – and with good reason. But while the resources that the United States has devoted to Yemen have sharply increased, they pale in comparison to the billions of dollars spent on Pakistan.

In spite of the parallels, Yemen will not replace South Asia as the central front in the war on terror. The American and allied military presence in neighbouring Afghanistan, the vast American commitment to the region, the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, and the presumed presence of senior al-Qa'ida leaders including Osama bin Laden will all continue to make Pakistan a greater priority for US national security.

Nevertheless, Yemen is a critical state of concern. Western and regional interests have been targeted there, and eliminating the AQAP leadership that uses it as a base will be a priority. Killing or capturing al-Qa'ida operatives is only a fraction of a coherent counter-terrorism strategy. An integrated approach will require long-term attention that targets the sources of instability.

In this sense, Yemen and Pakistan represent similar challenges for the international community. They will both require sustained and intensive attention, capacity building, and support.

End of document

About the Middle East Program

The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.


In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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