White House claims Yemen still a 'template' for counterterrorism success
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told the press gaggle yesterday that the administration still considers Yemen a "template" for the success of its counterterrorism efforts.
Earnest's confused, rambling response to the question of whether Yemen is still considered a model for our efforts against Islamic State is priceless.
Michael Totten splashes some reality on the administration about just how bad things are in Yemen:
Suicide-bombers killed at least 137 people and wounded more than 350 in Yemen at two Shia mosques in the capital city of Sanaa on Friday. The very next day, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seized control of the city of al-Houta, and the day after that, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel movement conquered parts of Taiz, the nation's third-largest city. Rival militias are battling for control of the international airport in the coastal city of Aden, and the US government just announced that American troops are evacuating Al Anad airbase.
ISIS is taking credit for the Sanaa attacks. “Infidel Houthis should know that the soldiers of the Islamic State will not rest,” it said, “until they eradicate them and cut off the arm of the Safavid (Iranian) plan in Yemen.” Al Qaeda has a much larger footprint in Yemen, so the ISIS claim is a little bit dubious, but ISIS is on the rise there and its attitude toward Shia Muslims is more bloodthirsty—more explicitly genocidal as the quote above shows—than Al Qaeda's.
Regardless of who committed the latest round of atrocities, everything in Yemen is about to become much, much worse. The region-wide storm of sectarian hatred has been gathering strength by the year for more than a decade, and it blew the roof off Yemen earlier this year when the Houthis, who are Shias, seized control of the capital and sent Sunni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi into semi-exile in Aden.
The Houthis see their takeover of the city and government institutions as a natural progression of the revolution in 2011 that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but it isn't, not really. While they enjoy some backing beyond their Shia support base, the sectarian dimension is inescapable. Shias make up almost half the population, and the Sunni majority is keenly aware that minorities in the Middle East are capable of seizing power and lording it over everyone else—especially if they're sponsored by a regional mini superpower like Iran. Syria has been ruled by the Iranian-backed Alawite minority for decades, and Saddam Hussein used brute force to bring the Sunni minority to power in Iraq.
But Earnest never batted an eye in spinning, and spinning, and spinning again just how brilliant the administration's foreign policy truly is:
Obama last fall cited Yemen as a counterterrorism success story for his administration. Asked if he still views Yemen as a model, considering the political chaos there right now and the lack of any U.S. troops and diminished intelligence, Earnest said he did, although he used the past tense.
"Yemen did serve as a template for the kind of strategy that we have employed and that we did employ," he said, noting past drone strikes that took out several terrorists there and possibly disrupted plots against the United States.
Earnest also pointed to Somalia as a place where the U.S. doesn't have a significant military presence but continues to take terrorists off the battlefield.
In mid-March a U.S. drone strike in southern Somalia killed a leader of the Islamist militant group al-Shabab.
Somalia? Is he kidding? Does the White House think lobbing a few Hellfire missiles at a few fanatics represents a successful "policy"?
To sum up: we are basing our war-fighting strategy against ISIS on what we've been doing in two failed states that are engaged in civil wars, run by warlords, and where terrorists grow stronger by the day.
Sounds like a "template" to me – if you want to lose.