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InsiderOnline Blog: November 2010

Was the Failed Bomb Plot a Setback for the Terrorists?

The uncovering of a plot last week to send explosive-laden packages from Yemen to Jewish places of worship in Chicago was at least the 32d time since 9/11 that a terrorist attack has been thwarted. But does the failure of the plot actually amount to a set-back for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group suspected of organizing it? Charlie Szrom of the American Enterprise Institute writes:

[Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] executed a terrorist attack that created worry around the world and consumed the resources and attention of authorities on three continents. The plot also opens the door for an attack type that is much more difficult to prevent: bombs that can avoid discovery by sniffer dogs or X-ray machines. If no major AQAP leaders face arrest, AQAP will have accomplished all of this without any real damage to its organization. Yemeni officials have thus far arrested only two individuals connected to the package plot – a mother and her daughter – and do not have a good record when it comes to detaining significant AQAP leaders …

Coordinating the packages through multiple flight routes to arrive at similar times in the U.S. and employing sophisticated bomb design required extensive planning. AQAP’s hold on territory in Yemen allows the group to conduct such operational coordination with lessened interference from law enforcement authorities. The group likely sees creating widespread fear and forcing authorities to expend resources as beneficial to its interests (namely, expanding its fundraising and recruiting base while maintaining its hold on power in Yemen).

If our enemies have a strategy to attack Americans and weaken our power structure, why do we not have a strategy to attack and destroy the al-Qaeda-led network? The president again today [Monday] recognized that al-Qaeda and its affiliated parts are the enemy. However, he did not state how he expects to destroy the enemy network’s safe havens. What is the plan for reducing al-Qaeda’s power in Yemen? Has the administration seen any measurable successes in Yemen against AQAP since the Christmas Day attack? Are we today in a significantly different position than we were in December 2009, when we were attacked by a group with a stronghold in Yemen, and when we lacked a strategy to deal with AQAP, despite some U.S. policy attention to Yemen over the preceding year? What is the strategy to deal with al-Qaeda-linked groups outside of Yemen?

Posted on 11/02/10 04:07 PM by Alex Adrianson

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