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DOD Claims Progress in Yemen
By Harold Hutchison

The DOD is making progress in Yemen despite not having a lot of troops on the ground. This is according to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Michael A. Sheehan.

“A year ago in Yemen, al-Qaida had taken over vast swaths of territory … and was really threatening the state in Yemen, and also threatening to re-establish some capabilities that were very problematic,” Sheehan said during a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 24th Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium. “Over the past year, we’ve made great progress in Yemen.”

Among American operations in Yemen has been the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, one of which killed radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a missile strike on 30 September, 2011. Sheehan declared that the measure of success was in the inability of terrorist groups to carry out significant attacks.

One such failed attack was the attempted bombing in Times Square on 1 May. The perpetrator, Faizal Shazad, “was trained by the Pakistan Taliban. He couldn’t get to al-Qaida.” Sheehan also said, “He also wasn’t a suicide bomber. Why? Because he wasn’t in those camps long enough to be indoctrinated.”

Sheehan also cited the pressure put on terrorist organizations, which kept them from training new operatives and planning operations. As a result, the attacks they do try to launch are often foiled or fail.

While the strategy of relying on special operations forces and partner nations holds risks, Sheehan argued that the risk of inaction was greater.