The attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by an Islamic terrorist affiliated with a terror group based in Yemen has many wondering if the next U.S. war will be in that nation. Well, the truth is that the United States is already at war in Yemen - it's just that you did not know about it yet. In fact, the U.S. has been conducting military operations in Yemen for quite some time. But now this latest terror incident has hawkish politicians such as Senator Joe Lieberman calling for even more direct U.S. military action. So is Yemen about to become the next Afghanistan?
The truth is that Yemen has suddenly become center stage for the war on terror. According to reports, "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has told FBI agents that there are many more just like him in Yemen who will strike America soon. This has led many mainstream media outlets to now proclaim that Yemen is the true home of al-Qaeda.
In fact, it is being reported that a "regional wing" of al-Qaeda, known as "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula", has claimed responsibility for the failed Christmas Day attack. American officials are saying that "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" has transformed itself from a regional threat into the terror network's most active affiliate outside Pakistan and Afghanistan.
So what does this mean?
Will the United States send large numbers of troops to assist the government of Yemen in their fight against al-Qaeda?
If the government of Yemen does not cooperate, could the United States invade Yemen just like they invaded Afghanistan?
The truth is that once the U.S. government identifies a terrorist group that they want to hit they don't let anyone stand in their way.
Much of the focus is now on radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is being called one of the key leaders of "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula".
If the government of Yemen does not cooperate with the United States in the apprehension of al-Awlaki, will that give the United States justification to conduct an armed invasion of Yemen?
Not that the groundwork has not already been laid. The U.S. military is already on the ground in Yemen and is involved in the ongoing civil war there.
You see, for years Saudi Arabia and Iran have played out their long-term rivalry in Yemen.
The minority Shi'ite Houthi rebels (backed by Iran) have been fighting against the dominant Sunni majority in Yemen for years.
But over the past few months that fighting has spilled over into Saudi Arabia.
Back on November 5th, a large Saudi armored infantry force and tank column reportedly crossed the border into Yemen to do battle with Iran-backed Houthi rebels, but they apparently did not have that much success.
So reportedly the Saudi government began asking the U.S. for assistance.
On December 14th, Houthi fighters reported that U.S. fighter jets launched 28 attacks on the northwestern province of Sa'ada.
Subsequently, on direct orders from Barack Obama, the U.S. military launched cruise missiles against Houthi targets in Yemen.
According to reports, the U.S. military now has substantial assets on the ground in Yemen, although it is not entirely clear when they got there.
U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, admitted on Monday that the growing U.S. presence in Yemen includes Special Operations Forces, Green Berets, and American intelligence agents.
In addition, the Pentagon has provided Yemen with close to 70 million dollars in overt military and counter-terrorism assistance in 2009.
So what is next?
Will tens of thousands of U.S. troops be needed in Yemen to deal with al-Qaeda and/or the Houthi rebels?
If the government of Yemen does not cooperate with the war on terror will that mean that the U.S. will essentially invade Yemen?
The answers to these questions are not clear at this point, but there is one thing that is now very clear.
The United States is at war in Yemen and it will be for quite some time to come.