Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is Yemen the next Afghanistan?

It depends on who you ask.

Princeton University Ph.D. candidate Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, told Huffington Post that while he doesn't think Yemen will supplant the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region as the most important front in the war against Al Qaeda, he does believe Yemen has become "a significant front" now that the Al Qaeda organization has gone from a local chapter to a regional franchise.

Johnsen, who blogs about Yemen at, warned that Yemen's economy is getting weaker by the day. "And as less and less money comes in, the government is less able to control the state, primarily because deals made in the past were dependent upon having enough money to buy off domestic opponents. If Yemen becomes a failed state, it will open up a great deal of space for terrorist groups and individuals to move in."

This possibility concerns the U.S. for many reasons, including the fact that Yemen shares a border with Saudi Arabia, and Yemen controls the narrow Bab-el-Mandeb Strait -- a checkpoint through which 3.3 million barrels of oil are shipped every day.

"Information on Yemen is hard to get, so people will project all kinds of fears," cautioned Charles Schmitz, an associate professor at Towson University. Schmitz told Huffington Post that one of the big misunderstandings is that somehow Yemen is going to become what Afghanistan was prior to 2001 -- a base from which international enemies of the U.S. can operate. "In my opinion Al Qaeda is an irritant, but they are no more than an irritant," said Schmitz. "The Yemeni government has enough control to knock out a permanent Al Qaeda training camp."

For this whole article in The Huffinton Post, see HERE.

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