Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen is becoming a powerful domestic insurgency, as political turmoil in that country has allowed the group to take and hold territory there, according to the Obama administration's counterterrorism chief, John O. Brennan.
US intelligence officials have described al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as the world's "most operationally active" global terrorist organisation, traditionally focused on regional and international targets in coordination with al Qaeda's core group in Pakistan's tribal regions.
But since widespread opposition to the rule of president Ali Abdullah Saleh broke out in March, AQAP has extended its focus in Yemen itself, taking over the port city of Zinjibar and other areas in the south.
The government's "ability to confront" AQAP has become limited, Brennan said. Brennan insisted that joint US-Yemeni counterterrorism efforts are "not losing ground," and that the United States would not "get involved in a domestic conflict" between Yemen and AQAP.
The Obama administration, he said, continues to encourage Saleh to resolve Yemen's political strife by turning over power to a transitional government that would hold elections early next year under a proposal made by the Gulf Cooperation Council of governments on the Arabian peninsula.
(In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post)