Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:09 am (KSA) 21:09 pm (GMT)

The Afghanistans of the Arab world

Ali Ibrahim

Hardly a week goes by without reports of clashes or violence or assassinations in southern Yemen, most of which can be attributed to elements of Al Qaeda that appear to be trying to settle there, and this is through the group that was established last year under the name Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

As was the case in Afghanistan, the followers of this violent ideology exploit volatile local conditions and the absence of a strong central authority in certain regions in order to extend their influence and establish training camps and bases from which they can increase regional unrest or plan bombings and terrorist operations, with these terrorist operations not necessarily taking place in the same areas that these bases are located in.

Following Afghanistan and Iraq, where youths were sent after they had been brainwashed to become suicide bombers or walking bombs, this [ideological] current fulfilled its objective by following a new strategy of attempting to establish itself in Arab or adjacent regions in a similar position with regards to influence and authority to that it enjoyed in Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban. This includes certain regions of Yemen and Somalia, and the large border regions in African countries that border the states of the Arab Maghreb, while there is also talk about organizations that have similar ideology currently active in Gaza.

The Al Qaeda elements are trying to find a permanent foot-hold in these new regions, the most dangerous of which is Yemen due to its strategically important position, and because extremist ideology here is capable of doing ten times more damage then it was capable of doing in Afghanistan during the Taliban era.

It is true that the central authority in Yemen is in a different situation than that of Afghanistan, for the state institutions are still strong, and this includes its military and security apparatus. However the accumulation and escalation of problems and tension in southern and northern Yemen, not to mention the other challenges that the country is facing such as economic problems, poverty, clean water, and others, means that there must concern over the capability of these institution's to cope with all of these issues at the same time.

It is not secret that Yemen has become highly placed on the map of global hotspots in the eyes of Washington and other western countries, and there is talk of Yemen being a candidate of becoming another Afghanistan in the heart of the Arab region.

As usual, the reaction from the Arab countries is late, or takes place after the crisis or disaster has already occurred, due to sensitivities or etiquette, at the same time they could have avoided this if they took action before the situation become so serious.

The hotbeds of unrest where elements of Al Qaeda or the organizations that are ideologically linked to it are not following a reassuring course of events. This is something that requires genuine Arab thinking and cooperation in order to eradicate. Yemen requires an Arab solution to help it politically, militarily, and economically overcome the crises that it is currently facing and to prevent the situation deteriorating further, for this is better than any future scenario that would see international forces entering Yemen to confront terrorism, in the same manner [of international forces] in Afghanistan today.

*Published in the London-based ASHARQ ALAWSAT on Aug. 24, 2010.

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