March 07, 2017
Targeting AQAP: U.S. Airstrikes in Yemen
An unprecedented rate of U.S. airstrikes in Yemen may affect al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) operations and shift the momentum to al Houthi-Saleh forces in central Yemen. The U.S. has conducted over 45 airstrikes targeting AQAP in 2017 with nearly all occurring after the Trump administration removed certain requirements for White House review of operations. AQAP currently provides critical support to local militias fighting al Houthi-Saleh forces in al Bayda governorate. It is possible that the U.S. will limit the ability of these local militias to hold the frontline by disrupting AQAP’s operations. An al Houthi-Saleh attack in Lawder, Abyan, near the southern al Bayda border may be an indicator that al Houthi-Saleh forces were able to advance, though they may have generated strength from continued enclaves of support in southern al Bayda. A shift in the al Bayda frontline, which has been fixed for most of the current conflict, would be a key indicator that the local militias are weaker. Other indicators would include a strong al Houthi-Saleh counteroffensive in northern Abyan governorate or in southern al Bayda. A shift in al Bayda could compel the Hadi government military coalition to reallocate resources away from other regions to prevent al Houthi-Saleh gains, limiting the coalition’s ability to sustain pressure on the al Houthi-Saleh faction.