Conditions in Yemen have changed with the onset of the Arab Spring. Political unrest has created openings for the country’s established opposition movements – including al Qaeda – to maneuver for power. Whether the Arab Spring has brought real regime change in Yemen is unclear. While the international community awaits a fully functional government in the capital of Sana’a, al Qaeda may continue to expand its safe haven in the south. Learn more about the challenges in Yemen.
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The al Houthi siege on Sana'a on September 21 sets a dangerous precedent that could lead to the repartition of Yemen. The al Houthis, whether intentionally or not, have set Yemen on a path that puts the existence of an essential U.S. counterterrorism partner on the table.
President Obama strategy's against the Islamic State is based on what the U.S. is doing in Yemen, combining targeted airstrikes with support for a local partner, a counterterrorism strategy which Obama claims has been successful and has made the U.S. safer. Unfortunately, those claims are not accurate.
President Obama held up America's strategy in Yemen as a model for the counterterrorism strategy he intends to pursue in Iraq and Syria. By doing so, he committed to a strategy of targeting terrorists from the air and supporting local security forces in their counterterrorism fight.
The horrific images and story of 14 murdered soldiers that came out of Yemen on August 8 pale in comparison to those coming from Iraq and Syria. Yet they may presage the emergence of a renewed threat from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that the U.S and Yemen are ill-prepared to handle.
President Obama says the United States is looking to its Yemen policy as a model for what to do in Iraq and Syria. But what the president labels the "Yemen model" has not been as successful as the White House claims; indeed, it is in danger of collapse.
While the Houthi battle against the state may appear a sideshow to many, the expansion of conflict with the Houthi to an area directly north of Yemen’s capital will likely draw on Yemen’s limited military, now the only significant forces fighting our shared enemy AQAP
It would be premature to expect an AQAP offensive on the scale of what the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham recently conducted in Iraq, but it would also be a mistake to rule out the possibility of a series of significant attacks that could unhinge the Yemeni security forces and, in conjunction with the expanding al Houthi conflict in the north, possibly the Yemeni state.
Continued escalation in the al Houthi conflict increase the threat to Hadi and his government and will most likely draw limited resources away from fighting AQAP. Such a shift in military resources to the al Houthi conflict could give AQAP uncontested safe havens in southern Yemen, where it could plan and coordinate attacks against the U.S.