Archive for April, 2010
New York- We have a new book out on Yemen and its three primary security struggles of the Saada war/Houthi rebellion in the north along the Saudi border, the rejuvenation of secessionist sentiments in the south, and as if those weren’t enough, threats from AQAP leaders.
“The Battle for Yemen is a rare and comprehensive volume that tackles the facets of instability that currently plague Yemen. It offers a wealth of analysis and keen observations from the experts of The Jamestown Foundation, who have monitored the developments within Yemen since 2004. Combining indigenous sources with original analytical insights, this book represents a vital research tool for those seeking a detailed account of Yemen’s struggle for stability, the various movements that shape the security environment, and the radical personalities that strive to undermine the Saleh government and its partnership with the United States.”
Order your copy from Jamestown here for $24.95.
Washington D.C.- We had a very interesting conference on Yemen last week at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on think-tank row. I headed down from New York to meet some of my new colleagues from Militant Leadership Monitor and to help out with the event. After our Jamestown event concluded, I rushed over to Tenleytown to the campus of American University to attend the tail end of Jen Marlowe’s Rebuilding Hope screening and a night out at a vaguely themed Afro-Middle Eastern bar called Soussi in Adams Morgan. Just another 18 hour day in D.C.. Good thing I don’t live down there!
New York- In October of 2004, I received a strange call from an FBI agent at their Manhattan headquarters named Teresa Meehan. Agent Meehan has apparently been tailing me and clipped her business card to a piece of my mail in Brooklyn at the time to let me know she was on the case. What case that was, I had no idea at the time.
The other week I was browsing the new non-fiction releases at the Union Square Barnes & Noble and I picked what looked like another ex-CIA tell all. The Reluctant Spy by former Agency man John Kiriakou caught my attention for some reason and I started flipping through it looking for nuggets until I saw a strange photo in the center. I was of a van packed with files in Peshawar, Pakistan in February of March of 2002 claiming to be from the “Taliban Embassy” (actually the Afghan consulate but I won’t split hairs). It looks like I finally got my answer to how agent Meehan was trying to find me five and a half years back. Of course then I had to skim the entire book to find the corresponding entry. According to Kiriakou, an enterprising NY/NJ Port Authority Detective named Thomas “Tommy” McHale who was, for some reason, working for the FBI in Pakistan after 9/11, asked permission from the Pakistan authorities to break into the building under the cover of night and abscond with everything inside which must’ve included my application for an Afghan tourist visa in November of 2000. The documents were brought to Islamabad and then flown to the Washington area where they were not examined until the spring of 2004 (which would explain the gap in time I had been trying to figure out) because bureaucrats claimed they did not have people to translate the documents (though many innocent visa applications like mine and my accompanying Swiss backpacker friend were obviously in English) from Pashto and Dari into English which is apparently the sole language U.S. government officials are capable of reading. Kiriakou says the documents sit today in a warehouse in suburban Maryland like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, never to be reexamined.
When I was called by agent Meehan, she asked me, preposterously, if I had ever attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. I practically laughed her off the phone back in October of 2004, imagining her sitting in her cubicle in lower Manhattan with a grimacing, simplistic picture of George Walker Bush somewhere in the vicinity. Then I quickly reflected on how pathetic it was that my government could be this bumbling. While staying in Lahore in March 2007, I took a quick side trip to Peshawar and barged into the Afghan consulate there to interview the sitting Consul General. I was told the Consul was busy and was pointed in the direction of the office of the Vice Consul. He was a youngish Tajik that claimed he had no answers for me and was incapable of speculating when asked. Kiriakou’s book seemed to answer one burning question: how long was the Peshawar Afghan consulate in control of the Taliban after they had been ejected from Kabul? I found it peculiar that no one seemed to have any clue to what I thought to be a fairly straightforward question. According to The Reluctant Spy, Agent McHale and his men broke into the compound several months after the Taliban had been overthrown and the Bonn conference had installed a new government with Hamid Karzai as its head. From the book’s description, it sounds like the place was manned by a chowkidar (caretaker) who was arrested at the time by local police for questioning. So there was definitely a period of months between the fall of the Taliban and when the post-Bonn government gained control of this ever so important consulate. Interesting…at least to me. One of the most heavily covered events, at least in terms if the sheer number of journalists on the ground at the time, and no one, including local Peshawaris, could give me an answer to this simple question. Eight years on, I think I have found most of the answer.
New York- Many people who are not Poles or who lives outside of the western post-Soviet space were not previously aware of the Katyn forest massacre in the context of Russian-Polish relations. I myself used to know nothing about this Stalinist tragedy in the midst of the second World War until about five years ago when I happened upon a massive, dramatic bronze sculpture in Jersey City, New Jersey, directly across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. The statue is dedicated to the Polish officer corps and soldiers who were slaughtered on orders of then NKVD (predecessor of the KGB-now FSB) Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s number two enforcer. Beria, a perennially cruel Mingrelian thug from Abkhazia, engineered the decimation of Poland’s military leadership. On April 10, Poland’s current president Lech Kaczynski was flying to the Smolensk Air Base in western Russia for the 70th anniversary of the massacre to honor Poland’s martyrs from April 3rd, 1940 when his plane went down in this same cursed forest. After it had been reported that all aboard were killed, I knew there would be a vigil of New Jersey and New York-area Poles at the Katyn Memorial.
New York- The new issue of Militant Leadership Monitor is online. In this issue we have two pieces from two of Yemen’s three fronts. A profile of Adel al-Abbab of AQAP by Murad Batal al-Shishani and a bio of Abdulmalik al-Houthi leading the Zaidi rebellion in the country’s north by Michael Horton. Moving across the Arabian Sea up to Pakistan, Syed Adnan Shah Ali Bukhari tells us of the brutality of Ibn-e-Amin in the strife-torn Swat Valley. Heading west, we have a profile of Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, a hard bitten Tuareg rebel leader hailing from the Mali-Algeria border. Additionally, I have briefs on the arrest in Karachi of Mullah Omar’s son-in-law and the death of JI’s Bali bomber, Dulmatin, in a suburb of Jakarta last month.