Update and Assessment: March 23, 2016
By The Editors
March 23, 2016
- Yemen’s warring factions continued efforts to secure gains on the ground despite Yemeni officials’ announcement of a one- or two-week ceasefire in the country ahead of the next round of UN-led political negotiations. Al Houthi-Saleh forces counter-attacked in western Taiz city, which was recently seized by coalition-backed forces, and Yemeni army units loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi began an offensive in southern Ma’rib and northwestern Shabwah governorates. The al Houthis reportedly agreed to the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls for al Houthi forces to disarm and withdraw from seized territory. The timing and phasing of the al Houthi withdrawal has been a stumbling block for previous attempts at a negotiated settlement. [Sign up to receive CTP’s Yemen Crisis Situation Reports by email.]
- Al Shabaab’s announcement of a new fighting unit bearing the name of its late Kenyan leader, Aboud Rogo, indicates the group’s sustained prioritization of its Kenyan operations. A similar unit named for al Shabaab’s late emir, Abu Zubayr, is prosecuting a campaign of mass-casualty attacks against African Union Mission in Somalia bases in Somalia. This group was probably behind the recent attack against a Somali National Army base outside of Mogadishu that reportedly killed over 70 soldiers. It is likely that the new unit will pursue a similar campaign in Kenya.
- The al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) attack against the In Salah gas plant in central Algeria was probably part of AQIM’s effort to compete with the growing influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) in the Maghreb region. AQIM described the March 18 rocket attack as a message for the Algerian regime and to Western companies. AQIM likened the attack to the January 2013 In Amenas hostage crisis, but the more recent attack appeared to be less sophisticated and may not have been planned by veteran al Qaeda operative Mokhtar Belmokhtar. AQIM has increased its media production and is directly countering ISIS’s message in the region as ISIS expands in Libya. [See CTP’s recent backgrounder on forces in Libya and on ISIS’s campaign in Libya.]