Out of Yemen, U.S. Is Hobbled in Terror Fight
By ERIC SCHMITT, The New York Times
MARCH 22, 2015
The evacuation of 125 United States Special Operations advisers from Yemen in the past two days is the latest blow to the Obama administration’s counterterrorism campaign, which is already struggling with significant setbacks in Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the volatile region, American officials said Sunday.
The loss of Yemen as a base for American counterterrorism training, advising and intelligence-gathering carries major implications not just there, but throughout a region that officials say poses the most grievous threat to United States global interests and to the country itself.
Even after the withdrawal of American troops, the Central Intelligence Agency will still maintain some covert Yemeni agents in the country. Armed drones will carry out some airstrikes from bases in nearby Saudi Arabia or Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, as was done most recently on Feb. 20. Spy satellites will still lurk overhead and eavesdropping planes will try to suck up electronic communications.
About 2,000 of the approximately 10,000 troops that the United States is likely to carry over into 2016 – more than originally planned – are assigned to counterterrorism missions, mainly along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The C.I.A. relies on the American troops to provide security for its covert counterterrorism operations, including drone strikes in Pakistan.
The Islamic State began attracting pledges of allegiance from groups and individual fighters after it declared the formation of a caliphate, or religious state, in June 2014. Counterterrorism analysts say it is using Al Qaeda’s franchise structure to expand its geographic reach, but without Al Qaeda’s rigorous, multiyear application process. This could allow its franchises to grow faster, easier and farther.
It is a trend that American counterterrorism officials say they are struggling to understand and defeat. Indeed, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, voiced deep concerns this month over “the emergence of a terrorist threat that is increasingly decentralized, difficult to track and even more difficult to thwart.”
With the Islamic State and its supporters producing as many as 90,000 Twitter posts and other social media responses every day, American officials also acknowledge the difficulty of blunting the group’s digital momentum in the same way a United States-led air campaign has slowed its advances on the battlefield in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, in Syria.
“We have an effective counternarrative, but the volume, the sheer volume, we are losing the battle today,” Michael B. Steinbach, the F.B.I.’s top counterterrorism official, told a House panel last month. “The amount of use of social media and other Internet-based activities eclipses our effort.”
What? You mean a group of people who live there has become revolutionary and is kicking the ass of the best military in the world and its paid mercenaries?