There once was a quiet and reserved young man of Muslim faith. He was born, ironically, in the United States, less than 300 miles away from where some of the infamous Manhattan Project scientists helped develop the world's first atomic bomb.
His parents hail from Yemen.
He was born in Las Cruces, N.M. in 1971. His father, a highly educated scholar who studied in the United States, later went on to become the president of a Yemeni University.
His name is Anwar al-Awlaki. He has a B.S. in civil engineering from Colorado State University, an M.A. in Educational Leadership from San Diego State University and was pursuing post graduate studies in Education and Human Development from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. before he decided to pursue 'other' endeavors.
His looks are deceiving. He is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs a mere 160 pounds. He wears Harry Potter glasses and, like hundreds-of-millions of other religious men, he sports the ubiquitous muslim beard. Awlaki has taught in holy Mosques in San Diego, Northern Virginia, Colorado and London. He's also very smart - he uses FaceBook, e-mail, videos and other social media tools to foment radical Islamic fundamentalism - exclusively directed to the western world - specifically - the US.
He's also been a close compatriot of "the blind sheik," Omar Abdel Rahman, who is in prison for the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. He has been a practicing Imam in at least four Muslim Mosques known for radical fundamentalism.
He has basically written the Islamic fundamentalist's book for 'lone-wolf-terrorists.' He reaches out seductively online through web sites and other media. He espouses 'higher-jihad.' And makes those lost or confused in their Islamic faith think about their true mission for Allah. He becomes their spiritual leader (aka - terrorist advisor).
Two 9/11 hijackers prayed and privately met with Awlaki in San Diego and Virginia prior to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Additionally, Awlaki had meaningful e-mail communications with Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan. Finally, Awlaki has been implicated to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - who is blamed for the 2009 Christmas Day terrorist attempt on Northwest Airlines flight 253 to Detroit, Mich.
Why hasn't these connections resulted in Awlaki being arrested, hunted down or killed?
In October of 2002, the FBI had an arrest warrant out for Awlaki for a low-level passport fraud. He'd already been linked to numerous web sites as a serious Al-Qaeda recruiter. He's highly educated in both engineering, theory and education; moreover, he's fluent in English and he uses his religious speeches as a recruiting tool for any wannabe Jihadist.
Yet, his 2002 arrest warrant was dropped by the FBI on a "technicality."
Awlaki has also been very influential in the United Kingdom within radicalized sects of young Muslims. He has been banned from the UK since around 2004 after having numerous ties to al-Qaeda and other radicals.
He is currently in Yemen and believed to have survived a recent attack from US-backed Yemeni forces. If he indeed survived, what better place than Yemen to continue his focus on recruitment and even operational terrorism.
Yemen has been dealing with political unrest and civil war for over a decade now. It is a very poor nation - a nation where approximately 60 percent of its population is under the age of twenty. Talk about a recruitment bonanza!
Yemen's government, like many portions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, lacks control of portions of its nation. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Cabinet are trying to unite this religiously polarized nation - a nation that has been ripe for terrorist activities since before the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
Yemen is afraid of too much US involvement, especially any military presence. The leadership fears the US military will enliven al-Qaeda and other radical fundamentalist groups. Yet the Yemeni government needs outside help.
Like many Middle Eastern countries that are poor and struggle to control its population, Yemen needs assistance. The country's geography is rough, much like Afghanistan's. They need helicopters to be able to traverse the mountainous terrain to track terrorist training camps that are in at least two southern provinces.
Yemen is one of a handful of places around the globe that has become fertile ground for continued hatred and terror for the US and other western countries where, according to fundamentalist propaganda, 'infidels' rein.
More troubling is the fact that he's become the de-facto leader on the Arabian Peninsula where he has reinvigorated the terrorist group 'Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula' - or AQAP. This new terrorist training outpost has become a magnet for non-middle eastern youth. These sometimes disaffected youth come to learn the Arabic language and study the Koran, but end up being pawns in an ever-growing chessboard of strategic jihad.
Awlaki must be stopped. He should be categorized as the No. 3 target of al-Qaeda for the CIA.