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Al-Qaeda's Exodus to Yemen - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The warning lights flickered as news reports multiply affirming that the Al-Qaeda organization is transferring its men and furnishings to the mountains of Yemen. These reports were followed by the escape of a dangerous group from the Saudis of Al-Qaeda there, giving more weight to new information that Al-Qaeda is in the process of turning Yemen into a new Afghanistan. The shock came with the release of a large number of Al-Qaeda men from Yemen’s prisons in return for signing a pledge not to return to terrorism again.

The first consequences if Al-Qaeda succeeded in turning Yemen into a base for it is the transfer of the international war [on terror] to Yemen, as it has been transferred now to Pakistan, where American bombardment continues against the regions in which terrorist organizations are active in Pakistan, even after Barack Obama assumed the US presidency. This is what will happen if terrorist organizations settle in Yemeni territories. Al-Qaeda would have then dealt a serious blow to the stability of this Arab country that has been trying hard for years to shift from the authority of the tribes to that of the modern, central state.

Al-Qaeda thinks that targeting the Yemeni regime is easier than targeting others, and that its weakening would facilitate its ability to move in the entire region, as it did in Afghanistan and later in Pakistan. If Al-Qaeda succeeds in igniting Yemen, it thinks it can lure the Americans to a war in there, something that will give it the popularity it always seeks as an organization that lives on wars.

Yemen will be turned into a free-for-all, not only by the terrorists but all the countries that want to hound Al-Qaeda wherever it settles. The countries concerned with terrorism are many, and they consider themselves entitled, because of their security interests, to hunt down Al-Qaeda, which is considered the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world. They will not wait for the consent of authorities in Sana’a before they do this.

Yemeni territory represents for the remnants of Al-Qaeda a suitable haven. There are tortuous mountainous areas with weak presence by the authorities. Settling there would help Al-Qaeda to move towards vital areas in the region: in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Egypt, and Jordan. The rebellion by Al-Huthi, despite the weakness of his forces, proved that these areas were ideal, impregnable hideouts. Security forces and state troops failed to evict them from these areas or finish them off, even though the Yemeni army used heavy weapons in battles that lasted for more than two years. This provides the incentive to the leaders of Al-Qaeda to move to these fortresses. The impotence by Yemeni officialdom will give the major powers the pretext to plan for direct intervention in the name of the right to hunt down the terrorist Al-Qaeda – without an international mandate or local consent.

News about movement by elements from Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and Iraq to Yemen leaked more than two years ago after a number of operations that were carried out and others that were foiled, and after apprehending members from the organization. The matter appeared worse of late, after Al-Qaeda issued its first institutional tape from Yemen, not from Afghanistan.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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