Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) formed in January 2009 as a merger between the Yemeni and Saudi al Qaeda branches. Operatives work in cells throughout the country and rely on tribal support for shelter. The group seeks to establish an Islamic state and has executed attacks on Western interests.
Capabilities: AQAP has historically targeted western interests in Yemen; however, the 2009 Christmas Day attack, October 2010 parcel plot, and May 2012 bomb plot showed that the group has international capabilities.
English-language outreach: AQAP is the first al Qaeda franchise to publish in English. Anwar al Awlaki, an American-born cleric, headed the group's English-language outreach from Yemen and advocated for the Muslim community to wage violent jihad.
Guantanamo Detainees: Yemen continues to be a destination for former Guantanamo detainees, some of whom are part of the AQAP leadership.
The Threat from al Qaeda
IN THIS SECTION
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.
The new government in Yemen has extracted several of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s cronies from the country’s power structure, including demotion of Saleh’s half-brother Mohammed al Ahmar and nephew Tareq Mohammed Saleh, the former heads of the Air Force and Presidential Guard, respectively.
The Yemen Order of Battle (ORBAT) describes the structure and placement of the Yemeni Armed Forces down to the brigade level.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its nascent insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, expanded their sanctuary in Yemen dramatically. American assistance programs aimed at developing Yemeni counter-terrorism forces will not suffice in the face of a growing insurgency.