Sunday, January 03, 2010

Washington Post Editorial on Al Quaeda in Yemen

Sudarsan Raghavan has an article in today's Washington Post titled "Al-Qaeda benefits from a decade of missteps to become a threat in Yemen."

While it appears accurate, I thought it lacked some balance, (some might say it was bias) in the report. Here's the opening

SANAA, YEMEN -- Nearly a decade after the bombing of the USS Cole, a combination of U.S. and Yemeni missteps, deep mistrust and a lack of political will have allowed al-Qaeda militants here to regroup and pose a major threat to the United States, according to Yemeni and U.S. officials, diplomats and analysts.

This would lead us to believe that Yemeni and U.S. officials, diplomats and analysts are going to be quoted in the story. Good. Now let's look exactly at who says what...

The U.S. failures have included a lack of focus on al-Qaeda's growing stature, insufficient funding to and cooperation with Yemen, and a misunderstanding of the Middle Eastern country's complex political terrain, Yemeni officials and analysts said. U.S. policies in the region, they said, often alienated top Yemeni officials and did little to address the root causes of militancy.

Frustrated American officials say Yemen never made fighting al-Qaeda a top priority, which has stalled large-scale U.S. support.

The (Yemeni?)government said it struck an al-Qaeda training camp, killing at least 23 militants. But tribal leaders and residents say mostly civilians were killed.

"I saw parts of bodies, mostly women and children," said Mukhbil Mohammed Ali, a tribal leader. "America says it supports Yemen to eradicate terrorists. But America is only supporting Yemen to kill the innocent."

Assistance will more than double this year, Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, said Friday

But many say the war could arrive too late to change the trajectory in Yemen. Since the Cole attack, the nation has been on a path toward dissolution.

"The attack on the USS Cole should have been the loudest wake-up call against al-Qaeda," said Abdul Karim al-Iriyani, a former prime minister of Yemen. "But I don't think, even when I was in government, every attention was given to fighting al-Qaeda. Now, it is much more difficult than 2000."

That decision eroded Yemeni trust in the United States and damaged efforts to combat terrorism, Yemeni officials said.

"I was so angry," Iriyani recalled.

U.S. intelligence officials acknowledge that the strike posed a political liability for Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. But they also contend that Yemen's government wavered in its commitment to fighting al-Qaeda even before that attack.

By 2003, the United States was focused on the Iraq war and appeared more intent on fighting corruption and promoting democracy in Yemen than on tackling al-Qaeda, experts said.

U.S. officials say the aid was cut largely because of corruption concerns.

"When you look back and see how little attention Yemen was getting several years ago, it's shocking," said Christopher Boucek, a Yemen analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "None of these problems with Yemen's stability are new, and we've known what was coming down the road."

Yemeni and U.S. officials say the militants were helped by Yemeni security officials sympathetic to al-Qaeda.

Yemeni officials say their constitution bars the extradition of Yemeni nationals.

U.S. officials said their counterterrorism efforts have also been hampered by a Yemeni government that has frequently been unpredictable and fickle in its support.

In southern Yemen, opposition politicians and newspapers have accused the government of killing civilians in order to appease the United States. Yemeni officials have acknowledged that women and children were killed, but say they were the relatives of the militants.

Mukhbil Mohammed Ali, the tribal leader, said his tribesmen are angry. They have even more sympathy for al-Qaeda, he said, as well as a growing animosity toward the Yemeni government and its benefactor, America.

"We all want revenge," he said.

Here's the tally I got:

Yemeni Officials 6
US Officials 6
Tribal Leaders 3
Carnegie Analyst 1
Experts 1
Many 1
Opposition/newspapers 1

Looks pretty balanced. Why doesn't it read that way? The only named US Official was General Petraeus, and his quote looks like it was taken from a different context.

Bonus Round.
"U.S. development aid to combat Yemen's soaring poverty rates and high unemployment -- key factors in enticing new recruits to militancy -- was minuscule. It declined from $56.5 million in 2000 to $25.5 million in 2008, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development."

Wow... between $25 to $56 million is miniscule. That's pretty perverted.


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