Moving Day

The more I read this piece from the NY Times on al-Qaeda moving from Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia the less convinced I am. There seems to be a great deal of guess work and speculation in the piece, although I guess that is what one gets when one relies solely on anonymous quotes.

I will buy that al-Qaeda members are communicating more frequently between the three countries, but couldn't this also be just a result of AQAP growing stronger?

Certainly, Nasir al-Wahayshi has built a durable and flexible infrastructure in the country that could absorb a number of new fighters, I've been arguing this for quite a while, but I don't think there is any evidence that foreign fighters have made their way to Yemen. AQAP is certainly getting stronger and growing in terms of men, I think that is clear, but what is not clear is whether these men are all from Saudi and Yemen or whether they are from other countries. I'm skeptical on the latter.

It seems as though intelligence agencies are seeing some of the people they watch move out of a particular area of Pakistan, and then guessing that they must be going to either Yemen or Somalia because A.) the groups are now communicating and B.) because this would be a logical place for them to go - The US is worried about Yemen and Somalia becoming terrorist havens, ergo any terrorists that start traveling must be going there. I'm not sure it is this simple.

Also the second clause of this line is demonstrably untrue: "It could also swell the ranks of a growing menace in Yemen, where militants now control large areas of the country outside the capital."

AQAP does not control large areas of the country, and to say it does gives a mistaken impression of Yemen. It is a cheap and misleading line, hopefully dropped in by editors who have never been to the country looking to add some color and not written by a journalist who has actually visited Yemen.

Finally, it appears some were not impressed with the Kilcullen/Exum op-ed on drones in Pakistan:

"Some aides to President Obama attribute the moves to pressure from intensified drone attacks against Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, after years of unsuccessful American efforts to dislodge the terrorist group from their haven there."


If the unnamed officials in the piece are correct that these fighters are moving to Yemen and if they believe they forced them out of Pakistan with drone attacks, I would caution them against applying the same tactic to Yemen, where the US would quickly find itself on the wrong end of a number of tribal conflicts.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Apple, Amazon, and Uber are moving in on health care. Will it help?

Big tech is making its opening moves into the health care scene, but its focus on tech-savvy millennials may miss the mark.

Apple COO Jeff Williams discusses Apple Watch Series 4 during an event on September 12, 2018, in Cupertino, California. The watch lets users take electrocardiogram readings. (Photo: NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google have been busy investing in health care companies, developing new apps, and hiring health professionals for new business ventures.
  • Their current focus appears to be on tech-savvy millennials, but the bulk of health care expenditures goes to the elderly.
  • Big tech should look to integrating its most promising health care devise, the smartphone, more thoroughly into health care.
Keep reading Show less

Harvard: Men who can do 40 pushups have a 'significantly' lower risk of heart disease

Turns out pushups are more telling than treadmill tests when it comes to cardiovascular health.

Airman 1st Class Justin Baker completes another push-up during the First Sergeants' push-up a-thon June 28, 2011, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Participants were allowed 10 minutes to do as many push-ups as they could during the fundraiser. Airman Baker, a contract specialist assigned to the 354th Contracting Squadron, completed 278 push-ups. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Janine Thibault)
Surprising Science
  • Men who can perform 40 pushups in one minute are 96 percent less likely to have cardiovascular disease than those who do less than 10.
  • The Harvard study focused on over 1,100 firefighters with a median age of 39.
  • The exact results might not be applicable to men of other age groups or to women, researchers warn.
Keep reading Show less

The colossal problem with universal basic income

Here's why universal basic income will hurt the 99%, and make the 1% even richer.

Videos
  • Universal basic income is a band-aid solution that will not solve wealth inequality, says Rushkoff.
  • Funneling money to the 99% perpetuates their roles as consumers, pumping money straight back up to the 1% at the top of the pyramid.
  • Rushkoff suggests universal basic assets instead, so that the people at the bottom of the pyramid can own some means of production and participate in the profits of mega-rich companies.
Keep reading Show less