Douglas Farrah observes that if you let them build a base, terrorists will come.
The recent and growing attention to the critical situation in Yemen, where al Qaeda’s presence is spreading and the government is weak and does not control much of the physical space, is perhaps the best argument for pursuing a vigorous Afghanistan policy.
It is clear that the jihadist movement, to reuse an overused cliche, will flow like water downhill, taking the paths of least resistance. Yemen, with its declining oil revenues, weak central government, inhospitable geography and population that is at least intellectually in tune with al Qaeda’s fundamentalist theology, is such a place. It has the added benefit and symbolic value for Osama bin Laden and his family of being their ancestral home, from whence bin Laden’s father came to Saudi Arabia.
Radical Islamists need different spaces for different reasons. Criminalized states allow them to move money and generate funds. Failed or failing states with a strongly sympathetic population in which to move undetected afford something even more valuable – the chance to establish a physical space that is part of their vision of the Caliphate, or Allah’s kingdom on earth. …
This is of primary importance to the Islamist community, and one that highlights the reasons for such fierce fighting and penetration in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. It is not so much the training camps and safe havens that draw the Islamist combatants to these regions. It is the possibility of creating a divinely-mandated earthly government under the rule of Sharia law (as they interpret it).
Afghanistan is another such place, now part of the mythical narrative the movement is creating as it moves forward. If the Taliban can succeed there, not only will it be a sign of divine favor but a place where Allah rules. Once that is established, the global jihadists have a place from which to expand and continue the war against the infidel world.
Yemen has already shown the danger of allowing these groups to settle in and become a focal point for teaching and training of would-be “martyrs” from around the world. If the base exists, they will come. At its center, al Qaeda understood this from the beginning.
And not only will they come, Barack Obama will send some of the ones currently in Guantanamo to join them.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said the administration “absolutely” intends to keep sending Guantanamo prisoners to Yemen. The administration has sent seven detainees to the country, Brennan said, with six of those sent in December. “Several of those detainees were put into Yemeni custody right away,” Brennan said. He did not elaborate on how many is “several” or where the other Guantanamo inmates sent to Yemen might be today. But he said the U.S. has faith in Yemen to handle the situation.