The World from Berlin The West Is 'Playing the Wrong Card' in Yemen
The failed bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day brought the possible threat posed by radical Islamists in Yemen firmly into focus. Media reports this week suggest that the US is now looking to escalate its military operations in the Arab country. Some in the German press warn that this could be a mistake.
The US may become further embroiled in the fight against al-Qaida's offshoot in Yemen.
A report in the Washington Post this week said that the CIA believes that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has surpassed its parent organization, Osama bin Laden's Pakistan-based al-Qaida, as a threat to the United States. The newspaper reported that the CIA wants to increase clandestine military operations in Yemen, including the use of covert armed drones.
On Wednesday, a counter-terrorism official told Reuters that the terrorists in Yemen were "not feeling the same kind of heat -- not yet anyway -- as their friends in the tribal areas." Speaking on condition of anonymity the official said that al-Qaida was still "extremely dangerous" in Pakistan, but while the pressure had to be kept up there, "we have to spread it to al-Qaida's nodes and affiliates elsewhere."
The radical Islamists in the impoverished Arab country have increasingly become a priority in Washington following the failed attempt to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. The suspect is thought to have been trained by the Yemeni group.
On Wednesday, senior officials told the Associated Press that the White House was now considering the use of armed Predator drones in Yemen. One unnamed official said that planning was in the early stages and would only be done with the cooperation of the government in San'a.
However, the Yemeni government has previously indicated its opposition to the use of drones in the country. Yemen's ambassador to the UN, Abdullah al-Saidi said earlier this year that it would only build support for radicalization. "Yemen will not allow it," he told AP.
The central government, which is fighting a rebellion by Shiite tribesmen in the north and a separatist movement in the south, is wary of becoming even more unpopular as a result of any civilian casualties caused by US operations.
On Thursday, some of Germany's editorialists take a look at the US plans to focus more on Yemen.
The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"Yemen's al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the increasingly strong and aggressive al-Shabab militia in Somalia are acting to destabilize not only their own countries but the entire region of the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa. If they were to have success in San'a or Mogadishu then it would be the greatest triumph of radical Islam since Sept. 11, 2001."
"Somalia has long been a failed state and Yemen is not too far from becoming one. In both countries there are areas where the rule of law does not apply, a factor that can be exploited by international terrorists. And they are tolerated by the local population because the West continues to play the wrong card. Constant war is regarded as preferable to seeing fundamentalists take over, so corrupt officials from the central government are supported over local self-determination, and a blind eye is turned to what regional allies like Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia do, without reflecting that this only increases sympathy for the enemy. Stability should really be the highest aim in any security policy, but in Somalia and Yemen, the opposite is achieved."
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"The terrorist group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula can make use of Yemen for two reasons: the continuing weakness of the central government in San'a and the tensions between some rival tribes and clans. Where the central power is weak -- as in Afghanistan, Yemen or Somalia (where it really only exists on paper) -- then the terrorists can move all the more freely. In Washington, the analysis is that the situation will only escalate further militarily. The outlook is not good for countries in the strategically important Horn of Africa."
-- Siobhán Dowling