AQAP: Reassessing the Al Qaeda threat

Analysis, posted 08.13.2013, from Yemen, in:

AQAP's chief  promises more jailbreaks, telling them "victory is imminent." AP: "The leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaida offshoot has vowed to free fellow militants from prisons everywhere and urged them to remain faithful to the terror group's ideology. The message by Nasser al-Wahishi, posted on militant websites Monday, warns al-Qaida prisoners not 'to be lured by their jailers' and promises that 'victory is imminent' to ensure their freedom. The note by al-Wahishi, a onetime aide to Osama bin Laden, comes after last week's closure of 19 U.S. diplomatic missions triggered by the interception of a secret message between al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri and the Yemeni branch's leader about plans for a major attack." More here.

American embassies are back open - except the one in Sana - as the U.S. reassesses al-Qaida and the new, diffuse threat. The NYT's Eric Schmitt, on Page One: "Senior American counterterrorism and intelligence officials say the lack of certainty about the effectiveness of the latest drone strikes is a sobering reminder of the limitations of American power to deal with the array of new security threats the turmoil of the Arab Spring has produced. These doubts come even as lawmakers in Washington debate whether to restrict the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. And Yemen is not their only concern..."

And: "The United States carries out strikes only against terrorists who pose a "continuing and imminent threat" to Americans, he said, and only when it is determined it would be impossible to detain them, rather than kill them. But the increased reliance on drones in Yemen suggests the limit of the resources the United States can employ in combating the new threats. A senior American official said over the weekend that the most recent terrorist threat "expanded the scope of people we could go after" in Yemen. An American official to the NYT: "Before, we couldn't necessarily go after a driver for the organization; it'd have to be an operations director... Now that driver becomes fair game because he's providing direct support to the plot."

Schmitt: "Senior American intelligence officials said last week that none of the about three dozen militants killed so far in the drone strikes were ‘household names,' meaning top-tier leaders of the affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But the American official said the strikes had targeted "rising stars" in the Yemen network, people who were more likely to be moving around and vulnerable to attack. ‘They may not be big names now,' the official said, ‘but these were the guys that would have been future leaders.' The rest of the story, here.

Reporting from Yemen, al-Monitor has this piece about how the U.S. loses the Yemenis in the drone war. Click here.

How the U.S. Navy helps Yemen's military (psst: they dig light spy planes). Killer Apps' John Reed: "U.S. drones have been battering Yemen, killing at least 28 people, and American spy planes watch from overhead. And now, Yemen's skies are looking to get even more crowded. The U.S. Navy is helping the Yemeni air force buy 12 light spy planes, adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military aid the U.S. given to the Sana'a regime. The Navy's Light Observation Aircraft for Yemen program aims to buy 12 small planes -- or maybe choppers -- equipped with infrared and night vision cameras and the ability to beam the images collected by those cameras back to a ground station. (The image above shows one of the Iraq air force's CH2000 light observation planes.)The contractor shall also provide pilot, sensor operator, and maintainer training and associated training materials all in Arabic,' reads an Aug. 8 U.S. Navy notice to potential suppliers. The Navy wants to buy the aircraft on the cheap, too. This is a ‘Low Price Technically Acceptable source selection, ‘ which means the lowest bidder who meets the bare minimum technical requirements for the Yemenis will get the contract.

Situation Report's report last week (with FP's own Noah Shachtman) on how the U.S. helps Yemen, here.  Reed's report on the light spy planes, here.

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Didja hear? The sequester is a success. So writes Stephen Moore in the WSJ this morning.  "...Mr. Obama has inadvertently chained himself to fiscal restraints that could flatten federal spending for the rest of his presidency. If the country sees any normal acceleration of economic growth (from the anemic 1.4% growth rate so far this year), the deficit is on a path to drop steadily at least through 2015. Already the deficit has fallen from its Mount Everest peak of 10.2% of gross domestic product in 2009, to about 4% this year. That's a bullish six percentage points less of the GDP of new federal debt each year..."

... "And defense hawks won't be happy that at least half of the fiscal retrenchment has been due to cuts in military spending. The defense budget is on a pace to hit its lowest level (as a share of GDP) since the days of the post-Cold War ‘peace dividend' during the Clinton years. These deep cutbacks could be dangerous to national security, but as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were winding down, defense would have been cut under any scenario." Read the rest here.

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By Gordon Lubold

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