Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) poses the greatest direct threat to the United States out of all the al Qaeda franchises. AQAP has benefited from a year of unrest in Yemen that has weakened the central state and hindered counter-terrorism operations there. AQAP’s affiliated local fighters have gained control over important parts of south Yemen greatly increasing AQAP’s ability to operate. American strategy in Yemen has pursued two tracks to date. The overarching approach is to facilitate the establishment of a stable government in control of a unitary Yemeni state that is willing and able to combat AQAP. In the meantime, direct action operations against AQAP leaders are meant to disrupt the organization and mitigate the challenges posed by the delay in forming an effective and willing counter-terrorism partner in Yemen. Both tracks have been affected by the insecurity resulting from the Arab Spring’s arrival in Yemen in early 2011, which stopped the implementation of many military and non-military programs supporting the counter-terrorism strategy. It is far from clear that the current American strategy toward Yemen and AQAP can succeed.
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