By William Tucker
The emir of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Nasir Abu Basir Al-Wuhayshi, released a new statement recently decrying the decision to either kill or capture Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki is the radical cleric that has been linked to several of the 9/11 highjackers and more recently to the failed Christmas day bombing attempt on a commercial aircraft. He is also well known for his support of the shooting spree that took place at Ft. Hood. Recently, the Obama administration has allowed the intelligence community and the military to directly target al-Awlaki although he is a U.S. citizen because of his extensive links to terrorism.
As is typical with most jihadist threats the target audience is the west in general and the U.S. President in particular. In this warning al-Wuhayshi claims that the American people will suffer for Obama’s decision, and goes on to claim that the Mujahedeen will attempt to strike again. AQAP has shown that it has the desire to strike at the U.S. directly, but the desire far outpaces the current capabilities of the group. In Yemen the group is under pressure from U.S. and British special operations and intelligence operatives leading some elements of the Yemeni military to disrupt the group’s operations.
Yemen is a basket case of a country and the operations directed against AQAP are only successful when the government of Yemen decides to cooperate. This usually means that President Saleh of Yemen needs money and will take action against al-Qaeda only if he gets paid and it’s in his interest. Yemen is a fractious country and only shows a semblance of stability when the ruling party plays the different tribes off one another. If Saleh were to destroy AQAP in its entirety U.S. funding would likely dry up and the President would lose one element in his balancing act. As long as Saleh plays this game al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will continue to exist and threaten the U.S.
Photo: IntelCenter (Al-Wuhayshi center right)