- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s beginning to look like Yemen is the new Afghanistan - a failed Muslim state turned into an al Qaeda safe haven. The Christmas Day bombing plot was hatched there. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared yesterday that instability in Yemen poses a “global threat.” The United States is conducting air strikes against jihadist militants. In a recent Fox News online poll, 60 percent of respondents agreed that this country should “organize an offensive in Yemen in response to Al Qaeda threats.” Help is on the way from America, but unfortunately they are terrorist reinforcements.

Over the weekend, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, reiterated the administration’s intention to continue sending Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. About a third of the remaining detainees at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are Yemeni, the largest single national group being held.

Six Yemeni detainees were returned in December, and “several of those detainees were put into Yemeni custody right away,” Mr. Brennan said.

But according to a report from Yemen monitored by the BBC, the freed fighters “arrived in Yemen in order to arrange for the release procedures, question them and make them sign the required pledges that they will not join Al Qaeda after they are released.” Call us cynical, but we doubt that “taking the pledge” is going to stop these men from finding ways to continue the jihad.

One of the jihadists released in December is Faruq Ali Ahmed (Detainee No. 32), who, according to the October 2005 Administrative Review Board Proceeding, was accused of being one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards while the terror mastermind was hunkered down in Tora Bora in December 2001. Mr. Ahmed denied having anything to do with bin Laden, saying he was in Afghanistan only to teach the Koran to children and was never involved with terrorism. Mr. Ahmed said that if he were released he would like to “play soccer, get married, get his own house and find a job in Yemen.” He added that he “does not feel any animosity towards the United States.” We hope that Mr. Ahmed settles down, gets a job, starts a family and plays a lot of soccer in his free time; but somehow we doubt it.

The Obama administration expanded the “catch and release” program started under the previous administration in part out of necessity. After making a high-profile campaign pledge to close the detainee facility at Guantanamo, Mr. Obama’s team had to figure out what to do with the inmates. Prior experience should have cautioned Obama officials that release might not be the best option. A Defense Intelligence Agency analysis of the first 530 released detainees found that up to 74 had returned to terrorism, including two senior leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the franchise behind the Christmas Day bombing plot. The detainees currently being held are the hardcore jihadists whose recidivism rate can be expected to be higher.

The New York Times reported on Dec. 31 that some administration officials are questioning whether this is the right time to send more detainees back to Yemen. With the U.S. Embassy locked down and ringed with Yemeni troops to prevent a replay of the 1983 Beirut embassy bombing, the answer to that question should be obvious. It’s NO.

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