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Terrorism & Security

Yemen vows to defy Al Qaeda's intimidation campaign

As Yemen celebrated a national holiday with a parade in Sanaa today, President Hadi said that recent attacks, including a bombing yesterday that killed more than 90 people, would not derail his government's campaign against terrorism.

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AQAP said yesterday's attack was retaliation for a US-backed operation against it in southern Yemen, the Associated Press reports. In a statement yesterday, AQAP said "our main battle is against America so don't stand as a deterrent in the way or be tools or soldiers commanded by [Obama administration counterterrorism adviser] John Brennan and the American ambassador in Sanaa."

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Middle East Editor

Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog. 

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The Los Angeles Times reports that AQAP also said "Yemeni officials had been 'turned into mercenaries' carrying out US and Western policies. … 'We will get revenge.... What happened in Sana is only the beginning.'"

Many Yemeni officials believe that while the US drone campaign is achieving its goal of picking off militants operating in Yemen (most recently, key leader Fahd al-Quso), it is also becoming a "recruiting tool" for Al Qaeda by angering ordinary Yemenis, writes Timothy Fairbank, the managing director of Development Transformations, which specializes in "stabilization and development in countries in transition."

Based on a recent assessment trip to Yemen, Fairbank writes in Al-Monitor:

While drone strikes can be effective and necessary, the failure of the Yemeni government and international community to address the core issues driving instability – such as deficiencies in effective governance, economic development, the availability of goods and services, and youth engagement – undermines the security situation and facilitates the rise of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Without a comprehensive approach, the US will continue to alienate the population and create an increasingly unstable and fragmented country, hostile to US national interests. US drone strikes are helping to radicalize a growing segment of the population. 

When viewed in isolation, eliminating Yemen’s terrorism threat is significantly more important to US national security interests than strengthening Yemen’s institutions and economy. But in Yemen, these issues are inextricably linked. The US must continue trying to eliminate the threat of terrorism, but only within the context of understanding and addressing the sources of instability and root causes of conflict and discontent. Some Yemeni citizens are joining AQAP because they lack hope in the current system and are increasingly furious over US drone strikes.


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