Gregory D. Johnsen (Jordan 2001-02) Writes on Yemen

Gregory D. Johnsen (Jordan 2001-02) is a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen and a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He has written for Newsweek, Foreign Policy, appeared on NPR and the Charlie Rose Show among other places, and this week W.W. Norton will  publish his book: The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia. johnsen1

It is, the cover copy reads: A gripping account of how al-Qaeda in Yemen rebounded from an initial defeat to once again threaten the United States.

On November 13, 2012, of this week, Johnsen spoke at the Brookings Institution saying among other things that the struggle against al Qaeda in Yemen may become a lasting model for U.S. fights against non-state actors, but it hasn’t worked.

He goes onto point out that the approach to counterterror in Yemen, where the United States carriers out air strikes but avoids putting boots on the ground, seems to have emerged as the country’s preferred way to fight terrorist groups. He questioned, for one thing, whether U.S. drone strikes have actually eliminated irreplaceable al Qaeda leaders.

For example, some U.S. officials have portrayed Ibrahim al-Siri, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s chief bombmaker, as a rare mastermind. But al Qaeda taught him how to make bombs at some point, and Johnsen said it’s safe to assume he has trained others in the years he’s been in Yemen

book-jacketIn his book The Last Refuge, Johnsen “charts the rise, fall, and resurrection of al-Qaeda in Yemen over the last thirty years, detailing how a group that the United States once defeated has now become one of the world’s most dangerous threats.”

Johnsen blog bio says that he  has written for Newsweek, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, and The Boston Globe. He has also held multiple fellowships from the American Institute for Yemeni Studies and was awarded the David R. Schweisberg Memorial Scholarship from the Overseas Press Club in 2006. Johnsen has also advised and consulted for a variety of different organizations and has testified before Congress as an expert witness. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID’s conflict assessment team for Yemen. He has appeared on CNN, PBS’ NEWSHOUR, the Charlie Rose Show, BBC, NPR, al-Jazeera English and al-Hurra discussing Yemen and is often quoted in media outlets like the NY Times, the Washington Post and others. He holds a BA in History (honors) from Hastings College and an MA in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona. He can be reached at: gjohnsen(at)

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  • Informatively, Johnsen’s book is featured in a long review in the current New York Review of Books (Dec 6, 2012), P 30-32. The reviewer says that Johnsen has been writing “incisively about Yemen’s various insurgences for years and the Last Refuge is an authoritative and deftly written account of a-Qaeda’s Yemeni incarnation.”

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