‘Mowing the Grass’ in Yemen
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Despite the incessant pounding by U.S. drones, al Qaeda forces in Yemen are continuing to grow in numbers, defying the military superiority of America. At the same time, the Yemeni people are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the United States and its inability to conquer al Qaeda. The reason behind this failure has much to do with U.S. military and foreign policy. But there is another reason.
Ever since the U.S. issued a worldwide travel warning and closed 22 of its embassies and consulates across much of the Middle East and Africa on August 4, al Qaeda has begun to receive more attention in media headlines. This might seem somewhat surprising considering that President Obama said November 1 last year that the U.S. had decimated al Qaeda. The fact is, the group is still spreading its terror, particularly in Yemen.
Yemen is the stomping ground of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (aqap). Working primarily out of Yemen, with some operations in Saudi Arabia, aqap is considered to be one of the most active and deadly branches of al Qaeda, and has been responsible for a number of large-scale attacks in Yemen and abroad.
These attacks have included: the bombing of the uss Cole in October 2000, numerous assassinations and kidnappings in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the 2009 shooting in Little Rock, Arkansas, by Carlos Bledsoe (who spent time in Yemen), and, of course, the underwear bomber of Christmas 2009. Add to that attacks on hundreds of government organizations as well as numerous attempts at international terrorism.
While attempts have been made to dislodge or route the terrorists, aqap continues to have a strong presence in Yemen. Now the U.S. is coming under more criticism for not putting an end to the militarily inferior militants. So far, the U.S. has been reluctant to commit wholeheartedly in Yemen. Rather, the U.S. has chosen to wage a “shadow war” whereby a limited number of U.S. troops have been working to train the Yemeni soldiers, who have been outfitted with the latest in night vision goggles, weaponry, drones and jets.
While some headway has been made, it is not without cost. Since late 2011, the U.S. committed $600 million to the Yemeni government, of which $250 million was used to counter terrorism. The U.S. also granted $2.2 million to fund a number of Yemeni contractors last year, such as Giffin Security, which handles protection, surveillance and maritime security. Money also went to other surveillance groups or firms that deal with cyber network attacks. While millions of dollars has been funneled into these groups, it hasn’t stemmed the growing number of Yemeni youths picking up their AKs and bomb-making kits to join the ranks of aqap. Twenty-three al Qaeda members escaped from prison in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in February 2006 and became the founding fathers of aqap. Since the group’s emergence in 2009, its numbers have swollen to over 1,000.
Much of the money sent to Yemen by the U.S. has not been used optimally. When aid was sent to Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. was right there to help allocate the resources and dictate how the hardware was used in combat. In Yemen, where there is a minimal U.S. presence on the ground, much of the funding and equipment has been misused or not put to use until recently.
America’s shadow war has backfired. Instead of giving the Yemeni government the upper hand, the U.S. strategy has merely given aqap time to gain a foothold in the country, which it has used with deadly consequences. Yemen is one of the poorest Arabic nations, and the subsequently weak military has not been effective in removing the terrorists. The U.S. has tried to rectify the situation, while still keeping itself distant from the conflict, by engaging in drone warfare.
Launching drones from Saudi Arabia and also from sites to the south, the U.S. has been able to target aqap operatives without having to put troops on the ground. The main targets are high-ranking officials and key personnel in the organization. So far, these strikes have been ineffective, even detrimental.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, oftentimes al Qaeda consists of imported terrorists, particularly the upper levels of the organization. In Yemen, however, al Qaeda is run by Yemenis. Taking out a leader and hoping it will leave the organization crippled doesn’t work. When a commander is removed, there is no delay in replacing him with another man.
The fact that the terrorists are locally grown also has other ramifications. Every terrorist who is killed is a father or brother or son or friend in the local community. Each death breeds more and more resentment for the Americans and fosters sympathy for the terrorists. This effect is intensified by the fact that drone strikes have a history of large-scale collateral damage. For instance, in May 2010, a drone strike killed a former governor of the Marib Governorate, Jabr al Shabwani, sparking reprisal attacks against the Yemeni government from Mr. Shabwani’s family. Many such Yemenis have called on the government to end its support of the U.S. drone program in Yemen.
What America is doing in Yemen is effectively “mowing the grass”: It strikes, removing the target, and oftentimes civilians as well. This breeds resentment among the people, causing the terrorist ranks to grow thicker than ever. With a weak local military and few U.S. troops in the region, Washington’s strategy may be causing more problems than it is fixing.
Since the Korean War, America has failed to win a single major offensive. Look at the smoldering ruins of Iraq, the Taliban-infested hills of Afghanistan, and the resurgent al Qaeda. There are no American victories to be found there. Herbert Armstrong wrote about the true cause of these losses back in a 1961 Plain Truth. But he didn’t pin it on the military, or the politicians.
He declared: “Unless or until the United States as a whole repents and returns to what has become a hollow slogan on its dollars: ‘In God we trust,’ the United States of America has won its last war!”
This statement wasn’t just a man’s prediction. It came right out of the Bible. Leviticus 26:19 refers primarily to the U.S. when it speaks of breaking “the pride of your power.” As Trumpet columnist Stephen Flurry wrote:
The irony is that the same God who promised to break our pride is the one who gave us this tremendous “power” in the first place. God blessed America with unprecedented material wealth because He promised it, unconditionally, to Abraham. He did so because of Abraham’s obedience to God’s laws. That is why, up until World War ii, our peoples were richly blessed.
Mr. Armstrong warned the world long ago of what the removal of these blessing would entail. In the October 1954 Plain Truth, he stated emphatically:
Today God warns us through many prophecies … that unless we of this generation repent of our sins, and turn to Him with fastings, and with weeping, and earnest prayer, He will destroy our cities, all our fortresses, by the hand of the foreign sword; that He will punish us at the hand of a cruel one; that we shall be invaded, defeated, reduced to slaves! God help our nations to heed that warning!
Yes, that is a harrowing warning. But look at the might of the United States. Are we winning our fights? The U.S. military and society is on the decline. Yemen is just one example. Watch events in that country. As you see the U.S. failing to curb the rise of radical Islam, it should set the alarm bells ringing in your mind. The pride of America’s power is broken!
Despite this, and despite the terrible effects of removed blessings, we don’t need to fear. Remember what Mr. Armstrong also said all those years ago: We can repent and turn to God, and be spared these terrible times. The U.S. as a nation is not destined to turn to God at this time, but you certainly can. If you want to know more about what the future holds for you and for the United States, start reading The United States and Britain in Prophecy today.