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WSJ: Officials Pushing For More Covert Action In Yemen

yemen ups

Yemeni security forces stand outside the UPS office in the capital San'a, Yemen Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010. One of the bombs found in a cargo plane was shipped from this store. Officials say the evidence points to Al Qaeda's Yemeni franchise. STR/AP hide caption

itoggle caption STR/AP

The evidence from the two bombs discovered on two cargo planes last week points almost unerringly towards Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Al Qaeda franchise based in Yemen. The group has been behind a number of terror attempts, including last year's Christmas day bombing attempt on an airliner above Detroit.

Now officials are pushing from US Special Operations teams to be put under CIA control to give more leeway to act inside of Yemen, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Allowing the U.S. military's Special Operations Command units to operate under the CIA would give the U.S. greater leeway to strike at militants even without the explicit blessing of the Yemeni government. In addition to streamlining the launching of strikes, it would provide deniability to the Yemeni government because the CIA operations would be covert. The White House is already considering adding armed CIA drones to the arsenal against militants in Yemen, mirroring the agency's Pakistan campaign.

The Journal does point out that this would be an expansion more than anything else, as special operations troops are already operating inside Yemen.

U.S. Special Operations teams in Yemen, birthplace of Osama bin Laden's father, already play an expansive role in the country. Some spearhead an effort to track and kill al Qaeda leaders as part of a campaign authorized by President Barack Obama. Other teams run small development projects, a role typically handled by State Department aid officials.

The U.S. military accelerated strikes against Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula following December's failed attempt by the group to blow up a Detroit-bound American airliner. Since last December, the U.S. military has carried out a series of missile strikes on alleged al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. All of the strikes were approved by Washington's ambassador to Sana'a.

On Morning Edition this morning Steve Inskeep talked with Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University, an expert on terrorist groups in Yemen. Johnsen said that offensive has actually backfired on the US actually made Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula more powerful, acting as a recruiting bonanza for the group.

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