Saturday, October 8, 2011
October 08, 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The U.S. State Department is offering the government's condolences to a North Carolina family whose son became an al-Qaida propagandist and was killed in a drone attack in Yemen.
The Charlotte Observer reported Saturday the call came nearly a week after 25-year-old Samir Khan was killed along with cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Both men were American citizens.
Family spokesman Jibril Hough said a State Department official called Khan's father Zafar on Thursday, a day after the family released a statement condemning Khan's extra-judicial "assassination."
State Department spokesman Harry Edwards confirmed the call to Khan's family but declined to offer details.
Khan authored a radical blog while living in Charlotte, then left to join al-Qaida and produce its English-language online magazine.
October 8, 2011
(Reuters) - Below is a timeline of events since protests against Saleh's 33-year rule began in January this year:
Jan 29 - Yemen's ruling party calls for dialogue with the opposition in a bid to stem anti-government protests.
-- Saleh supporters attack, disperse Yemenis trying to march to the Egyptian embassy to express solidarity with Egyptian anti-government demonstrators. Yemeni protesters chant "the people want the regime to fall".
Feb 3 - A day of anti-government protests brings more than 20,000 people onto the streets in Sanaa.
March 2 - The opposition presents Saleh with a plan for a transition of power, offering him a graceful exit.
-- Saleh says he will draw up a new constitution to create a parliamentary system. The opposition rejects the proposal.
March 18 - Snipers kill 52 protesters at Sanaa University after Friday prayers. Saleh declares a state of emergency.
March 20 - Saleh dismisses his government.
March 21 - Senior army commanders, including Saleh ally General Ali Mohsen, commander of the northwest military zone, say they have switched support to pro-democracy activists.
March 23 - Saleh offers to step down by the end of 2011. He proposes to hold a referendum on a new constitution, then a parliamentary election and presidential vote.
March 25 - Saleh says he is ready to cede power to stop more bloodshed. Thousands rally in "Day of Departure" protests.
March 29 - Saleh holds talks with Mohammed al-Yadoumi, head of the Islamist Islah party, once a partner in government. Saleh proposes staying in office until elections but transferring his powers to a caretaker.
-- The opposition rejects the offer.
April 2 - The opposition proposes a five-point plan for the army and security forces to be restructured by a vice-president acting as temporary president.
April 6 - Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani says the regional Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will strike a deal for Saleh to leave.
April 18 - Ruling party members form Justice and Development Bloc to support protests.
April 23 - Saleh agrees to step down in weeks in return for immunity from prosecution. The opposition agrees to the plan.
April 25 - The opposition agrees to join a transitional government under a Gulf-negotiated plan for Saleh to step aside.
April 30 - Saleh appears to sabotage the plan by refusing to sign in his capacity as president. GCC mediators tell the opposition Saleh will only sign the deal as leader of his party.
May 13 - Huge crowds across Yemen demand Saleh leave. Saleh declares: "We will confront a challenge with a challenge".
May 21 - The opposition signs the transition deal.
May 22 - Five members of the ruling party sign the deal, but Gulf Arab states suspend it after Saleh asks for additional conditions and diplomats fail to persuade him to sign it.
-- Loyalist gunmen trap Western and Arab diplomats in the UAE embassy in Sanaa, blocking mediators from going to the presidential palace. Diplomats later leave by helicopter.
May 23 - Saleh apologizes to the UAE, foreign governments criticize him for refusing to sign.
May 24 - Saleh's refusal to sign sparks street battles in Sanaa between security forces and a powerful tribal group, the Hashed tribal alliance, led by Sadeq al-Ahmar. At least 20 people are killed.
May 26 - Several countries, including United States, ask their diplomats to leave.
May 28 - Security forces and tribesmen agree to a truce.
May 30 - Truce breaks down, militants regain control of ruling party building in the Hasaba district of Sanaa.
June 3 - Opposition parades through Sanaa the bodies of 50 people it says were killed in clashes with Saleh's forces.
-- Death toll climbs to more than 370.
-- A bomb explodes at Saleh's palace in Sanaa, wounding the president, the prime minister, and the parliament speaker.
-- Saleh leaves for treatment in Riyadh
June 4 - Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi takes over as acting president and supreme commander of the armed forces.
June 5 - Saleh undergoes surgery to remove shrapnel from his chest. Crowds cheer what they hope is his exit from power.
June 6 - Opposition calls for official transfer of power to VP, U.S. pushes for immediate democratic transition.
June 13 - Suspects arrested over attack on Saleh.
July 7 - Saleh makes first televised appearance since attack, says he supports dialogue and welcomes power sharing.
July 25 - Opposition rejects government plan for dialogue, refusing to negotiate until Saleh signs transition deal.
Aug 15 - Government blames opposition tribal leader Hamid al-Ahmar for attack which wounded Saleh.
Aug 20 - Several opposition figures quit newly formed National Council, exposing division in anti-government movement.
Aug 29 - Saleh says he is committed to holding elections for a new president as soon as possible.
Sept 7 - Ruling party approves changes to power transfer plan, which would transfer Saleh's powers to his vice president but give him three months to formally step down.
Sept 12 - Saleh empowers vice president to sign deal. The opposition is skeptical of Saleh's call for further talks before the VP signs the deal.
Sept 18 - Protests escalate as security forces fire on demonstrators, killing 21 and wounding dozens.
Sept 21 - Yemeni forces clash again with soldiers loyal to defected top general Ali Mohsen, violating a short-lived truce.
-- GCC Secretary General Abdbullatif al-Zayani leaves Sanaa after failing to get a power transfer deal signed.
Sept 23 - Saleh returns from Saudi Arabia, greeted by gunfire and explosions.
Sept 24 - At least 17 people are killed when government forces attack the main opposition protest camp in Sanaa, raising death toll in five days of fighting to at least 100.
-- Saleh says he is "carrying the dove of peace and the olive branch".
Sept 27 - Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ali survives bomb attack on his convoy. Seven soldiers injured.
Sept 28 - Opposition tribesmen say they shoot down warplane outside capital and capture pilot. Tens of thousands protest in Sanaa against Saleh's return.
Sept 29 - Heavy clashes rock northern neighborhoods of Sanaa, breaking truce.
Sept 30 - Saleh says he will step down only if key rivals do not take over. Yemeni and U.S. officials say Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Muslim preacher linked to al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, has been killed in an air strike.
Oct 1 - Yemeni official attacks the United States, saying it showed a lack of respect for democracy by renewing its call for Saleh to step down.
Oct 3 - United Nations envoy Jamal Benomar leaves Yemen to brief the Security Council on what appeared to be a fruitless effort to end the crisis.
Oct 8 - Saleh said he would leave power in the coming days.
Sudarsan Raghavan,Karen DeYoung, Washington Post
October 8, 2011
Sanaa, Yemen -- Ties between the United States and Yemen are being strained by a growing disagreement over how to combat the Yemen terrorist group that U.S. officials have called the most potent al Qaeda franchise.
Even as both sides claim credit for the death of U.S-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a U.S. drone strike last Friday, they are sparring over divergent priorities. Senior Yemeni officials accuse the United States of not helping government forces fight opponents, many of whom they say are al Qaeda linked insurgents intent on attacking the West, inside Yemen.
U.S. officials, in turn, express little interest in the insurgency in Yemen and say their counterterrorism efforts are limited to what they describe as a minority of al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate that is focused on U.S. attacks. These officials say they are determined to resist efforts by the government of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh to enlist U.S. forces and firepower in a domestic counterinsurgency and draw the United States into Yemen's internal chaos.
The dispute underscores a fundamental dilemma facing the Obama administration. Although it depends on counterterrorism cooperation from the Saleh government to target leaders of the Yemen group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, it is seeking Saleh's resignation as part of the pro-democracy Arab Spring.
Interviews with officials from both sides portrayed some elements of the U.S.-Yemeni counterterrorism relationship as contentious, at times antagonistic, despite recent public claims by senior American officials that the ties are close. "The American aid is very limited," said Gen. Yahye Saleh, a nephew of the president, who heads Yemen's U.S.-trained counterterrorism units and its powerful Central Security Forces. "Unfortunately, the American side has been paying more attention to the political situation than fighting terrorism."
The tensions come as Yemen's 8-month-old populist revolt has turned increasingly violent, with rival military forces and tribal militias battling each other in Sanaa, the capital, and other cities.
CHRISTOPER HITCHENS October 8, 2011
Probably because it mainly provides the kind of short-term cinematic satisfaction that characterizes the Hellfire terminus, the flashy ending of al-Qaida’s main media star, Anwar al-Awlaki, has only led to the reopening of some pressing questions about the nature of the jihadi menace.
To phrase the essence of the problem shortly, you are perhaps more likely to be blown up at work or play by a “homegrown” or “lone wolf” fanatic than you are to die at the hands of al-Qaida or al-Shabab or any of their shifting surrogates. In the same way, it is at least as likely that a local operative will emerge from the American suburbs to commit one random and unpredictable act as it is that a fanatic will leave our shores and take himself to Somalia or Yemen or Afghanistan. And so we have the figures of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, unsheathing his weapon at Fort Hood to yell “God Is Great!”or Faisal Shahzad, rigging his SUV to explode in Times Square.
It doesn’t seem strictly accurate to use the “lone wolf” designation in all these cases, because a potent influence on the loner can be a homegrown counselor or adviser, who speaks the vernacular and has also lived in “the belly of the beast.”
In the recent past, al-Awlaki has been the classic and most successful instance. His evolving contact with Hasan, for example, seemingly walking him through all of the stages that led up to the granting of religious permission to shoot at will, was quite systematic. There were times when al-Awlaki was working under our very noses, propagandizing in Virginia and elsewhere from the context of an existing mosque.
But he had not, at that stage, fully pupated himself into a committed Salafi jihadist. So now we have the phenomenon of an American citizen, able to whisper directly into the ears of people living here, but until recently being able to do so from a geographical location where our laws cannot reach him. There is no precedent, however remote, for a legal and moral challenge of this kind, let alone for a political or military one.
Since this dilemma will be with us for some time, may I recommend a recent booklet which offers the most background to the emergence of this fascinating and frustrating enemy? Called “As American as Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became the Face of Western Jihad,” it is published by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence. (Its author, I should proudly make haste to add, is my son.) The booklet explores the tradition of English-speaking Salafi agitators working in the West. But I find myself more absorbed by the aspect represented by the late Samir Khan, a Pakistani-American who until he died in the same Hellfire attack was the editor of al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula’s magazine, Inspire. Some will remember this unique online publication for its jeering, upbeat reports on the extreme cheapness of the printer-cartridge bombs that were loaded from Yemen onto planes bound for our shores . While other martyrdom tactics were being used on faraway battlefields, Khan said not long ago, and even while Osama bin Laden was being removed from the chessboard, the idea of homegrown attacks on U.S. soil was moving “into fifth gear.”
In a rhetorical way, this mirrors bin Laden’s obsessive distinction between operations against India, say, or Iraq, and spectacular assaults on “the far enemy,” or the prestige and security of the United States. But it also raises a much less grand image: that of the pathetic amateur and misfit who can commit perhaps one limited act of vicious spite against his neighbors or co-workers or even passersby.
I think it is important to watch for symptoms of sheer degeneracy like this — pick-nose wannabe murderers lurking in their parents’ basements — because there is evidence that such things (like the use of small children to carry suicide bombs) arouse revulsion even among those who otherwise wish us ill. It also dramatically reduces the caliber of recruit. On the other hand, and too little remarked, such tactics do something that is worth the price of a good deal of high explosive. They annihilate trust and confidence. Do you really want, next to you at boot camp, a man who prostrates himself five times a day? Should one say anything about the man with the beard in the next seat?
Slow and sidelong cultural erosions of this kind can do incalculable harm. And they can also be horribly and cheaply self-replicating: Some people will “overreact” to a specter of Islamism however slight, and this will offend the man who is only trying to meet his prayer obligations, and then a whole machinery of supposed grievance and redress clanks into action. Meanwhile, those who orchestrate this little carnival of mayhem and social corrosion are able to do so from areas that are beyond our legal jurisdiction but within our military reach, and to taunt us while doing so.
As we engage with the horrible idea that our government claims the right to add its own citizens to a death list that is compiled by methods and standards unknown, we must concede that no government on Earth faces such a temptation to invoke what I suppose we could call a doctrine of preemptive self-defense. Those who share my alarm at the prospect of this, and of the ways in which it could be abused, are under a heavy obligation to say what they would do instead.
New York Times Syndicate
October 8, 2011
Anwar Al-Awlaki's death will only bring more misery to Yemenis, writes James Gundun in Washington
He was everything that Osama bin Laden envisioned. A US-born Muslim with roots in Yemen, home to an American puppet and Saudi hegemony, Anwar Al-Awlaki would increasingly challenge America's might on his path to joining Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The charismatic cleric became a jihadist bridge to the West, from Internet sermons to video and AQAP's colourful Inspire magazine, branding Al-Awlaki as a primary threat to the US homeland. He would ultimately pursue Bin Laden's strategic goal of luring the US military into a hostile environment, in order to deprave it economically and morally.
The first objective was partially successful; given how little US policy has accomplished in Yemen, Al-Awlaki's death is worth hundreds of millions in military and economic assistance. A ground force was unnecessary and Washington had already run low on resources when AQAP became an active priority in 2009, aborting the trillion dollar campaign of Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, Yemen became the central testing ground for whether cheaper, "off-shore" counterterrorism (aerial operations, US Special Forces and CIA intelligence) can stand alone. A modest budget was inherently built into Yemen's widening front.
However, Al-Awlaki did help fulfil Bin Laden's objective of alienating a Muslim populace from America. Yemen's revolutionaries are no terrorists and don't despise America because of her freedom -- but because the US government is standing in the way of their own.
Friday was the first time that Obama mentioned Yemen in months (not counting a few passing remarks at the UN's General Assembly), and he made sure to keep quiet about its nine-month revolution against Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime. Instead, Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and lower level officials focussed on Al-Awlaki's role as AQAP's "leader of external operations", a questionable claim, and the success of joint operations with the Yemeni government, another question mark. A valid debate over civil liberties was amplified to downplay whether supporting Saleh's regime is legal; his US-trained counterterrorism units, the Republican Guard and Central Security Organisation, are currently killing protesters with impunity. This public strategy has been applied before and after Yemen's revolution began in January, inhibiting genuine regime change.
The end of AQAP starts with the end of Saleh's government, not any Al-Qaeda leader, commander, cleric or foot soldier. Progress in US counterterrorism efforts contradicts separate claims that the group has expanded its ranks and increased its threat during the same period. Saleh also stands accused of funding proxy "jihadists" and allowing AQAP room to grow, all to dupe the West into military and economic funding that he then misappropriates. The strongman functions as an ideal recruiting magnet for AQAP, a deeply unpopular American stooge who oppresses Muslims for personal gain.
Yemen's National Council of the Peaceful Revolutionary Forces (NCPRF) recently warned, "the incapable and failed regime of Sanaa is surviving only on the claim that they are countering the threat of terrorism in the region."
The Obama administration has yet to publicly accept this realisation, pushing forward with its quest to arrange a "peacefully and orderly transition" to a friendly "unity" council. Despite Saleh's political resistance and violent outbursts, the White House maintains its vigorous support of the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) generous "30/60" initiative. Orchestrated between Saleh's regime, Yemen's unpopular political opposition, US and Saudi officials, the deal offers Saleh and his family immunity for their crimes, allocates additional time to resign and schedules a presidential election too soon for Yemen's protesters to organise. The GCC's proposal was also repeatedly amended by Saleh's ruling General People's Congress (GPC) and UN officials, to the point that no one is clear on its terms.
Yemen's revolutionaries widely reject the initiative as a false exit, one that Saleh himself refuses to take it. He prefers to remain in power until an election is held at an indefinite point in the future.
US officials only attempted to cut their way through Yemen's political jungle when confronted. Amid praise for the government's cooperation and a defence of extrajudicial killings, Carney argued that Al-Awlaki's death is, "separate from President Saleh and our view about him; that has not changed. We continue to call on him to abide by the commitments he's made to begin the transfer of power immediately, as stipulated in the GCC agreement. And that hasn't changed."
Victoria Nuland, the State Department's spokeswoman, issued a similar logic that journalists found difficult to follow. The administration has left Yemen to press secretaries and counterterrorism officials, draining the life out of US diplomacy, and Nuland has been tasked for many of the administration's recent statements. Locked into a typed response, the spokeswoman retraced a GCC "roadmap" that has been bombarded by Saleh's duplicity. As Al-Awlaki's death followed fresh claims that he's the only reliable ally against AQAP -- a primal excuse to remain in power -- one reporter remarked that Saleh "states very clearly that he's not going anywhere... So how do you react to that?"
Nuland replied, "the first step in our reading of the GCC proposal is that he sign it, that he -- and in signing it, that he make clear that he will relinquish power. Then it speaks of a process of agreeing on a roadmap in which there would be new elections, which presumably would bring a fresh set of folks into power."
GCC rhetoric, of course, is how US officials must respond. What else can they say after six months of unflinching support -- that Saleh no longer needs to sign? The initiative is a stalling mechanism by design, so demanding that he agree plays into his scheme. Although US policy on Saleh was framed as a main message, Carney and Nuland spent the majority of their briefings highlighting Al-Awlaki's threat and US counterterrorism operations. The administration's political message is easily drowned out in Al-Awlaki's blur, hyped to the point that many Americans only hear that he's a terrorist, and that counterterrorism operations must continue.
In a few days Al-Awlaki will disappear from US headlines and consciousness, and all that will remain is tacit support for Saleh's regime.
Al-Awlaki was never popular or relevant amongst Yemen's revolutionaries, but his blood has now splattered their cause. Having stuck with Saleh throughout his own "off-shore" rampage to locate the cleric, the administration sacrificed hundreds of Yemenis as they continued to march for freedom. US air-strikes have also killed an undetermined number of civilians hunting AQAP cells in the southern governorates. More will follow their cruel end after Al-Awlaki's raid immediately descended into political theatre, choreographed as much as chaos can be. Whether the US tracked him for three weeks, three months or two years, Saleh was aware that a strike would occur soon. Both US and Yemeni officials confirmed a joint-intelligence operation and CIA operators coordinated with Yemeni officials during the raid. One US intelligence official added, "Allowing us to go on the property and get fingerprint analysis was a nice gesture of cooperation by the Yemeni government."
President Obama promised during Admiral Michael Mullen's farewell ceremony, "working with Yemen and our other allies and partners, we will be determined, we will be deliberate, we will be relentless, we will be resolute in our commitment to destroy terrorist networks that aim to kill Americans."
Saleh knew that Al-Awlaki's death, contrary to losing one of his pawns, would entrench his support from Washington, and duly returned to Sanaa to reap his spoils. The cleric's termination builds on months of "increased cooperation" -- new air-strikes often followed Saleh's latest offence -- and the shadowy battle for Zinjibar, orchestrated like a video game. Yemeni forces would prematurely "reclaim" the city on the eve of 9/11, garnering mutual praise from Yemeni and US officials. Al-Awlaki's importance to AQAP was exaggerated to blunt the onslaught of civil rights activists, but he now serves as "proof" that Saleh is needed to eliminate the rest of AQAP, obstructing Yemen's revolution in the process.
US personnel still need to trace AQAP chief Nasser Abdel-Karim Al-Wuhayshi, along with bomb-maker Khaled Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Asiri (US officials tentatively claimed his death as well). AQAP will replace Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, the editor of Inspire, offering new scarecrows for Saleh to manipulate. Of greater consequence, Al-Awlaki's bargaining chip shrinks in comparison to a "secret" CIA base located on the country's outskirts, somewhere near the Saudi border. Yemen is also of vital geopolitical importance to the US, connected to Saudi Arabia, Somalia and China's spheres of influence. Saleh himself has become a scarecrow to the West, a menacing puppet that is much weaker than he appears.
Proof that only friendly dictators will continue to enjoy their safe havens.
The writer is a political scientist and counterinsurgency analyst.