"I think there's a broader issue here which is if in fact this individual got training from al Qaeda individuals in Yemen to launch an attack, this could be a game changer because it will be the first time since 9/11 that you've had a U.S.-based plot driven out of somewhere other than the Pakistan-Afghan theater," Zarate said Sunday on CBS' "Face The Nation."
Zarate said links between this attempted attack and elements in Yemen could change how the administration views the country or other potential al Qaeda safe havens.
"I think that could change the context of how we view the terror threat, how the administration has to deal with the potential safe haven in Yemen and also how we view other safe havens in Somalia and North Africa," he added. "And so I would caution against too early a judgment as to the scope and dimensions of this threat."
In the interview with host John Dickerson, Zarate explained why Yemen has potentially become a "problematic theater."
"You have an unstable government. You've got three different security situations -- a Shia rebellion in the north, secessionist in the south and an increase in al Qaeda presence. And you have greater ties to plots toward the U.S. in Yemen," he said. "You recall the recruitment center attack in Little Rock where the individual had traveled to Yemen. Recall the Fort Hood case with the Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric in Yemen some providing in degree of communications with Hasan, the perpetrator of that attack. And now you have this individual having perhaps received training and the materials in Yemen and in traveling toward the U.S.
Zarate added: "And so this presents a real problem and it suggests a need for more aggressive approach and explains why there have been more aggressive attacks by the Yemeni government against al Qaeda over the last two weeks."
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