Part-Time Allies

President Bush famously said after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that every country had to decide whether they were with us or against us. Unfortunately, several so-called allies have decided to tackle some terrorist groups and not others, believing that the U.S. has no other option but to accept their half-hearted collaboration. Recent news from Yemen and Pakistan show that these two countries are double-dealing and need to be held accountable.

The Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi announced that high-level Al-Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, will not be extradited to the United States if they capture him, even though he is an American citizen. Al-Awlaki is thought to be connected to the Fort Hood shooting and the Christmas Day underwear bomb plot. The Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen is becoming increasingly active, with up to 36 former prison inmates in the U.S. having joined the group.

This follows an earlier incident where al-Qirbi said that his government was not actively trying to arrest al-Awlaki, saying he was seen as a preacher. He then clarified that statement, saying he was only referring to the period when al-Awlaki initially moved to Yemen from the U.S. and was not accused of being involved in terrorism. He explained that the Yemeni government wants to arrest al-Awlaki, but blamed the U.S. for not providing adequate intelligence to allow them to locate him. We have heard the Pakistanis use a similar defense over the years when confronted with their resistance to arresting Taliban leaders.

Yemen has long harbored Al-Qaeda and radical Salafi elements, making various deals with them and openly negotiating truces when conflict arose. President Saleh’s government and security forces are known to have close ties to the Salafi tribes, whose members are reliable allies when fighting the radical Shiite Houthi rebels.

Imprisoned Al-Qaeda members frequently “escape” from prison. In February 2006, 23 Al-Qaeda members, including some involved in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the 2003 bombings in Riyadh, found their way out of a high-security prison. When they were rearrested, the Yemeni government pardoned them after they disavowed terrorism. In February 2009, Yemen released 170 Al-Qaeda members after they promised not to return to terrorism. The Arab press reported last year that two Al-Qaeda camps were in Yemen, with one in Abyan Province housing about 400 terrorists.

The problem is similar in Pakistan. Although the Pakistani military has launched offensives to take back territory held by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and like-minded terrorists, the government is still allowing some terrorist groups and Taliban figures to have freedom on their soil. The arrest in February of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second-in-command of the Taliban, was seen as a turning point, but at least two other senior Taliban officials were released.

The Haqqani network, which is allied to the Taliban, remains immune from Pakistani counter-terrorism efforts. Last May, U.S. intelligence found that the Taliban’s capabilities had expanded due to the assistance of members of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service which was providing money, weapons and even “strategic planning guidance.” The ISI’s S-Wing was accused of supporting the branch of the Taliban in Quetta in Baluchistan Province, where Mullah Omar is believed to be, as well as the Haqqani network and the forces led by Guldbuddin Hekmatyar, another Taliban ally.

The failed plot by Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban to set off a car bomb in Times Square proves that all jihadist groups in Pakistan must be eliminated in order to stop attacks on the homeland and on American interests. At least four members of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) have been arrested by the Pakistani authorities as part of their investigation into Shahzad, and he has told his captors that he met with a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) while in Pakistan. In December, five Americans who traveled to Pakistan to join the Taliban and Al-Qaeda stayed at a safehouse provided by a member of Jaish-e-Mohammed.

The leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed openly preaches anti-Western extremism and jihad in Pakistan and although Lashkar-e-Taiba is banned, it continues to operate under the name of Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, is on house arrest but still preaches to thousands in Lahore.

The two groups are even allowed to operate schools. Reporters have found two madrasses openly run by Jaish-e-Mohammed. After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the LET said it ran over 202 schools as well as hospitals and charities in the country. Only a handful of the schools have been closed. Reporters have also observed the JEM’s headquarters in Bahawalpur in Punjab Province operating freely. After their presence was learned of, a checkpoint was established but the facility remained open.

Arnaud de Borchgrave wrote in The Washington Times recently that Pakistan “is still producing an estimated 10,000 potential jihadis a year out of 500,000 graduates from Pakistan’s 11,000 madrasses.” Any school run by extremist needs to be seen as an enemy base, no different than a training camp.

The U.S. cannot afford to allow Yemen and Pakistan to continue their current behavior. The governments of these two countries may argue that aggressive action could cause a backlash. The U.S. must emphasize that if action is not taken by them, then the CIA’s drones will take the action for them. The public pressure they fear will become a reality due to their own inaction.

This conflict is more than a war against Al-Qaeda. It is a war against an entire radical Islamic infrastructure with each component being as important as the next. There must be no distinction made between Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, like the one in Yemen, and similar but separate groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan.

  • Jane Novak

    When I saw the headline on my google alert, I knew the article was by Ryan Mauro and would likely be spot-on. It is and it was.

  • Turbeaux

    Pakistan and Yemen, like America’s other staunch allies in the region, the venerable House of Saud and the Gulf States, Jordan, and Egypt, are all playing double games with American useful idiot diplomats, while making out like bandits with tons of free foreign aid with no strings attached or transparency and I have news for you, they have been doing it since long before 9/11.

    Moreover, since you consistently claim that there is a distinct form of Islam known as radical Islam that must mean that there is a version of Islam that you consider to be less radical. Okay, let’s see that particular version of less radical Islam. Where is it? Show us the version of Islam that according to you most of the world’s Muslims follow, as opposed to the tiny minority of Muslims that you claim follow radical Islam, and that also must teach all Muslims to live in peace and harmony side by side with non-Muslim kafir infidels.

    Finally, could you further qualify please this radical Islamic infrastructure that you are talking about for us? What exactly does it consist of and comprise? Thank you.

  • USMCSniper

    Both Pakistan and Yemen are Muslim nations with their school systems dominated by Wahhabism. To even think that we could have either of the as reliable allies in the war against radical Islam is naive and dangerous. Taliban dominates large swaths of Afghanistan and a most of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are recognized legal organizations in Yemen and Hamas maintains offices in the country and conduct fundraising efforts through mosques. Al-Qaeda reportedly still has several training camps in Yemen. This keep our enemies closer as allies is dangerous if we are careless, particularly with nuclear armed Pakistan.

    • em2brown

      what happened when god sent the israilites out to war they killed them and took no prisioners god why cant we wake up. if they could beat us they would be over here trying it so get them first sheesh

  • Jared


    thank you for your cutting insights as to how alienating the Awalik tribe in Abyan and Shabwa may in fact destabilize the Saleh regime and hinder the broader campaign against AQAP. The Christian Action Network and this Publication are lucky to have you!

  • Indioviejo

    I'm sorry Ryan, I think you are very knowledgeable, and honest in your assessment, but for all your insight into this byzantine alliance, I suspect the problem is simpler than we would like to think. All muslims are the enemy. Some are active, some sleeper cells, and some temporarily passive, but none love freedom, nor us. We err at our own peril, and our naivette will extract a heavy price in the long run We need to face reality and know our enemy, Islam

  • badaboo

    of course Pakistan and Yemen are not "committed allies " in the war on terrorists….they are both muslim nations , and what they are truly committed to, is the agenda of ALL muslims , to destroy America , to destroy Israel , and to subjugate the world to islam .