Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Equivocal Victory in Sanaa

The attack that occurred this morning at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yeman, was a failure for the attackers, in that they did not get their vehicle-borne bombs inside the chancery's perimeter or manage to kill any U.S. citizens, but that doesn't make it a victory for the other side. Such incidents, in which robust security measures prevent an attack from succeeding, are at best equivocal victories. They lost, but we didn't really win. No matter how well the security works to prevent a greater tragedy, innocent people are still killed. In this incident, one of the innocent victims was an Indian nurse who happened to be visiting the embassy on business.

There is much I could say about the scenario employed by the attackers, and how it illustrates a rising trend in multiple/sequential vehicle bombs. But since I'm trying to avoid 'matters of official concern' to the State Department, I'll hang back a day or two before commenting further on that. For now, suffice it to say that there are big lessons to be learned from this incident, and I hope the Department will conduct the same sort of accountability review that it would undertake if U.S. government employees had been killed.

Here's the official Department statement:

Attack on Embassy Sana’a, Statement by Secretary Condoleezza Rice

Washington, DC
September 17, 2008

The United States strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen. This attack underscores the malicious disregard for human life shown by the terrorists perpetrating this attack. No political cause justifies the murder of innocent people.

Fast action by Embassy security personnel and host nation Embassy forces, aided by the Embassy’s security systems and its emergency procedures, were vital in limiting the harm to Embassy employees and to the public who regularly visit the Embassy. This callous attack reminds us that American and locally-employed staff at our embassies serve the United States in many dangerous environments worldwide, often at great personal risk. We are proud of the work that they do.

I extend my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were tragically killed or injured in the attack. Their sacrifices reinforce our commitment to remain vigilant and ready to defeat the forces of global terrorism.

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