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.
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 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.
Yemen’s fragile and reversible gains against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are threatened by a new challenge: the re-emergence of a violent secessionist movement in the south.
Local Yemeni tribal militias, called “popular resistance committees,” are now the primary defenders of areas threatened by Ansar al Sharia. These militias have been effective, but are not reliable in the long term.
Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi issued a series of decrees yesterday that served to both restructure Yemen’s security forces and to remove remnants of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s network from official command positions.
Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, which has already attempted three attacks on the United States, is stronger now than it was before the start of the Arab Spring. The Yemeni government, America’s counter-terrorism partner, is weaker. The danger to America from this virulent terrorist group is growing. And our current strategy is unlikely to succeed.
Understanding AQAP’s leadership will help define the challenge the U.S. faces, and underpin strategies to defeat the threat that AQAP poses to the United States and its allies. This slide deck provides information on AQAP’s leaders, both current and former, and their networks.
AQAP and its insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, continue to pose a threat despite announced Yemeni military gains in the south. Increased attacks and assassination attempts indicate that AQAP’s operational network remains functional.
The prospect of relying entirely on tribes to police south Yemen for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Ansar al Sharia is tempting. The lesson of the past year is that tribes are essential to an effective campaign against AQAP and Ansar al Sharia, but they are not a silver bullet.
The news that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula nearly blew up a US aircraft last week is a reminder of its continuing strength.