Yemen: 'Major Staging Base' for Al Qaeda

A: Well, the al Qaeda cell in Indonesia has been under severe attack from the government for the last several years, and they may feel the government of Indonesia's security procedures are good enough, I don't know. That's a case-by-case and you really have to know what are the procedures of each airport. So I really can't comment on how good those procedures are.

Q: What are your recommendations for dealing with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen going forward?

VIDEO: US Embassy in Yemen Closes Over Al-Qaida Threats
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A: Recommendations for dealing with this problem is that we have to try to push the Yemeni authorities to see this as not just a threat to us but, in very real terms, a threat to them as well. And that means having intense engagement with the Saleh government at all levels; political, intelligence, military. And being willing to provide concrete support to help them.

The last thing I would say about recommendations is that I think the administration needs to recognize that this is not just a counterterrorism problem, but a larger problem of the U.S. relationship with the Islamic world. The president made an excellent start by addressing those larger issues in Cairo, but talking the talk is not enough. He needs to continue to push forward on issues like Arab-Israeli peace, the Kashmir conflict, and other issues which serve as the recruiting forces for al Qaeda, not just in Yemen, but on the global stage.

Deputy Natl. Security Adviser John Brennan on This Week
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Al Qaeda today is the world's first truly global terrorist organization, and we can only defeat it if we see it in those terms, as a group that has created cells from Mauritania to Indonesia, and in the Muslim diasporas in Europe, and, now, increasingly among a small minority of disaffected Muslims in the United States of America. And to counter that threat requires not just the counterterrorism and military measures, but it also means countering the ideology that attracts this minority.

Q: Where else should we be looking that we're currently not?

A: I think the most worrisome indications are that groups that are affiliated with al Qaeda, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that attacked Mumbai a year ago November, are becoming increasingly parts of the al Qaeda global network. And groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba have global supporters in Pakistani diaspora communities in the United States, in Canada, throughout Western Europe.

VIDEO: Yemen government says al Qaeda has a growing presence in its country.
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We have the case of the Pakistani-American David Headley, who was part of the casing of Mumbai for the Lashkar-e-Taiba attack and who was in contact with a very, very senior al Qaeda operative, Ilyas Kashmiri, which is why the FBI finally closed in on him, and arrested him last October.

And groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which are on the radar screen of the intelligence community, are less on the radar screen of governments more broadly, but could become even more pressing threats in the future.

Click here to read Bruce Riedel's full biography, or to find his articles on al Qaeda in Yemen.

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