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. The al Houthi movement in the north has increased its influence substantially since 2011. The Southern Movement leadership is calling for secession and the re-establishment of a South Yemen. 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.
AQAP a Resurgent Threat, CTC Sentinel
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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Why America's Yemen Policy is Failing, CNN, February 23, 2015
Obama's Counterterrorism Strategy is Already Failing, U.S. News and World Report, September 11, 2014
He's Back: Implications of Saleh's Return to Yemen, AEI Center for Defense Studies, September 23, 2011
IN THIS SECTION
The Islamic State is present in Yemen and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. That reality may well lead U.S. policymakers to see Yemen as a front in the counter–Islamic State fight. That would be a mistake.
Iran almost certainly played a role in the missile attacks against the USS Mason near the Bab al Mandab Strait on October 9 and October 12. . Iran likely supplied the missiles and, at the very least, Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) or Lebanese Hezbollah operatives provided technical expertise and modifications in support of those who launched the attack.
The deliberate targeting of U.S. Navy vessels from al Houthi-Saleh–controlled territory is a significant inflection in the Red Sea and a sign that Yemen’s civil war is becoming tangled in regional dynamics and conflicts. It does not make sense when seen in the context of only one the conflicts—the Yemeni civil war, the Iranian-Saudi conflict, and Iran’s more aggressive posturing in the region.
The frontlines of Yemen’s civil war have remained relatively fixed because neither side has the military strength to extend its influence significantly beyond the borders of its support base.
Yemeni military forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi will likely launch an offensive to seize control of the al Houthi-Saleh—controlled capital, Sana’a, in the coming weeks.
ISIS is prosecuting a campaign in Yemen designed to elevate its position on the global stage and compete with one of al Qaeda’s strongest affiliates. ISIS will likely surge in Yemen during Ramadan 2016 and attempt to derail ongoing efforts to bring stability and security to southern Yemen.
Iranian activities in Yemen are not about Yemen. They are, rather, part of the regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran that is now playing out on battlefields and in political and diplomatic arenas throughout the Middle East.
AQAP is well on its way to reconstituting the emirate it held in 2011 and 2012 almost unnoticed by the outside world. U.S. airstrikes have had no effect at all on its expansion and have not significantly degraded the group’s ability to target the United States. AQAP is becoming an ever-more serious threat to American national security, and no one is doing much about it.
An archive of the 2016 Yemen Crisis Situation Reports.
Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate has been quietly expanding as the country descends further into civil war. It may be one of the few beneficiaries of Yemen’s collapse, other than the Islamic State, which is developing its own Yemeni franchise.