Does this qualify as a surprise? Eli Lake reports that sources in the intel community have begun searching for English-speaking recruits to al-Qaeda after the EunuchBomber confirmed that he met with several other similar would-be terrorists in Yemen:
U.S. and allied counterterrorism authorities have launched a global manhunt for English-speaking terrorists trained in Yemen who are planning attacks on the United States, based on intelligence provided by the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day bombing after he began cooperating.
U.S. officials told The Washington Times that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, facing charges as a would-be suicide bomber, revealed during recent cooperation with the FBI that he met with other English speakers at a terrorist training camp in Yemen. Three U.S. intelligence officials, including one senior official, disclosed on the condition of anonymity some details of the additional bomb plots.
Said one official: “It’s safe to say that Abdulmutallab is not the only bullet in the chamber for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the Islamist terrorist group based in Yemen.
“Farouk took a month to get operational. Once he left [training in Yemen], it did not take very long,” the official said.
This isn’t exactly a new effort by AQ. We have been warned for years about “home-grown terrorists” who take their cues from AQ but operate more independently of their network. A few cases have already arisen (the Toronto 17 is a good example), and the Fort Hood shooting shows the opportunities AQ has to take advantage of loners working more or less independently. Nidal Hasan came to them, rather than the other way around, and sponsoring that attack left them with little vulnerability but gained them plenty of credibility.
In fact, this might be an example of frustration by AQ to inspire more home-grown terrorism. If they have to bring recruits to Yemen, it makes them more vulnerable to counterterrorism efforts by the West. We should have picked up Abdulmutallab before he boarded the plane in Amsterdam, and any time assets are in motion, they’re more exposed as well. It also lights up Yemen as the new center of AQ’s operational network, and Yemen is particularly vulnerable to raids from the sea by the US, certainly more so than the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The US is “certain” that more attacks will come over the next three to six months, using these new “bullet[s] in the chamber.” Maybe that means it’s time to ensure that all of our CT organizations are talking to each other now — or to start dismantling AQ’s network in Yemen with targeted missions and some captures rather than kills.