Don't Forget About Yemen: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula May Be bin Laden's Most Dangerous Faction

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Posted: Feb 08, 2011 1:14 PM
Guest post from Townhall Magazine contributing editor Peter Brookes.

In the wake of the ongoing political turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East, which has toppled or shaken governments across the region from Tunisia and Egypt to Jordan and Syria, it would be a big mistake to overlook the rumblings in the lesser known country of Yemen.

Why?

Some experts believe Yemen may actually be the location of the most active and dangerous element of al Qaeda in existence today: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). As such, this means that easily overlooked Yemen is possibly the source of the greatest day-to-day terror threat to the American homeland.

While no one wants to downplay the threat emanating from al Qaeda’s “core,” many of whom are currently holed up in Pakistani tribal areas (e.g., Osama bin Laden), Yemen’s AQAP arguably ranks second to none.

In fact, in just the last 18 months, AQAP has played an operational -- or inspirational -- role in at least three terror plots or attacks against the United States, including:
• The 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, which killed 13 and injured 29;
• The 2009 Christmas Day attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit; and,
• The 2010 plot to send bombs disguised as ink cartridges to the United States on air shippers.
Indeed, recent tremors of political dissent in the region may be just what al Qaeda has been hoping for: The overthrow of the many Middle Eastern and North African capitals that oppose the terror group and it claims are occupied by apostate regimes, including Sanaa.

Unfortunately, if the region’s political chaos reaches Yemen in a destabilizing way, the fall of the Yemeni government into the wrong hands is a possibility. Such a dramatic change may not only strengthen the hand of AQAP in the region by making it easier for the terrorist group to plan, train and operate there, but put the United States in even greater danger as well.

Editor's Note: Peter will have an in-depth piece about Yemen in the March issue of Townhall Magazine.