New Fronts In The War Against Al-Qaida
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
I'm joined by Ben Venzke, CEO of IntelCenter. It's a counterterrorism contractor. And we're going to hear about other fronts in the war against al-Qaida and its allies. Welcome to the program.
M: Good to be here.
SIEGEL: Which of the areas outside Afghanistan and Pakistan are you most concerned about?
M: Well, there's a number. One of the most obvious ones is Yemen because of its connection to the Delta plot, last year's Christmas attack. But then we're also very concerned about Somalia and the Maghreb or the North Africa area where there are AQ regional arms and affiliates operating.
SIEGEL: Al-Qaida, that is, regional arms and affiliates.
SIEGEL: And the Maghreb, North Africa we hear about less in this country in terms of plots.
M: Right, we don't hear about them as much here because they tend to have a European focus. They trace their roots back to Algeria and fighting against the French, but they've broadened out throughout most of Europe. So they're a very large group. They're a very important group, but not as much on the American radar, if you will.
SIEGEL: Watching them movie forwards right now, if you're looking at all the messages coming out of al-Qaida in these countries, what kinds of attacks would you expect to see them trying to launch?
M: So we're concerned about further attacks like that. We believe that they're going to continue to try to find creative new ways to strike in the United States.
SIEGEL: Earlier this year, I asked two intelligence veterans - one American, one British, both of them had dealt with al-Qaida - if there were an attack here with a return address in Yemen, let's say, what would Washington's response be over there? What would we do? And they both said we're already doing it. Does that ring true to you?
M: Well, I can't comment because of our involvement with the government on exact activities that we're involved in. But suffice it to say that Yemen is an area that we've been paying quite a lot of attention for a number of years now.
SIEGEL: Is there a vigorous local counterterrorism effort in Yemen? Or is it more simply permitting the United States to do what it has to do there?
M: That's not something that I could comment on.
SIEGEL: Can't comment on that.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SIEGEL: In Somalia, we've heard a lot about American kids - that is Somali-American kids - suddenly disappearing from the Twin Cities and turning up somewhere in the old country and taking part in violent stuff. A serious threat? How would you quantify it?
M: We think it's one of the most sophisticated recruitment campaigns of all of the jihadi groups operating right now.
SIEGEL: And is there any countervailing authority in Somalia that's doing anything there? Or do they really have a dysfunctional state and have the run of the place?
M: Well, that's the problem exactly in Somalia, is that it is an extremely dysfunctional state, and there is no clear government authority that we can work with. So, Shabab actually has free run in much of the country.
SIEGEL: Ben Venzke, thank you very much.
M: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Ben Venzke who is CEO of the counterintelligence contractor IntelCenter.
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