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Friday Papers or the CIA comes to town

President Salih met with Stephen Kappes, a CIA official, yesterday in Ta’izz. Following the meeting, Salih gave a speech suggesting that the supporters of secession had a virus like swine flu, claiming that the government would surround them and nurse them back to health. “We will not allow this virus to spread,” al-Sharq al-Awsat quotes him as saying.

At the same time, Salih and national unity got support from a conference of Salafis in San’a. The closing speech given by al-Zindani is published by al-Tagheer. A few days ago al-Quds al-Arabi informed us that Ali Muhammad al-Kurdi (I’m sure about the vowelling now) was forming a group to defend national unity and now al-Zindani and his pals are stepping up to the plate as well.

I think that the cycles of violence that we have seen in the South since 2006-07 will increase in number, length and violence over the coming months and years. That is, there will continue to be periodic explosions such as the ones we just saw in the south, which will fizzle out and then re-ignite while at the same time becoming more frequent and more violent. At least that is what my magic 8-ball tells me.

Finally, there is this op-ed from Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann in the NY Times. I understand, or at least I think I understand, the domestic politics involved in such an op-ed and why the authors composed it the way they did and why the Times ran it, but for me the emphasis is all wrong here.

Here is the concluding paragraph and the main, blunt argument:

Rather, our point is that the Pentagon should be as accurate as possible about how many of those released pose a threat to America. This is the only way that policy makers can make informed choices about closing Guantánamo, revising military commissions, deporting or repatriating prisoners or moving them to the United States, and keeping our nation safe.”

Yes, a more in-depth and accurate understanding of the individuals claimed to have “returned to the battlefield” is important, but I think the focus should be on the intelligence of the individuals currently being held in Guantanamo so that the US can release those it believes have not committed any crimes and prosecute those it believes have.

This is where the US has appeared completely over-matched and under-skilled. Certainly the way many of these individuals were arrested – in a bounty hunt led by Pakistani and Afghani allies in weeks and months after September 11, in which the US said we will give you $X for every Arab you bring us – does not bode well for constructing solid cases against many, leaving aside all other allegations since they have been in Guantanamo. But this intelligence is out there to be had. Take for instance the case of al-‘Awfi (a favorite case of Waq al-waq), immediately after his appearance in the January video from AQAP, there were numerous posts on jihadi forums detailing his experience fighting abroad. Just because the US doesn’t have the intelligence does not mean that it doesn’t exist. (For those interested in reading more, you will have to wait until next week and my new article on Guantanamo and AQAP comes out – trust me it is much better than the free, rambling stuff you get on Waq al-waq.)

I also have a bit of a problem with this section:

Eleven other men named in the report are Saudis who were put on a “most wanted” list the kingdom issued with much fanfare in February. While two of them have clearly taken up jihad against America, the other nine stand accused of fomenting resistance only to the monarchy, according to Christopher Boucek of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a top American expert on the Saudi program for the rehabilitation of terrorists. As he told us, “None of these guys has engaged in violence.

I think there are three individuals – al-Shihri and al-‘Awfi (before his relapse from recidivism) and Ibrahim Rubaysh, all of whom I’ve written about before – that are confirmed to be involved with AQAP, which for me indicates that they have returned to the field of battle. I think one could make the argument that al-Shihri and Rubaysh were involved in the suicide attacks in March, since they were both members of the organization that claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The other eight are, of course, suspected of joining AQAP (maybe we will have more confirmation in the upcoming issue of Sada al-Malahim). And until then I think they can only be listed as suspected of being involved in violence, but if they have fled the country then I think most signs indicate that they are not only combating the monarchy. But again, until they are confirmed to be in AQAP this is only a suspicion.


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