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  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Yemen is at a pivotal moment today, three years after the outbreak of popular protests, and the future of America's strategy against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is on the line. Yemen is in the midst of a political transition process that will eventually reform and decentralize the government. But the success of the effort is by no means assured. The reforms will not, in any case, address the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions that provide fertile ground for al Qaeda. Moreover, the central state, never fully able to exercise its sovereignty throughout the country, is weaker than it was before 2011. Opposition groups, which have turned to violence in the past, may still seek to form independent states of their own, potentially collapsing the fragile Yemeni state structure entirely. American interests are bound up in this process by the fact that AQAP is among the most virulent al Qaeda affiliates that poses a direct threat to the U.S. homeland. Syria, Iran, and other foreign and domestic policy issues are distracting the United States and its regional partners from sustained engagement in Yemen. Without international support, the country is much less likely to ride this transition process smoothly and our security interests will be severely harmed.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Danielle Pletka, Frederick W. Kagan, J. Matthew McInnis
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: A review of the soft-power strategies of both the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Middle East and Afghanistan makes clear a disturbing fact: Tehran has a coherent, if sometimes ineffective strategy to advance its aims in the Middle East and around the world. The United States does not. This project began with two tour d'horizon reviews of Iranian activities throughout areas Iran has, by its actions, defined as its sphere of influence. From the Persian Gulf through the Levant and into neighboring Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic has consistently invested in soft- and hard-power activities designed not only to extend its own influence but also to limit both American and hostile Arab aims. And while the latter part of the Ahmadinejad administration saw waning rewards for Tehran's efforts-a result more of the growing Sunni-Shia divide in the Middle East than of changes in strategy-the continued existence of a coherent Iranian strategy to dominate or destabilize the region should not be ignored. This report, the culmination of a process of both examining Iranian actions and surveying American policy, policy responses, and soft-power strategies in the region, focuses on the US side of the equation. Despite the Obama administration's commitment to replace hard power with smart power, what the United States pursues in the Middle East is a set of incoherent, ineffective, and increasingly irrelevant policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Islam, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Iran, Central Asia, Middle East
  • Author: Mary Habeck
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates throughout the Muslim-majority world. While there are many reasons for this failure, three key issues stand out: a poor definition of the enemy, an incorrect view of its objectives, and the adoption of a strategy that will not defeat the latest evolution of this adaptive organization. If the US understood al Qaeda as it is: the leadership and field army of an insurgency with worldwide linkages that hopes to impose its extremist version of shari'a , govern territory, and overthrow the leaders of every Muslim- majority country, the current national strategy for combating al Qaeda would not be confined to counter - terrorism and attrition, but would instead make counterinsurgency-without large numbers of American ground forces-its main technique for confronting and defeating the organization.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The failure to define al Qaeda properly has confused American policy and strategy. The enemy was not just the man shot dead on May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, nor is it the 1.5 billion Muslims for whom Osama bin Laden claimed to speak.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, War, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, America
  • Author: Charlie Szrom, Chris Harnisch
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The environment in which an al Qaeda affiliate operates is one of the most important factors in assessing the threat it poses to US interests. Defeating the militant Islamist network led by al Qaeda requires a nuanced strategy that supports the appropriate combination and prioritization of policies and approaches for each environment in which an al Qaeda affiliate or franchise operates. The US government has not articulated such a strategy, a deficiency that acquires urgency because terrorist groups based abroad have been linked to three attacks against the American homeland in the past year. Building a strategy to oppose the al Qaeda network requires detailed understanding of its different operating environments, the ties between its various parts, and how territory affects its vitality. A comprehensive strategy should deny the al Qaeda network access to operating environments from which it can pose a major threat to the United States and the West.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, America