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NORTH: American capabilities and vulnerabilities
There is no doubt that the terrible earthquake in Haiti - the worst disaster in the history of the Western Hemisphere - is a tragedy of profound proportions. The good news is that the “first responders” on-scene were wearing American uniforms. The U.S. Coast Guard - motto: “Semper Paratus” - Latin for “Always Ready” - was “firstest with the mostest” - and began providing emergency assistance within hours of the Tuesday night quake.
The White House quickly ordered reinforcements. A veritable armada of U.S. Navy ships and aircraft, USAF cargo and aero-medical flights, a brigade of the 82nd Airborne and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit were all dispatched for rescue, relief and security operations. In an era where the so-called mainstream media makes much of how our armed forces are “overstretched” by commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden - the U.S. military’s rapid reaction to the catastrophe in Haiti is a lesson for the potentates of the press - and tin-horn despots like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
Events in Haiti have eclipsed some good news from the war in Afghanistan. Last week on Fox News, I described how the Haqqani Network - perhaps the most dangerous terror group operating against NATO Forces and the Karzai government in Kabul - was tripped up by the malfeasance of their leaders. A grotesque series of pornographic videos, apparently made by senior members of the Haqqani organization, show them committing serial rape. The perpetrators and victims - young, ethnic Pashtu girls and boys - are clearly visible in videos being distributed on Islamic Web sites, DVDs and VHS tapes sold at “porn bazaars” in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Outraged Muslim clerics, have accused those involved of “crimes against Islam.”
The “founder” of the terror network, Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, was once the Taliban minister of borders and tribal areas. His oldest son, Sirajuddin, aka Siraj, now runs day-to-day operations of the organization and maintains close ties with Taliban leaders and al Qaeda. The network operates from tribal havens along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and is believed to be connected to a wave of suicide bombings - including the Dec. 30 attack at Camp Chapman in Khost Province that killed six CIA personnel and wounded seven others.
Widespread dissemination of the “Haqqani porn videos” by clerics calling for “righteous Muslims to rise up against those who perform such acts” may seriously damage the network’s base of support - and disenchant supposedly devout Wahhabi financiers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates. If that happens, it is very good news indeed.
Now for the bad news. Yemen is a much bigger problem than anyone ever believed before Christmas Day when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to bring down Northwest Airlines flight 253 with a bomb in his underwear.
Since then we have learned that the young Nigerian was not a “lone wolf” or an “isolated case” - as we were initially told by the Obama administration. We now know that there are in fact many more al Qaeda-trained terrorists in Yemen preparing for attacks on Americans - there, elsewhere around the world and here at home. We have also learned that the O-Team - so quick in sending much needed help to Haiti - is slow off the mark when it comes to dealing with this threat.
That Yemen is a hotbed for radical Islamists should not be a surprise to anyone. This is, after all, the place where al Qaeda terrorists blew a hole in the USS Cole, killing 17 American sailors and wounding more than 30 others on Oct. 12, 2000. Yemen is where convicted terrorist John Walker Lindh - captured in Afghanistan in 2001 was “radicalized.” It was after visiting Yemen that Carlos Leon Bledsoe - aka Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad - decided to shoot up a U.S. Army Recruiting Center in Little Rock, Ark., killing one soldier and critically wounding another.
Yemen is where radical, American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki foments jihad against us. It was to Mr. al-Awlaki in Yemen that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army physician, turned for counsel before opening fire, killing 13 soldiers and wounding 31 other at Fort Hood on Nov. 5. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal - the Jordanian physician who blew himself up at the CIA base in Afghanistan last month - was a member of Yemen-based, online radical Islamic forum, Hisbah.net. Now we know that 55,000 Americans are currently “visiting, living or studying in Yemen.”
That stunning number is in a letter Rep. Frank Wolf, Virginia Republican, author of the 1998 legislation creating the National Terrorism Commission, sent to the White House this week. The congressman points out, “All these individuals can fly back to the United States with American passports,” and asks how the Obama administration plans to handle those who may be coming home, radicalized and trained in terror.
The really bad news is that when it comes to Yemen, the O-Team doesn’t have a plan.
Oliver North is the host of “War Stories” on the Fox News Channel, the author of “American Heroes”(B&H Books, 2008), and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.
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