Petraeus Weighs in on Yemen, War on Terror

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Yemen is one of the many fronts in America's war on terror.

Gen. David Petraeus, leader of the U.S. central command, helps set the agenda there and across the Middle East.

Yemen is a country that has emerged in the past few months as a major national security threat, but Petraeus says U.S. military leaders have been monitoring the situation there for more than two years.

Petraeus appeared at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, Friday, where he fielded questions about al Qaeda's growth in Yemen.

Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan was in contact with an al Qaeda cleric there as well as Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who also received terrorist training in the country.

Yemen first came to Petraeus's attention as a major threat during the Iraq surge in 2007, when it was clear that a number of insurgents and their facilitators hailed from the chaotic country. But he says cooperation with Yemen's government in the face of the al Qaeda threat has started to improve--including two successful joint operations against the group in December.

"Those operations took out two training camps, killed three suicide bombers," Petraeus explained. "The fourth of those who was with those three was wounded and captured with his suicide belt still on by the Yemeni sensitive site exploitation team.

"A senior leader was killed and a number of others also were killed or wounded," he added.

The pressure has also continued against jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Petraeus praised Pakistan's offensive against the Taliban in the restless Waziristsan region and said the Pakistanis now fully grasp the jihadist threat against their country.

He encouraged patience in Afghanistan and pointed to Iraq as an example that success will not come overnight. Petraeus is optimistic that what he calls Iraq's political "iraqracy" will continue to blossom, but says the jury is still out.

As for Iraq's next door neighbor Iran, Petraeus said there are some tough decisions must be made by the U.S. and its allies either this year or next. He declined comment about whether Israel should conduct strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, but did express concern over the regional and economic implications of military action against the Iranians.

*Originally published January 22, 2010.

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Erick Stakelbeck

Erick Stakelbeck

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Erick Stakelbeck is a sought after authority on terrorism and national security issues with extensive experience in television, radio, and print media. Stakelbeck is a correspondent and terrorism analyst for CBN News.  Follow Erick on Twitter @Staks33.