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Posts Tagged ‘Anwar al-Awlaki

U.S. Blurs Fact With Fiction Stories In Yemen

The US is heavily involved militarily in Yemen, particularly in south Yemen on the basis that al Qaeda is making serious inroad in that impoverished region. Drone attacks are daily occurrences, and civilians are dying like flies as “collateral damage“.

 posted on April 2 (with slight editing):

Instead of holding Ali Abdullah Saleh (deposed Yemeni President)  internationally accountable as the strongman openly defies the UN/GCC-led “transition” process, the Obama administration has organized another information campaign to muffle Saleh’s commotion and defend U.S. policy in Yemen.

The latest strike was just transmitted through The Los Angeles Times, but it seems to have missed its mark again. The report’s misleading main body ends with a refutation of U.S. counter-terrorism and illustrates how far the administration is willing to exaggerate in order to conceal a foreign policy meltdown. CENTCOM’s new chief, General James Mattis, told Congress that the virtual standstill of operations in Yemen is a lull… What is Washington’s Definition of “Lull”?

CENTCOM’s new chief, General James Mattis visiting with deposed Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh
General James Mattis isn’t the first individual to make such a claim, but he may be the most powerful. Mattis inherited David Petraeus’s transactional relationship with Saleh when he took command in August 2010, and he now oversees Special Forces and CIA coordination on the Arabian Peninsula.
The Times’ journalists fall into the administration’s trap when they write: “The U.S. effort in Yemen was brought to a virtual standstill, a “lull”, by Saleh’s yearlong effort to cling to power.” The Wall Street Journal provided an accurate assessment when reporting on Mattis’s early March testimony, clarifying that “he said there had been a ‘lull’ in some U.S. programs, but they hadn’t stopped all U.S. operations.”
Army Lt. Col. Jim Gregory, Pentagon spokesman, said: “The U.S. military suspended training activities in Yemen last year due to political instability. However, given Yemen’s critical needs, we are exploring the possibility of resuming our suspended military assistance to help Yemen confront the common threat of al Qaeda.”
As the WSJ points out, the CIA has expanded its operations since Yemen’s revolution caught fire in January 2011. The number of drone strikes spiked in May and June, when Saleh first left the country for medical aid, and have continued throughout the “transitional” process that began in November.
This strategy is designed to wow American voters, who generally demand a cheap, far-off war against al-Qaeda, and create distance between Saleh’s corrupt and murderous regime.
Whether U.S. training operations were truly suspended at any point is difficult to conclude:  State and Pentagon officials have given contradictory statements on the issue. However the manufactured divide between programs is superficial.  Saleh’s U.S.-trained Republican Guard and Central Security Organization (and funded by the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia)  spearheaded his assaults against Yemen’s revolutionaries, at times using U.S. weapons to kill protesters.
Pentagon officials insist that no equipment bled over into the streets, but WikiLeaks revealed Saleh’s misappropriations against the north Houthis (hawthi tribes that checked Saudi Arabia occupation attempts in 2009) and Southern Movement before the revolution.
Training and arming his personal guard, then suspending operations during a year of carnage, is an absurd alibi.
Despite a bloody crackdown that killed hundreds of peaceful protesters, Saleh has kept himself useful by intermittently cooperating on the intelligence front, in turn producing the death of public enemy US citizen from New Mexico Anwar al-Awlaki.
As a direct consequence of Saleh’s notoriously duplicitous behavior (exposed by WikiLeaks, among other sources), Washington also assists with the logistics and supplying of Yemen’s army as it battles al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the south.
Residents of Abyan governorate and one of Saleh’s own generals accused his counterterrorism units of withdrawing for months, a reality later confirmed by John Brennan himself. The White House’s counterterrorism chief has assumed diplomatic duties in a politically volatile environment, to many Yemenis’ displeasure, and Brennan subsequently claimed that Saleh’s cooperation had since improved by the time of al-Alwaki’s death.
After AQAP overran Rada’a, located southeast of Sana’a, with suspicious ease in January 2012, Yemeni officials reported that U.S. Special Forces were participating in the recovery operation.
These developments have created a vicious cycle of instability that is currently drowning out Yemen’s revolutionaries. Disturbingly, the Obama administration wants to get every program back online and, more importantly, boosted to higher levels before the revolution achieves its objectives. Washington continues to entertain the payoff of a smaller war, but Yemen’s battleground will only expand under the current U.S. policy.
“Not supporting Saleh?”
According to named and unnamed officials, training operations with Saleh’s regime were suspended once the administration became fearful of the safety of U.S. personnel. This notion jars with Washington’s eagerness to “restart” counterterrorism training by deploying personnel already sleeping inside the country.  False.
More flagrantly false is the White House’s claim that America “isn’t backing a repressive ruler.” The administration had grown unsustainably close to Saleh’s personal “counterterrorism” units, more often deployed against the Houthis and Southern Movement than AQAP.
The administration did support the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) prior to the revolution, when Saleh attempted to stretch his five-year term to seven, but Washington simply hoped to run a counterterrorism campaign under Saleh through 2014.
A billion dollar aid package was earmarked to sustain Saleh until then. From here Saleh’s son Ahmed, or another pro-American official (possibly Hadi) would assume nominal control of the presidency as Saleh worked from the background.
Yemen’s revolution essentially accelerated this plan: Western and Gulf powers still intend to guide Yemen down a controlled path of political, military and economic hegemony. Saleh himself received a medical vacation in New York City before returning to Sanaa, where he receives preferential treatment under the guise that he must be removed slowly.
Hollow threats to freeze his assets or evoke his UN-approved immunity are nowhere close to materializing (because some of his assets and potential war crimes trace back to Washington). Yet this narrative has been successfully built up stateside as the U.S. and GCC attempt to restructure Yemen’s military, an urgent process that subverts a genuine political transition.
A majority of Yemenis already perceive the U.S. as of Saleh’s only allies, and efforts to manipulate the revolution continue to expand the country’s pre-existing antagonism towards America.
“Not interfering with internal conflicts?”
The Obama administration would like Americans and Yemenis to be believed, in one official’s words, “We don’t want to become involved in the country’s internal battles.” Unfortunately the administration has accelerated far past this point of return.
Turning “every anti-government fighter against the United States” could be an exaggeration, but Washington has made enemies with every anti-regime bloc outside of the JMP. From the Houthis in the north to Yemen’s urbanized revolution to the south’s secessionist campaign, each area is negatively affected by U.S. and Saudi policy.
Pentagon officials counter these fatal flaws by raising the profile of Abd Mansur Hadi, Saleh’s replacement and former vice president. The less egoistic Hadi represents an upgrade from Saleh’s autocratic personality and, if left to his own decisions, could serve as a passable transitional figure. A senior Defense official told the LA Times that Hadi “has shown the will and ability to make the changes…It’s a matter of getting the right focus and the right plan and someone to lead it.”
However Washington and the GCC didn’t author “the right plan” to resolve Yemen’s multidimensional conflict – they wrote with their own interests in mind. Saleh kept Hadi around for a reason and the new president has found himself predictably obstructed by loyalists – all a byproduct of the GCC’s terms.
Although cautiously accepted by the revolutionaries as the lesser of two evils, Hadi is viewed as a puppet by Saleh and Washington alike.
The country’s geopolitical significance partially explains the relentless nature of counterrevolutionary forces. What accounts for the mystery is the fact that America’s pre-revolutionary policy would create a more dangerous AQAP by 2014.
The revolution should have triggered a strategic realignment that emphasizes relations with Yemenis, not sacrifices them to maintain counterterrorism operations with the remnants of Saleh’s regime.
Until the full spectrum of Yemen’s popular grievances are addressed by an objective party, U.S. policy will remain a source of instability with limited sustainability in Yemen’s future.

Yemen National Crisis: We have no water, no electricity, no food…

I edited a published piece from Sanaa, Yemen on October 1, 2011.

“I don’t know why Anwar al-Awlaki was important,. The US says he is a terrorist from Al Qaeda,” said Belal Masood, who works in a restaurant in Sana’s old city. “But maybe this will create a problem for us Yemenis (US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was assassinated by a US drone in Yemen), because when you strike Al Qaeda they normally strike back later and at larger scale. Really, we wish they could have killed him in another country. We Have Bigger Problems Than Al Qaeda”

Many Yemenis had not even heard that Awlaki had been killed, even by Friday night. And most had only a faint sense of why the United States considered him a highly significant target. If anything, Yemenis thought his death would only increase their woes.

Walid Seneb is sitting on a street curb with three friends on Friday night. Walid  was the only one of the four men who had heard of the cleric’s death. and he said: “We don’t like these terrorists who make problems for us. But right now, there are worse problems than Al Qaeda. Our national crisis is the biggest problem. There is no water, electricity, everything administrated by the government has stopped.”

Eight months of anti-government protests tore the Yemen’s government apart. The armed forces are divided between those loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and those who follow a rebel military commander. Conflict between the two sides turned into urban warfare in Sana two weeks ago, with over 100 people being killed.  There are fears of the breaking out of a large-scale civil war.  The debilitating economic crisis has absorbed Yemenis daily concerns and worries: They lack the attention span to devote to the death of a man who was most known for reaching out to the English-speaking world of Muslim extremists.

Nadwa al-Dawsari, who works for a nonprofit organization in Sana, said: “Awlaki’s life or death doesn’t matter for Yemenis. It is not a priority for us. Not many Yemenis know who Awlaki was anyway. It doesn’t matter how many Al Qaeda members are killed as long as the underlying causes that makes extremism thrive are resolved.”

Yemenis in the opposition suspect that the Saleh family provided information to the United States on Awlaki’s whereabouts to gain political favor.  Saleh’s family controls the security apparatus responsible for counter-terrorism activities. (As if terrorist and counter-terrorist activities have not converged to be simply similar in terrorism mentality and consequences)

Is the Obama administration working diplomatically to find a way to ease President Saleh out from office? Many doubt this alternative and the US intentions. Nader al-Qershi, a youth organizer at Sana’s large antigovernment demonstration, said: “Now Saleh is going to tell the people that he can kill al Qaeda, and who can kill them except Ali Abdullah Saleh? Saleh administration has a lot of intelligence pieces on the members of Al Qaeda.”

It was widely assumed in Yemen that Saleh’s government must have been aware of Mr. Awlaki’s whereabouts l, but was reluctant to hand over that information to the Americans or kill Mr. Awlaki, because he is from a powerful tribe in southern Yemen that might seek retribution if he was killed.

“Saleh wanted to show the world that he is a hero against Al Qaeda,” said Hussein Mohammed, who runs a small hotel in Sana’s old city. Mohammed, like many people here, did not think that Mr. Awlaki’s death would alter the political dynamic in their country. He said it was not al Qaeda, but the struggle among Yemen’s political elites that poses the greatest risk to the country’s future.

Tribesmen loyal to Saleh’s main political rival, Hamid al-Ahmar, have engaged in almost daily street warfare with the government’s security forces in a northern district of Sana over the past few weeks. The sound of artillery fire echoing through the capital has become commonplace.

“They struck Anwar al-Awlaki, why don’t the Americans strike Ali Abdullah Saleh and Hamid al-Ahmar?” Mohammed asked.




March 2023

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