Thursday, April 21, 2011

Uprisings in Islamic world undermine U.S. war on terrorism

Violent uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, coupled by strained relations between the Untied States and Pakistan, are overwhelming American counterterrorism efforts aimed at al Qaeda, giving the terrorist organization breathing room to plan attacks on the West, intelligence analysts and military officials say.

Upheaval in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and other Muslim nations has dislodged or distracted some of the U.S. allies who once helped the intelligence community, from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to his counterpart in Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official who headed the Obama administration's Afghanistan-Pakistan review last year, said, "in the short term the upheavals in the Arab world are a big setback for counterterrorism against al Qaeda and its allies."

Riedel said deposed or endangered officials like ex-Vice President of Egypt Omar Sulaiman, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's defected Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and embattled President Saleh of Yemen and Syrian leader Bashar Assad "fought al Qaeda ruthlessly," said Riedel, who is now a senior analyst at the Brookings Institution.

"Now they are gone or going," he added. "Who ever replaces them will not be as effective, at least at first. Al Qaeda has in its own words 'great expectations' that it can exploit this opening."