Top U.S. Marine Amos on Yemen: “˜I Don’t Know How It’s Going to Turn Out’

Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
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Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
Aug. 8, 2013, 7:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — Mar­ine Corps Com­mand­ant Gen. James Amos is “con­cerned” about al-Qaida in Ye­men, where the gov­ern­ment says it just foiled a plot by al-Qaida to blow up ports and oil pipelines and cap­ture sev­er­al key cit­ies in a bid to gain a new foothold there. But with more than a dozen U.S. em­bassies and con­su­lates still closed world­wide in re­sponse to the threat, the na­tion’s top Mar­ine of­ficer said he does not know what to ex­pect next from al-Qaida, warn­ing the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity to pay close at­ten­tion to Ye­men.

“I don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen there and I don’t know what the next – you know, if you could move the book for­ward a couple chapters – I don’t know what it’s go­ing to look like,” said Amos, in an ex­clus­ive in­ter­view with De­fense One in his Pentagon of­fice.

The in­ter­cep­ted threat promp­ted the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to shut down 20 U.S. em­bassies and dip­lo­mat­ic posts, in­clud­ing in the cap­it­al Saan’a, from Africa to South Asia. Mil­it­ary lead­ers are on edge as the vi­ol­ence in Ye­men grows, watch­ing to see if al-Qaida really is on the run or on its back heels, as many top of­fi­cials at the Pentagon have been claim­ing.

This new plot, however, has Amos wor­ried about what the fu­ture holds for this small but stra­tegic na­tion that sits on the Gulf of Ad­en, where al-Qaida in the Ar­a­bi­an Pen­in­sula has set up its headquar­ters. And, des­pite some good in­tel­li­gence and a strong part­ner­ship with the Yemini mil­it­ary, he’s still not sure how it all will turn out.

“I worry that it be­comes, to some de­gree, a breed­ing ground for al-Qaida,” Amos said on Wed­nes­day. “I think that in­ter­na­tion­ally prob­ably most of the west­ern­ized coun­tries in the world should be pay­ing very close at­ten­tion to what’s hap­pen­ing with AQAP. So, I am con­cerned about that the same way I think all our na­tions are. I don’t know how it’s go­ing to turn out, it’s hard to say.”

Amos said Ye­men could be­come like the rugged bor­der moun­tains of Afgh­anistan were in 2001, where Osama bin Laden found a place to rally his sup­port­ers and plan the Sept. 11 at­tacks.

“I mean, it’s a stra­tegic part of the world and by vir­tue of the fact that a large per­cent­age, or some per­cent­age, of the bad guys have mi­grated there and are try­ing to get a foothold, it’s in our in­terest to pay close at­ten­tion,” he said.

Amos said al-Qaida is frac­tured but try­ing des­per­ately to re­or­gan­ize it­self while Ye­men con­tin­ues to try to fight an in­flux of fight­ers with­in its bor­ders with the help of tar­geted U.S. drone strikes. His com­ment came as the Daily Beast first re­por­ted that 20 of the top al-Qaida lead­ers or­ches­trated a con­fer­ence call to plot their at­tacks in Ye­men. They clearly want a new stomp­ing ground, and Ye­men fits that bill.

Amos said the U.S. mil­it­ary is do­ing what it can to try to con­tain al-Qaida’s pres­ence in Ye­men and in the re­gion, cit­ing the re­cent French mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in Mali as an ex­ample of how to suc­cess­fully achieve that.

“When the French went in­to Mali, they went in­to Mali for many of the same reas­ons. They’re con­cerned about al-Qaida in that part of the world and so they took it upon them­selves to try to help a small, be­lea­guered coun­try that kind of re­gained its bor­ders and re­gained its sense of se­cur­ity. So I think there are oth­er places around the world be­sides Ye­men, but Ye­men is in the head­lines right now,” Amos said. “It’s a dan­ger­ous place.”

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from De­fense One. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

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