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The New Counterterrorism Challenge

Among the recommendations called for by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of September 11 was an urgent need for unity of effort in U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Eight years later, the Obama administration is confronting concerns about its ability to coordinate counterterrorism policy after a Nigerian national boarded a plane in Amsterdam--explosives sewn into his underpants--and nearly took down an airliner as it descended into Detroit. Airport security has already been tightened worldwide (AP) and President Barack Obama has vowed to conduct a full accounting of the failed December 25 plot. John Brennan, the president's top counterterrorism adviser, says the system must be strengthened (MSNBC) to better connect "bits and pieces of information."

Lawmakers and terrorism analysts are already sounding the alarm on Yemen, where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is believed to have received training. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has said that Yemen could become the site of the next United States ground war (Fox News). Obama has made defeating al-Qaeda his central focus in the war on terrorism abroad; with a robust al-Qaeda presence and a somewhat functional government, Yemen could prove a reliable partner in that fight (CSMonitor).

Others are urging against rushing into Yemen with guns blazing. Writes analyst Marc Lynch on ForeignPolicy.com: "The yawning gap between the extent of U.S. interests and the resources necessary to make a difference is even greater in Yemen than in Afghanistan." CFR's Micah Zenko shares in the call for calm (Guardian). Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, meanwhile, vowed to support its Yemeni counterparts with reinforcements (al-Jazeera) should the U.S. attack.

The U.S. military is allocating resources to stabilize Yemen. Washington spends roughly $70 million annually on security...

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