By Francisco Martin-Rayo
The Obama administration’s heavy-handed approach to drone strikes in Yemen has blurred the distinction between terrorist and innocent civilian. As administration officials continue to identify nearly all military-aged males in strike zones as possible combatants, media outlets have inadvertently drawn attention to another major misstep in the administration’s counter-terrorism strategy: its refusal to differentiate between local insurgencies with nationalist goals and groups focused on global terrorism.
Islamic nationalist movements over the last 20 years have found it beneficial to pledge allegiance to the broader al-Qaeda movement, which has provided them with access to a well defined financing network and to highly experienced operatives who are able to train their fighters. General Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, highlighted this pattern recently, arguing that al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are sharing funds and training on how to use bombs. Unfortunately, American policymakers today fail to differentiate between nationalist movements and global terrorist groups. This lack of nuance is likely to lead to increased U.S. military involvement in domestic conflicts and enhanced cooperation between armed Islamic groups with previously disparate agendas. Read more