1. The U.S. soldiers, the U.S. operators that we have are trained particularly well. They are some of the best in the world at what it is that they do, but all of this is dependent upon the human intelligence on the ground and this is where the U.S. seems to do very bad both in the special forces in the shadowy part of the world where they are attempting to collect intelligence for targeting purposes, as well as on the political and on the State Department side where they’re attempting to get out and speak with a lot of people and find out what’s actually happening on the ground so that they can inform policy makers in Washington. …

    "This has been … really the Achilles heel for the United States in Yemen is that too often it just doesn’t know what’s taking place on the ground. The CIA doesn’t know what’s taking place, it doesn’t know who is in a particular car, it doesn’t know who is really a member of al-Qaida. The State Department and diplomats, they’re very, very good, very talented people and they tend to know a lot about Yemen but, as we’ve seen, there are very real security concerns, and the regional security officers often limit their movement and so they can’t get out in the country and find out what’s taking place. … So both the CIA and policy makers in Washington tend to be operating more on assumptions than on hard facts. We know that the organization is still bent on attacking the United States and that despite all the defenses that the U.S. has built over the past decade that al-Qaida is still able on different occasions, as we’ve seen, able to infiltrate those and it’s very, very difficult for the U.S. government — whether it’s a Republican or Democratic administration — to have a perfect batting average when it comes to preventing terror attacks."

    — Gregory Johnsen on the issues with on-the-ground intelligence gathering in Yemen

  2. Gregory Johnsen

    Yemen

    al-Qaeda

    Fresh Air