SHANNON BREAM: And if you think that the fight against al-Qaida is focused only in the mountains of Pakistan, think again. Analysts within the CIA now believe one of the terror network's main offshoots, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), might be more of a threat than the core group operating along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Steve Emerson is a terrorism expert. He joins us now with his insights and to have this discussion. Thank you so much for coming in today, Steve.
STEVEN EMERSON: Sure.
BREAM: Alright, we know that al-Qaida can spring up in these very autonomous cells in a number of different areas. Where should we be most worried now?
EMERSON: Well, you know, the center of al-Qaida gravity used to be, years ago of course, in Afghanistan. Then it migrated to part of Pakistan. But the pressure that the U.S. has put on through drone attacks and through military operations has really forced a new center of gravity to emerge in Yemen and in Somalia.
Yemen now, is basically a major center of al-Qaida activity largely because the presence of Anwar al-Awlaki—a very influential radical cleric who speaks Arabic and English and is able to recruit both Western Muslims and other types—Middle-Eastern Muslims to carry out attacks.
BREAM: And we have seen links between him and things that have happened right here in the U.S. How worried should we be about the homegrown threats?
EMERSON: I think we should be very worried. He—last year, 2009, there were 15 attacks. Of the 15—would-be attacks and 2 "successful" attacks—of those attacks, 6 of them—roughly half—were inspired or directed by Anwar al-Awlaki from Yemen.
Number 2, there are 400 American-Muslims now studying with Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen and have American passports. That means they can come back here any time and carry out operations, as some of them have done in the past couple of years.
BREAM: What is our best strategy for dealing with all these different cells—whether they are inside the U.S. or abroad?
EMERSON: Well that's a great question. No one has come up with the "silver bullet" yet. Of course the military pressure is foremost in terms of stopping them in their base of operations. The last center of—the last protection you get is the circle you draw around the United States, and that requires good intelligence—informants within the Muslim community to come forward, as the FBI has been very successful in doing.
Unfortunately, some mainstream Islamic groups have condemned the FBI and refused to cooperate, claiming that the use of informants instigates violence, which is really not very helpful.
BREAM: Makes the job of the international intelligence community that much tougher.
Steve Emerson thanks very much.