May 16, 2011

Quick Take: Update on the Crisis in Yemen

On May 10, al Qaeda’s Yemen-based franchise, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), released a eulogy for Osama bin Laden. Nasser al Wahayshi, a former private secretary of bin Laden’s and the leader of AQAP, delivered the statement. He warned the U.S. that the “ember of jihad is glowing brighter than it was during” bin Laden’s life. “What is coming,” Wahayshi said, “is greater and worse, and what is awaiting you is more intense and harmful.” AQAP is the most active al Qaeda node currently operational and is responsible for both the 2009 Christmas day attack and the 2010 parcel plot against the U.S.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose government has been weakened by widespread protests since late January, is the U.S.’s partner in the fight against AQAP, albeit an inconsistent one. Saleh’s political survival in Yemen is unclear – the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is seeking to resume negotiations for a transition of power in the country. Mass demonstrations are occurring daily in Yemen’s major cities and these have been met with an increasing use of force. Last week, the Yemeni fighter jets bombed an area just north of the capital, Sana’a, where anti-government tribesmen clashed with Saleh’s elite Republican Guard units. The political impasse, the escalation in violence, and the withdrawal of elite counter-terrorism units from al Qaeda strongholds to the capital are all cause for concern, especially for the U.S.

As attention has turned toward the survival of the government, AQAP has continued to conduct its insurgency in Yemen and has benefited from an increase in operating space.

Please join us tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM at the American Enterprise Institute (1150 Seventeenth Street, NW) for a discussion of the situation in Yemen and what policy options are available to the U.S. To register or watch live, please visit the Yemen event page.

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