Defense

Special ops chief concerned about al Qaeda in Yemen

The chief of U.S. special operations forces said Friday there is “great concern” about the disruption of the counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  

“I think there’s a very great concern … especially for that strain of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and … the threat they present to our country, so I think we should be very, very concerned about that,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel said at an event hosted by the Stimson Center in Washington. 

The Pentagon pulled U.S. special operations forces from Yemen earlier this year, after Shiite Houthi rebels took over the capital and began to push southward towards areas still controlled by the pro-West government. 
 
{mosads}The special operations forces had been training Yemeni government forces on how to combat insurgents, as well as conducting counterterrorism missions against AQAP. 
 
U.S. officials have said AQAP poses the biggest terrorist threat to the United States.
 
“Obviously, we would prefer to be located with our Yemeni partners, and being able to share information with them, to understand in particular, what al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is doing,” Votel said. 
 
“So I think that does present a little bit of a dilemma for us, that said, we are now — our people are innovative and they find ways to work through this and so it’s a little more difficult, certainly, but we are looking at how we re-establish that, but it is a great concern,” he added. 
 
The Obama administration has been criticized for upholding a small footprint counterterrorism effort against AQAP as a model for the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, consisting of drone strikes and a small presence of U.S. ground troops. 
 
The administration said the cause of the Yemeni government’s collapse was due to the Houthi takeover, not its counterterrorism efforts against AQAP.
 
However, when asked whether U.S. defense efforts in Yemen worked or not, Votel said it had to be accompanied by more than just a U.S. military effort. 
“I think what it highlights to me … is that it is much more comprehensive than just a military approach to this thing,” he said. 
 
“I think as things began to unravel, the unraveling took place in the political realm in Yemen and not necessarily in the military realm, and so I think that highlights to me just the comprehensive nature of this,” he said.  
 
“When we develop military capacity … with our partners, it is extraordinarily important that they have a political handrail that they’re linked to that is guiding their directions … that supports all of that activity.
 
“And if we don’t have that then I think we’re going to see situations like we’ve just seen,” he said.
Tags Al-Qaeda Islam Islamic Jihad of Yemen Terrorism Terrorism in Yemen

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