"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Incompetence? Complicity? Or Bad Luck?

Nasser Arrabyee has an excellent piece on the escape of many AQAP fighters from the battle of Al Huta.  He calls it the "hit and run" style of fighting.  I don't know if this is deliberately Fabian, but it might be a pattern.  This isn't the first time AQAP has been surrounded and about to be crushed by the government before slipping away (not all of AQAP, of course- they are too diffuse to be slaughtered in one battle).  So this raises three possibilities.  Probably more, actually, with many sub-possibilities, but I've already typed the word "three", and I will be damned if I backspace.

1) Incompetence.  The Yemeni army, even with US training, isn't exactly a skilled and professional fighting force.  Sure, they stopped the pipeline attack, and that was good, but even with overwhelming numbers they were unable to capture or kill a cornered and desperate force.   They are trying, but just don't have the abilities or the leadership to have anything more than sporadic and limited success.

2) Complicity.  This is the conspiracy angle.  Salih loves getting US dollars, and knows that he has to be a willing partner.  The attack, following Brennan's visit, was a great example of a dude firmly on our side in all this.  He was trying to level a great blow against his and America's mutual enemies.  But letting them slip away ensures more dollars.   It is the double game we're all familiar with- taking money but letting the problem continue, on order to keep taking money. 

3) Bad luck.  Tough terrain, hostile locals (it was in the south, where there is already seething anger at the government), a quick and slippery opponent.  At Tora Bora, bin Laden and co. managed to slip away from the greatest army the world has ever seen.  How can you blame the Yemenis for similar misfortune? 

Temperamentally, I tend to lean toward 1 or 3- human events are far more the product of chance, circumstance and lack of planning than they are the result of conspiracy or long-term duplicity.  This is especially true in Yemen, where long-term planning is often over-whelmed with the immediate needs of the day. 

Now, Salih has obviously played the double-game before, fighting some terrorists but coddling others.  As I've argued before, I don't think this is sign of bad character- it is a sign that he is the President of Yemen, not the United States.  It is childish to think that he, or any other leader, would act solely and 100% in line with the US.   That said, I think that he is concerned with beating AQAP, since they are a constant thorn in his side and are intent on bringing him down.  My take is that while Salih wouldn't mind stretching things out, and almost certainly will, he also wants to successful operations- and not just for PR.

If this pattern continues though, I might be forced to change my mind and delete this post and swear all of you to silence, under penalty of torture.  But for now I'd be interested to hear which of the above three readers think is closest to the truth, or something else I haven't thought of.

1 comment:

  1. Wouldn't you say 1 and 3 are pretty much the same idea? I'd agree with you that those are the most likely reasons, but I'd say a lack of will, #2, extends through the other reasons. I wouldn't go so far as to consider it complicity, but more, like I said, a lack of will. Yes, Salih wasnt to break AQAP, but not as badly as we do. By that I mean it isn't necessiarly his top-most priority. It may be tied for top, but in the mond of the West, nothing should compete with AQAP for funds, manpower, or resources.