Abdulmutallab : Keeping Focus As The Story Changes

There's so much anonymous source material being touted in news articles, it's difficult to ascertain who's got the details right.

ABC News now has a different version of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father's reasons for contacting authorities regarding his son. Now, it's an alarming last phone call he made to his father.

ABC News' sources said that during Abdulmutallab's final call, he told his father the call would be his last contact with the family. He said that the people he was with in Yemen were about to destroy his SIM card, rendering his phone unusable.

And, the father went to Nigerian intelligence authorities who promptly took him to the CIA. [More...]

A senior U.S. official briefed on the matter tells ABC News that the phone call prompted the father to contact Nigerian intelligence, fearing that his son might be planning a suicide mission in Yemen. The Nigerian officials brought Mutallab directly to the CIA station chief in Abuja Nov. 19.

I hope everyone doesn't get so caught up in the Abdulmutallab incident they fail to focus on the bigger picture, which is figuring out what al Qaida Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is planning next and how to weaken AQAP in Yemen.

U.S. military strikes are not a solution, just a temporary bandaid. Neither is imprisoning their sympathizers. They will only emerge more radicalized and determined. Neither is freezing the release of the other Yemenis at Guantanamo, which will also fuel U.S. hatred.

Gregory Johnson, a former Fullbright scholar now at Princeton, and co-author of the Yemen blog, Waq al-Waq, offered this view in September (pages 8 -11).

The United States must learn that its insistence on seeing everything through the prism of counterterrorism has helped to induce exactly the type of results it is hoping to avoid. By focusing on al-Qa`ida to the exclusion of nearly every other challenge, and by linking almost all of its aid to this single issue, the United States has ensured that the issue will never be resolved

...This short-sighted and narrow focus by the United States has translated over time into a lack of influence within the country. The United States is not the most important player on the domestic Yemeni scene.

....While the United States and Yemen have both been distracted by other, seemingly more pressing issues in recent years, al-Qa`ida has been working single-mindedly to create a durable infrastructure that can withstand the loss of key leaders and cells. It has done an excellent job of tailoring its narrative for a local audience.

....The organization is also benefiting from other government mistakes. The overreaction of governments such as Yemen, largely as a result of U.S. pressure, of arresting nearly everyone suspected of harboring sympathy for al-Qa`ida in the aftermath of September 11 and periodically since then is not reducing radicalization; instead, it is having the opposite effect. Young men are leaving Yemen’s security prisons more radical than when they were initially incarcerated.

...The various clerics and religious shaykhs who visit the prisons to preach also appear to be playing a role in the radicalization process.19 Al-Qa`ida’s potential recruiting pool in Yemen is not drying up but is expanding.

The country’s revolving door prison policy is compounding the problem as more young men spend significant time in prison. In a sense, many of these young men have been prepared for recruitment by their time in prison. The initial groundwork is being laid not by al-Qa`ida but rather by the government’s actions, which makes these men tempting recruitment targets when they are eventually released.

What Abdulmutallab shows, if he is indeed connected to them, is that they are no longer limiting their actions to Yemen, but striking out regionally and internationally, with Saudi Arabia and now the U.S. as targets. In the past, AQAP has announced its goals and then acted on them. They have a media organization for this purpose, Al-Malahim, and a newsletter, Sada al-Malahim (The Echo of Battles.)

Slicing and dicing the intelligence failures in the Abdulmutallab case may or may not prevent the next attack from being successful. Same for the new airline restrictions. Freezing the release of the remaining Yemeni Gitmo detainees is also no solution, and it may increase the likelihood the U.S. will be the target of future attacks. There's a much bigger focus that's needed.

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    Thanks Jeralyn! (none / 0) (#1)
    by kidneystones on Thu Dec 31, 2009 at 08:17:21 PM EST
    For the update. I just dropped by TPM and their idea of 'must see' TV is an investigation into a politician's pants. I mean, holy fig. Talk about not getting one's pants priorities straight.

    Loathsome, trivial tripe at a time when unemployment is around 10%. You'd think Dems would be better than this. Some are.

    Kudos to everyone at Talkleft.

    Happy New Year to all!

    Yes, thank you for digging for info (none / 0) (#2)
    by ruffian on Thu Dec 31, 2009 at 11:43:09 PM EST
    on this Jeralyn.

    I agree with all the things in your post about what is not helping. I only wish I had  more ideas about what is the right thing to do. I feel like whatever new security measures are adopted will be worked around in time.  But keeping one step ahead and minimizing the odds might be the best we can hope for. In my hopeless moments I even feel that it is too late to turn over a new leaf as a nation - that even if we stopped immediately doing all of the things that create new terrorists, the hatred is so engrained now it will take decades to die out.

    Not very optimistic about the new decade, I'm afraid.