Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operates out of Yemen, a fragile state plagued by a myriad of socio-economic and security challenges. The population of Yemen faces high levels of poverty and unemployment, a low literacy rate, and an addiction to a drug called “qat.” Furthermore, Yemen’s natural resources are depleting. Predictions say that the capital, Sana’a, will run out of water in 2015 and Yemen’s oil supply will run out in 2017. The al Houthi insurgency in the north and the Southern Movement’s calls for secession both pose an existential threat to the government and place a significant strain on its resources and security apparatus. The combination of these factors creates an environment in which AQAP finds shelter, allowing it to train and prepare for attacks. This section provides analysis and background information on the security challenges in Yemen.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh placed family members in critical positions throughout Yemen’s security forces. This graphic shows his family network.
There will be extensive repercussions within the Yemeni state should the Saleh regime be completely overthrown given the extent of Saleh’s reach throughout the state’s institutions.
Obama's Counterterrorism Strategy is Already Failing, U.S. News and World Report
Don't Replicate the Failure of Yemen, The Weekly Standard
Update on the Crisis in Yemen, May 16, 2011
Al Qaeda and its Affiliates Exploit Yemen Unrest, April 4, 2011
Yemen Protests Update, March 28, 2011
Anwar al Awlaki - Militant Islam's Global Preacher, March 12, 2010
A Missed Opportunity in Yemen? February 4, 2010
Yemen, AQAP, and a Way Forward, January 21, 2010
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He's Back: Implications of Saleh's Return to Yemen, AEI Center for Defense Studies, September 23, 2011
IN THIS SECTION
The al Houthi siege on Sana’a on September 21 sets a dangerous precedent that could lead to the repartition of Yemen. The al Houthis, whether intentionally or not, have set Yemen on a path that puts the existence of an essential U.S. counterterrorism partner on the table.
President Obama strategy’s against the Islamic State is based on what the U.S. is doing in Yemen, combining targeted airstrikes with support for a local partner, a counterterrorism strategy which Obama claims has been successful and has made the U.S. safer. Unfortunately, those claims are not accurate.
President Obama held up America’s strategy in Yemen as a model for the counterterrorism strategy he intends to pursue in Iraq and Syria. By doing so, he committed to a strategy of targeting terrorists from the air and supporting local security forces in their counterterrorism fight.
The horrific images and story of 14 murdered soldiers that came out of Yemen on August 8 pale in comparison to those coming from Iraq and Syria. Yet they may presage the emergence of a renewed threat from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that the U.S and Yemen are ill-prepared to handle.
President Obama says the United States is looking to its Yemen policy as a model for what to do in Iraq and Syria. But what the president labels the “Yemen model” has not been as successful as the White House claims; indeed, it is in danger of collapse.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues its military operations in Yemen. It would be premature to expect a large-scale offensive, but it would also be a mistake to rule out the possibility of a series of significant attacks that could unhinge the Yemeni security forces.
Yemeni efforts since 2011 have reduced AQAP’s control, but the escalating conflict with the al Houthis threatens to divert key resources away from the counter-terrorism fight once again.
Yemen is at a pivotal moment today, three years after the outbreak of popular protests, and the future of America’s strategy against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is on the line.
The Yemeni military has long been weakened by corruption, fragmentation, and instances of insubordination, but in the past year and a half its soldiers have been bucking orders and casting out commanders at an increasingly faster rate. If this trend continues to accelerate, it risks knocking out a vital pillar of U.S. counterterrorism strategy.
The Yemeni National Transitional Government yesterday issued eight decrees that are aimed at restructuring and unifying this weakened Yemeni military. It will be important to watch whether powerbrokers within the security forces accept the new decisions and whether the Yemeni security forces become a truly reliable partner in the fight against AQAP.