Yemeni al Qaeda adjusting for survival
June 7th, 2012
07:35 PM ET

Yemeni al Qaeda adjusting for survival

By Barbara Starr

The Obama administration now works under the assumption that al Qaeda in Yemen "is coming after America every day," says a U.S. official familiar with the situation in that country.  The official said there are also indications the organization is seeking recruits with specific knowledge of the United States and Western targets.

The official paints a picture of an al Qaeda organization that over the last year has grown stronger, larger, more capable and more determined to attack the United States.

The assessment of al Qaeda's growing threat underscores why Obama administration and intelligence officials, as well as members of Congress, were so angered about leaks of sensitive intelligence regarding a recent U.S.-Saudi "sting" operation in Yemen to stop a suicide bomb from making its way onto a U.S.-bound airliner. The official would not comment on the leak.

As for new plots, the official said: "We don't know what plots are in training, or how they might come after us." But he added, "We have to assume they continue to come after us." While he underscored that the Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda has not succeeded in attacking the United States, he noted that the group is using safe havens it has established in remote southeastern regions of the country for training and planning operations.

Additionally, the group has adjusted its operations and command structure in recent months, to ensure it has "redundancies" so there is no "single point of failure" that could stop the group's operations. One example cited is that there is now a more dispersed command structure with four major individuals running al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

They include:

–The so-called Emir Nasser al-Wahayshi, the Yemeni founder of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a onetime personal secretary to Osama Bin Laden.

–Said al-Shiri – a Saudi, and deputy emir who was once held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay,

–Qassem al Raymi, the operational commander.

–Top bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri.

The United States believes each of these men now has a role in planning for new attacks against the United States as well as extending al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's regional influence.

The officials laid out the Yemeni government efforts to dislodge al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from their strongholds mainly in southeastern Yemen and cautioned that any definition of the territory it "controls" is limited.  Before March 2011, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula controlled territory in about three governates.  Now, after taking advantage of the civil conflict in Yemen, it controls territory in about six of them.  But that "control" is mainly limited to what officials call "shura and security," religious intimidation and checkpoints, rather than any form of governance or providing of services.

However, sources in Yemen say that in the town of Ja'ar in Abyan province, for example, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its ally Ansar al Shariah have set up Sharia courts and provided some basic services, declaring the area an "Islamic Emirate."

While U.S. officials believe the new Yemeni government has made some limited progress in recent weeks, Yemeni forces have been overwhelmed in some recent battles, often facing al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's simultaneous offensives in different locations.

The United States believes there is a hard core of "hundreds" of fighters that surround these men, and "many hundreds more" of addtional al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters spread throughout southeastern Yemen.  They are mainly operating from safe havens in remote areas where Yemeni government security forces have found it difficult to make gains.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the official also said, is making efforts to recruit Westerners because of their language skills, cultural knowledge and noncontroversial passports. "It's the people coming in that are particularly worrisome."

A senior Middle Eastern official also recently told CNN that the assessment in the region is that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula now includes hundreds of fighters from Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Africa.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • AQAP • Terrorism • Yemen
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  8. Eduarda

    Because their historic vitcmis have been kept in the dark about the age-old onslaught of islam..It's possible our grandfathers thought the downfall of islam was a done deal, so that it's relevance for the west was unwisely overlooked. Much more likely however the otherwise inexplicable silence about the deadliest foe the west has even known has been deliberate, and can be explained in the same way as the incomprehensible decision of allowing a totally incompatible ideology a foothold in our lands..: the elites with their pipedreams about eternal world-peace and especially the sly and determined patient shadows behind them – the money- and aristocratic elite, with their never forgotten age-old dreams of european hegemony – saw in mohammed's angry brainchild another, very effective ideological tool to keep the emerging proles subdued..just in case communism, fascism and their heady derivatives would fail to deliver.I'm convinced that the awakening of Islam at this moment in time is deliberately instrumental in helping the powers that be with the fulfilment of the world-government scheme, which in our parts is coming along just nicely in the EU..

    November 11, 2012 at 7:49 am | Reply
  9. Matt

    If them boys were smart they would have put down the AK's and RPG and become financial advisers and worked on Wall Street that seem the best place to be if you want to bankrupt the US and the world.

    June 20, 2012 at 6:56 am | Reply
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  11. Gonzoinhouston

    We need to bag al-asiri ASAP. He is entirely too good with explosives, and if we don't he'll do some serious damage

    June 10, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Reply
  12. Bill Clinton

    Terrorists are mentally unstable morons warping and perverting religion to give meaning to their desires to murder people. I am with US dollars but I doubt we will get that lucky. They fear our capabilities.

    June 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Reply
  13. Joe

    115 people die in car accidents every day, and you're more likely to be struck by lighing than killed by a terrorist. So why do we keep publicizing and glorifying these idiots?

    June 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      The bigger question here Joe, is why do we keep glorifying those ungodly drones and Apache helicoptors killing people over there? There is neither glory nor honor in that!!!

      June 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Reply
    • American


      Nor is there Honor Or Glory in Suicide bombers. That target Women an Children an large groups of innocent people..

      But at least the Drones are less expensive and dosent rely on The Suicide Hotline to get more recruits.

      June 10, 2012 at 2:31 am | Reply
  14. The Thinker

    When I hear "al Qaeda", I remember the loser-terrorists from the 70s: Red Brigade, Weathermen, et al. Those groups fissled when public opinion was repulsed by them. Today we have so much more capability than we did against the 70s terrorists, yet more and more targets and bulletstoppers keep joining al Qaeda.
    If that whole part of the world hates America so much that they keep supplying cannon fodder to al Qaeda, they should have the decency to simply declare war on us.
    LOL, anyone see the movie The Mouse that Roared?

    June 9, 2012 at 2:55 am | Reply
  15. Everett Wallace

    al queda we're focused on the haqquanis now

    June 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Reply
  16. General Gomar Pyle

    Just bring in the machine guns and bombs.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  17. George Patton

    How many of these so-called "Al Qaeda operatives" are actually with Al Qaeda and how many are just mere opponents of the Yemeni dictatorship? This the right-wing news media will never tell us!!!

    June 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Reply
  18. Snit

    This chick came by and I had to adjust my fly.

    June 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  19. US Dollars

    I sure hope they are surrounded by hundreds of fighters.. when that drone missle lands a head shot.

    June 8, 2012 at 10:21 am | Reply
    • Talibob

      And destroy a perfectly good towel?

      June 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Reply
      • Bill Clinton

        Hopefully we get the opportunity to vaporize a lot of terrorists towels with the operatives still wearing them. We can buy more towels.

        June 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  20. Hahahahahahahaha

    Now they are dressing as school girls. No wait................Don't throw that acid at me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahahahahahahaha.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:19 am | Reply

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