The Relationship Between Radicalization and...
Given the interest in determining why the Boston bombers carried out their attacks, it is unsurprising that radicalization has become a hot topic of late. Take two young men who have lived in the United States for the better part of a decade who then decide to carry out a bombing against unsuspecting civilians – of course questions are going to arise as to how and why such a thing could happen. ...
How to Respond to Online Radicalization
A couple of weeks ago, as I was pondering the role the public plays in countering online radicalization, I thought I would open the discussion up to Twitter. After all, if radicalization to violence can occur online, shouldn’t the Internet be a natural place to look for answers on how to counter it? As it turns out, my question got a fabulous response from Dr. John Horgan, Director of the...
Thoughts on "The Next Wave"
Sometimes the library doesn’t have the book(s) I am looking for, so I end up checking out another tangentially-related work in the hopes of learning something new. I don’t mean this as a slight, it’s simply the explanation for how I came across Catherine Herridge’s book The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits. I didn’t look at the author’s bio – it turns out she’s a reporter...
Thoughts on "The Last Refuge"
Gregory Johnsen’s The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia is a one-of-a-kind take on the rise, fall, and resurrection of al-Qaeda in Yemen. Richly detailed, it provides more than just a sequential list of attacks and their perpetrators. Instead, it’s a compelling narrative of al-Qaeda’s development and practice, including the group’s non-violent side. No matter how...
Thoughts on "Jihad Joe"
I received a handful of books for Christmas, among them Gregory Johnsen’s The Last Refuge and J.M. Berger’s Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam. I decided to read Berger’s book first because I knew it was written earlier than Johnsen’s, and I was particularly interested to see how Berger’s and Johnsen’s portrayals of Anwar al-Awlaki compared and contrasted. I should probably...
In my previous post, I talked about the Biden Doctrine of counterterrorism operations built on Special Operations, drone strikes, and cruise missiles. Wired’s Danger Room has an article out about Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussing that very future for the Defense Department. And Gregory Johnsen has written a scathing op-ed in the New York Times decrying this approach to...
America, Politics, and Yemen
Note: Unfortunately, this post likely will not mark a regular return to blog posting. I will try to post semi-regularly, as time constraints allow. As the dust settles from the presidential election and the fallout in Washington over the Petraeus scandal, questions arise about what the next few years of American politics will mean for Yemen (as well as, of course, other countries around the...
A temporary break from posting
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve had to take a break from posting. Between moving and switching jobs, I just haven’t had a whole lot of down time, and what I’ve had has been spent with family. I do intend to resurrect the blog, to spend time looking at Yemen, and to start interacting on Twitter again. I just don’t know when that’s going to happen. In the...
Links Dump 9/14/12
Sometimes I feel bad about not writing more on this blog. In times like these, though, I know that there is more value in pointing you to other thinkers than in pontificating myself. That being said, here’s the latest links dump of stories I (mostly) haven’t been able to read but wanted to (updated with a few more links): Jihadica: US Embassy Protests Intelwire: Nuanced to Death Waq al-Waq:...
Links Dump 9/6/12, drone edition
Apparently it’s time for a new links dump of stories related to drones. I haven’t read all of these, but I highly recommend Aaron Zelin’s in Foreign Policy (the first link). It’s one of the better pieces I’ve seen, pointing out that while we know the short term outcome of using drones (terrorists = dead), we don’t know the medium-to-long term impact, either on...
Yemen's Competing Challenges
Rather than re-writing the lengthy post I had about Yemen’s overlapping challenges (after Tumblr, for no apparent reason, unceremoniously dumped everything but the first word of the post when I went to publish), I’m just going to link to the relevant stories here: Potential AQAP/Ansar al-Shariah growth due to drone strikes. The Economist - Yemen and the United States: Don’t drone on ...
Measuring Success Against al-Qaeda
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we measure success in our fight against al-Qaeda. After all, it’s been over 10 years since 9/11, the event that brought al-Qaeda shockingly to the forefront of public attention regarding terrorism. Surely we have an objective way of saying we are or are not succeeding against al-Qaeda? While this seems like a fairly straightforward topic,...
The Cost of Hunger
In the past few weeks, the very important story of Yemen’s food crisis has been making the rounds of various news sites. The pictures accompanying these stories are absolutely heartbreaking (yes, that is a warning about following any of the links below). The facts are equally horrifying, as related here in a story from Voice of America: The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that nearly...
Profiles of AQAP's leadership
In case you missed it, Gregory Johnsen has a nice piece out in the CTC sentinel profiling four of the top leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: Nasir al-Wahayshi Said al-Shihri Qasim al-Raymi Ibrahim Asiri Concise and to the point, Johnsen’s article complements some of the backgrounders out there on AQAP, such as the Council on Foreign Relations’ or the National...
On the Nature of the Threat
Recently, some news stories and blog posts have me thinking about the nature of the threat emanating from Yemen. I consistently see Yemen named as one of the top places to fear the rise of terrorism, but there’s not always a lot of good reporting from Yemen. By that, I don’t necessarily mean the day-to-day stuff, because there are certainly some good reporters out there who can provide...
Links Dump 7/1/12
I’ve kind of been out of the pocket lately, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things soon with a post responding to Christopher Swift’s multiple articles on Yemen out in the last couple of weeks. In the mean time, here’s a random roundup of Yemen stories from the past month, whenever I actually checked the news or my Twitter feed to see what was going on (which...
Links Dump 6/6/12
Apparently I need to change the title of this blog to “Links to Drone Stories,” at least until some of the raging debate about drones and national security leaks dies down, and I get enough down time to write again. (I feel like this is a constant - and ironic - complaint on here, where I write about not having enough time to write. C’est la via. At least I’ll have...
Yemen in the News
I finally got around to watching Frontline’s amazing piece on AQAP in Yemen. If you haven’t watched it yet, you definitely should. There’s a reason everyone was talking about it Tuesday night. While there wasn’t a lot of new information in the piece for me, there was something dramatic about seeing it in video rather than reading about it, or even seeing pictures. At...
Lessons from the "Son of Hamas"
I recently finished reading Mosab Hassan Yousef’s book Son of Hamas. For those who don’t know, the book is the story of Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef’s son, who provided aid to the Israeli Shin Bet against Hamas, and who converted to Christianity. I can’t say it was the best-written book I’ve ever read, but I picked the book up on a whim and it was...
Links Dump 5/22/12
The latest is mostly about the push back against al-Qaeda in southern Yemen, and of course, more drones. And then there’s the suicide bomb, which is its own category. NYT - Yemen Moves to Recapture Towns Controlled by Islamist Insurgents Foreign Policy - Nation-Building in the Yemen NPR - Why The U.S. Is Aggressively Targeting Yemen Voice of America - US Military Role Deepens in Yemen ...
Links Dump 5/13/12
I’ve really got to clear my browser of some tabs. Apologies if this overlaps with the other links dumps from this week. Waq al-Waq - Measuring Success AEI - Defining success against al Qaeda in Yemen Foreign Policy - Terrorist Fishing in the Yemen Threat Matrix - Spying on al Qaeda NYT - Long-Running Antiterrorism Work With Saudis Led to Airline Plot’s Failure The Telegraph - The...
On Our Drone Strategy
Just as George W. Bush may be recalled as the president who tried to fight terrorism by waging war and removing tyrants, Obama may be recalled as the president who sought to rout terrorists through targeted killing from the sky. – James Traub, “Terrorist Fishing in the Yemen” Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about drone use – probably unsurprising given the massive number of stories written...
Links Dump 5/9/12 (part 2)
This continuation from yesterday’s links dump is essentially split between news from 2-3 weeks ago, and this week’s excitement over The Underwear Bomber Part II: Leak of the Phantom Menace. Yemen/AQAP/Ansar al-Sharia AEI Critical Threats - Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based Affiliate is Alive and Well (and a related story - Al Shabaab in Decline?) The Guardian - Al-Qaida’s wretched utopia...
Links Dump 5/8/12 (part 1)
So, some stuff’s been in the news lately… (This is part 1 of a 2 part links dump; the other stuff will mostly be older.) Yemen/AQAP/Ansar al-Shariah AP - CIA derails plot with al-Qaida underwear bomb ABC - Officials: More Al Qaeda Bombs Unaccounted For CNN Security Clearance - Killing of al Qaeda leader in Yemen evidence of new U.S.-Yemeni offensive NYT - Militant Tied to...
Random Thoughts on Drone Use in Yemen
Reading the recent story in Rolling Stone, “The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret,” I was reminded of three things. First is Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. Among other things, Grossman argues that the further one gets from “sexual distance” (if I remember the term...
A caveat to my posts
I’ve found recently that many of my posts seem to be raising more questions for me than they are presenting answers to readers. This is partially due to the medium; a blog post, by its very nature, is not a research project, although I think my arguments should be well researched and fell framed. It’s also partially due to the fact that I run this blog on the side of my regular...
The Amorphous al-Qaeda
This week has seen a number of debates waged on Twitter and elsewhere regarding the status of the al-Qaeda movement as a whole, as well as the fates of individual franchises. (Mary Habeck’s Foreign Policy piece in particular seemed to set off a number of firestorms.) What all of these discussions indicate is that al-Qaeda’s story is not yet complete, as much of some analysts and...
Links Dump 4/20/12
You may notice a couple of themes in the following stories, which will likely form the basis of an upcoming post on al-Qaeda’s changes. Waq al-Waq - The Constant Critic Waq al-Waq - Signature Strikes in Yemen Waq al-Waq - AQAP’s Big Dilemma The Economist - Hunger in Yemen: Disaster approaching Wilson Center - Yemen: The Tribal Islamists The Arabist - How the north-south...
Fixing Yemen's Prisons
In the face of increased Islamist militant activity in Yemen, analysts are looking for root causes of radicalization, with a mind to countering it. At least one of these causes appears to be Yemeni jails. “The more AQAP bios I read the more I see a single common denominator,” prominent Yemen watcher Gregory Johnsen wrote on Twitter on March 22, “time in a prison in Yemen.” For the leadership of...
Links Dump 4/10/12
I haven’t had much time to devote to the blog lately (my internet was down for a while, and I have some people in who left Mali), but I have been racking up some stories to read. The Majalla - What Next for Yemen? Foreign Policy - Yemen’s unresolved economic crisis Carnegie Endowment - Building a Better Yemen Global Post - Yemen: Where Al Qaeda rules Human Rights Watch - Yemen:...
Links Dump 3/24/12
Stories from Yemen and elsewhere: Afrah Nasser - Friday of Integrity Massacre (quite poignant look at March 18 attacks) Yemeni Motanen - Where Outsiders Fight: Another “cold war” battlefield between Saudi Arabia and Iran AEI Critical Threats - Insurgency in Yemen: The New Challenge to American Counter-Terrorism Strategy Foreign Policy - Filling Saleh’s Shoes Foreign Policy - Reforming...
Remembering Yemen's March 18th
“Image after image of the dead, men and boys, showed that those killed in the most violent day in the capital city Sana’a for 30 years had been systematically shot through the head and neck by gunmen positioned on city rooftops.” - The Telegraph, 19 March 2011, “Yemen protests: Evidence snipers shot to kill” ——- My Twitter feed is full of remembrances...
Links Dump 3/17/12 (Updated)
Totally random edition. The Nation - Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen? AP - US aims to resume help for Yemen McClatchy - With president gone, Yemen seeks to remake military NYT - In Yemen, New Leader Faces Threats in the South NYT - With Arms for Yemen Rebels, Iran Seeks Wider Mideast Role * BBC - Profile: Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen * Sky News - Yemen: Militants...
Links Dump 3/8/12 (Updated)
[Update 3/11/12: Now with more links! (those with an asterisk)] A small links dump this time. But first, a quote from the first link: Zaed Jaber, director of the Strategic Studies programme at Sheba Centre for Strategic Studies in Sanaa, told The National the success that militant groups are having in Abyan was no surprise. “The militants know exactly where to attack and powerful...
Beginner's Guide to Yemen: Readers Weigh In
I’ve been trying to get some feedback on my Beginner’s Guide to Yemen, because, as freelance journalist Iona Craig put it so eloquently in this NPR bit, “you’re never going sit back and say, yeah, I know everything about Yemen. And if you do, you’re a complete fool.” Thus, I periodically try to re-up a link to the post to get some more suggestions. As you can...
Thoughts on Terrorist Disengagement and CVE
Recently, Will McCants wrote a pair of posts on Jihadica covering the topic of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). Part 1 dealt with developing a good definition of CVE, while Part 2 evaluated what the scope of CVE programs should be. I have to admit, I struggled with McCants’ definition before I fully wrapped my mind around what he meant by it. This is not the first time McCants has...
Links Dump 3/2/12
Until I write another real post, you’ll just have to deal with another links dump. AltertNet - Yemeni militant group says killed CIA agent in Aden Reuters - U.S. security team attacked in Yemen, bomb injures 22 Counterfire - Yemen: another failure for the US ‘war on terror’ Al Jazeera - America’s Dangerous Game RAND Corp. - Individual disengagement from Al...
Links Dump 2/28/12 (Updated)
It’s been one of those weeks where I intended to write a blog post or three and just couldn’t make it happen. (It didn’t help when I accidentally closed the tab in which I had an almost completed post, and was only able to retrieve the title.) So, we’ll have to settle for a links dump. US Embassy in Yemen - Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan press roundtable ...
Very Quick Thoughts on Yemen's Election
Yemen held its election yesterday, and Hadi - the only candidate for president - was elected. There’s been several articles written about this already, and I am sure more to come as people try to figure out just what the election means for Yemen. For the moment, though, I want to comment very briefly on one aspect of the election: its impact on the tribes and existing power structure in...
Links Dump 2/20/12
A small links dump of randomness: The Media Line - Interview: Yemen’s Future Remains Uncertain CNN - Al Qaeda’s biggest threat [Ibrahim al-Asiri] Al-Wasat - The Formalizing of an Affiliation: Somalia’s Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen & Al-Qa’ida Central Selected Wisdom - al Qaeda & al Shabaab Merger: Why now? Today - British Muslims ‘recruited to fight for Al Qaeda...
A few words from Ansar al-Shariah
A few days ago, one of the people I follow on Twitter - I think Aaron Zelin - posted a link to an Interview of Al-Gomhoriah With Sheikh Tariq Al-Dahab Amir of Ansar Al-Sharia in Radda. It’s always a good idea, when trying to understand a person or group, to see what they say for themselves. So, lest there be any question what Ansar al-Shariah is all about, let’s see what its leader,...
Is Ansar al-Shariah Becoming Yemen's Taliban?
I should probably note here that the more I worked on writing this, the more muddled it became in my mind. Thus, the following is less of an argument and more of an attempt to get even some kind of clear thinking on the subject. Moreover, much of what follows is conjecture based on little primary research or evidence. Recent events in Yemen have caused some of the observers of the country to...
Al-Qaeda and Jon Stewart
As 2011 waned, and 2012 began, many scholars adopted the “year in review” approach to their blog posts. They commented on all that had happened in 2011, and postulated about what might come in the current year. It was, the consensus seems to be, a bad year for al-Qaeda: Osama bin Laden was killed, as was Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Qaeda Central in Pakistan was scattered by a constant...
Links Dump 1/22/12
And … still haven’t written that anticipated post yet. Still have an ever-increasing list of articles to read. Here’s some. Saleh Reuters - Yemen’s Saleh leaves for U.S., opponents protest NYT - Yemeni President Leaves, Heading for U.S. McClatchy - Yemen’s President Saleh departs to US for medical treatment [3/2011] Time - Yemen’s Crisis: The President...
May or May Not
In Yemen, AQAP may or may not be taking over Sana’a, as al-Qaeda may or may not be dying, and elections may or may not be postponed. And one of these days, I hope to blog about all this and more.
Links Dump 1/14/12
I’ve got a post percolating, but until then I really need to empty my browser of some open tabs so I can ever figure out what I’ve even got open. There may be some redundancies from previous posts, and I haven’t really made any effort to categorize them. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross - Terrorism and the Coming Decade Daveed Gartenstein-Ross - Al Qaeda Round-Up, 2012 Daveed...
Thoughts on Daveed Gartenstein-Ross's "My Year...
I’ve been interested in reading Daveed Gartenstein-Ross’s memoir My Year Inside Radical Islam ever since I read his September Q&A with Andrew Exum about his new book, Bin Laden’s Legacy: Why We’re Still Losing the War on Terror. The premise of the book fascinated me: someone who had been born to a Jewish family, converted to Islam, eventually slid into radical Islam,...
New Book on Radicalization #CVE | Selected Wisdom →
Gotta remember to check this out. Glad to see we’re getting more on the subject.
Reading List 12/24 (Updated)
As we head into Christmas, that time of hope, peace, and joy, world events yet again remind us that peace has not yet been fulfilled. Christmas reminds us every year to expectantly wait for the peace that is coming. This reading list differs some from those before, because it not only provides a list of news stories that I want to read, but it also includes others’ reading lists - those...
On Terrorists in Love
I recently finished Ken Ballen’s fascinating book, Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals (which certainly sparked plenty of discussion from people who saw me reading it during my lunch breaks at work). I wasn’t sure what to expect from the book, which I picked up on a whim from the library. I thought, perhaps, that it would profile a few (ex) terrorists, and then ...