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Embassy Lockdown And The Al-Qaida Threat

With John Harwood in for Tom Ashbrook.

Embassies on lockdown across the globe, personnel pulled from Yemen. We look at the nature and scope of the al-Qaida threat now.

Police in an armored vehicle secure a road leading to the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. The State Department on Tuesday ordered non-essential personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen to leave the country. The department said in a travel warning that it had ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Yemen "due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks" and said U.S. citizens in Yemen should leave immediately because of an "extremely high" security threat level. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Police in an armored vehicle secure a road leading to the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. The State Department on Tuesday ordered non-essential personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen to leave the country. The department said in a travel warning that it had ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Yemen “due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks” and said U.S. citizens in Yemen should leave immediately because of an “extremely high” security threat level. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Americans this week have faced something many of us have forgotten: the threat of a major terrorist attack. The Obama administration closed embassies around the world, and instructed Americans to get out of Yemen – all because of an intercepted phone call. Wasn’t al-Qaida decimated? Did the White House exaggerate the importance of killing Osama bin Laden? Or is it overreacting now? We’ll talk with a former counterterrorism official, and analyst of threat.

This hour, On Point: Assessing the danger that we’ll get hit hard — again.

Guests

Elise Labott, Foreign Affairs reporter for CNN. (@eliselabottcnn)

Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, Director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College. He served as  Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2012.

Brian Michael Jenkins, longtime terrorism expert and senior adviser to the President of the Rand Corporation. Author of the Rand Corporation’s report, “Al Qaeda in Its Third Decade: Irreversible Decline or Imminent Victory,” published last year. (@BrianMJenkins)

Gregory Johnsen, Yemen expert at Princeton University. Author of, “The Last Refuge: Yemin, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia.” (@gregorydjohnsen)

 

From the Reading List:

The New York Times: Qaeda Leader’s Edict to Yemen Affiliate Is Said to Prompt Alert – “The intercepted conversations last week between Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of the global terrorist group, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, revealed what American intelligence officials and lawmakers have described as one of the most serious plots against American and Western interests since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Reuters: Al Qaeda intercept is just one piece of threat intelligence: U.S. sources – “The threat picture is based on a broad range of reporting, there is no smoking gun in this threat picture,” a U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. U.S. officials said there was still no information about a specific target or location of a potential attack, but the threat to Western interests had not diminished.”

Foreign Policy: How We Lost Yemen — “Why, if the U.S. counterterrorism approach is working in Yemen, as Barack Obama’s administration claims, is AQAP still growing? Why, after nearly four years of bombing raids, is the group capable of putting together the type of plot that leads to the United States shuttering embassies and missions from North Africa to the Persian Gulf? The answer is simple, if rather disheartening: Faulty assumptions and a mistaken focus paired with a resilient, adaptive enemy have created a serious problem for the United States.”

 

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