On Monday, April 19, 2010, the Foreign Policy Initiative and the Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute organized a panel. The group was assembled to talk about Al-Qaeda and their operations in countries such as Yemen and Somalia. The moderator of this panel is Charlie Szrom, the program manager for the Critical Threats Project. Some of the names included Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, the director of the Center for Terrorism Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, John Kiriakou, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer and Chris Harnisch, an AEI Research Analyst.
Szrom opened this panel with the truth, which may have been concerning at the time. He pointed out that al-Qaeda has spread across the world and they were present on the Arabian Peninsula, while al-Shabaab was in Somalia. This meant that the war against al-Qaeda could not end in Afghanistan, near the border of Pakistan. Iraq’s al-Qaeda was the most notorious one, but the two groups Szrom mentioned were considered a threat to the American homeland.
Meanwhile, Harnisch pointed out that excellent communication characterized the relationship between the central leadership of al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Yemen and Somalia. In Yemen, there were 200-500 operatives, and then-President Saleh showed reluctance to act. The US was debating whether President Saleh should be considered an enemy, but they saw him as the partner in the War on Terror. On the other hand, there was Al-Shabaab, which was a cross between al-Qaeda and the Taliban. They were a much greater threat, with 2,500 operatives that spread terror through Somalia and imposed ideology upon people in this country. They also threatened to attack the American homeland.
Daveed Gartenstein Ross noted that the American government knew little of what was going on in Somalia. Since the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, the US neglected this region and this shouldn’t have happened. Last but not least Kiriakou outlined the situation in Yemen. People were facing poverty, living on less than $2 per day, while the country experienced lack of oil and drinking water problems in the capital. President Saleh wanted to leave al-Qaeda in order to draw the United States in this, but he quickly realized that they were an imminent threat to his rule.