Reporting on the Yemen
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
The final push is upon us, which means that posting will likely be light and/or sporadic until May 15. I'll do my best to put up at least a token post every day, but no promises. (This excuse also accounts for the lack of posting on al-Shihri's audio tape. Somethings, though they are very few, take precedence over blogging.)
That aside, we have yet another story on Yemenis in Guantanamo. I first read this piece this morning long before coffee and the outside world and it left me fairly confused. I was hoping my views would have changed by the afternoon, but no such luck.
I have no idea why reporters keeping saying things like: Of the 248 prisoners currently in Guantanamo, 104 are from Yemen. The US authorities classify many of them as dangerous. Their homeland would not like to see them sent back to Yemen - as 23 al-Qaeda terrorists managed to escape from a high-security prison' there three years ago.
But they do.
The paragraph makes it appear as though Yemen doesn't want them back because 23 AQ suspects tunneled out of prison in February 2006 - or in other words, because the government can't control the suspects it has. Does anyone seriously believe this?
I know many people think that Yemen doesn't want these detainees back (this is a view I have never really been able to follow - maybe they speak to different Yemenis and governmental sources than I do, but still it just doesn't square with what I know of the negotiations and discussions and, to be quite honest, the history of US releasing Guantanamo detainees) - but surely none of these people, some of whom I respect even if I disagree with them on this point, are basing their analysis that Yemen doesn't want these guys back on the premise that the Yemeni government does not think it can keep these guys from escaping from prison.
I'm also unsure that the Yemeni government is under the impression that the proposed rehabilitation center is going to be run by Americans. Financing is one thing, operating and managing it is something entirely different.
Also in the news today is this piece in al-Quds al-Arabi on the on-going trial of the 16 AQ suspects. The article claims that Haza al-Qu'ayti was only the military commander of the Soldiers' Brigades of Yemen and not the commander, a position supposedly occupied by 'Abdullah Batis (I think the al-Quds al-Arabi story is mispelling the name here). This seems to fly in the face of all the evidence we have. Interestingly, the story doesn't quote either of the individuals captured in the Tarim raid in August 2008 where both al-Qu'ayti and Batis were killed.
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