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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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.
Yemen is at a pivotal moment today, three years after the outbreak of popular protests, and the future of America's strategy against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is on the line.
Twelve years after 9/11, the administration does not understand al-Qaeda. Nor does it grasp the nature of war. The al-Qaeda war is a component of a larger contest for power in the Middle East, and by failing to understand terrorist groups in that context and to define enduring interests in the region, the President is trying to turn the war into something it's not: one from which we can withdraw.