Al Qaeda benefits from Yemen turmoil
Followers of Ansar al-Sharia, an Al-Qaeda affiliate group in Jaar, Yemen Photo From: AFP/Getty Images
January 30th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Al Qaeda benefits from Yemen turmoil

By CNN's Pam Benson

When President Barack Obama told Americans last week that al Qaeda operatives in Yemen "are scrambling, knowing that they can't escape the reach of the United States of America," he may have been telling only half the story.

While al Qaeda's Yemen branch has been hit hard - most notably with the killing of American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki - U.S. officials and experts say there are signs that al Qaeda is making significant gains in Yemen as the government's control over outlying regions continues to fray amid political unrest.

Furthermore, they say, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) hasn't given up its goal of striking the United States, though there have been no attempted attacks on American soil by al Qaeda since 2010.

While the death of al-Awlaki by a CIA-operated drone in September eliminated AQAP's external operations commander and chief recruiter of English-speaking militants, key players remain at-large in Yemen.

They include AQAP leader Naser al-Wuhayshi - a close associate of Osama bin Laden - and Ibrahim al-Ashiri, the skilled bomb-maker U.S. officials believe was behind the attempt to blow up a U.S. commercial airliner on Christmas Day in 2009 and a plot to bomb cargo planes belonging to such companies as FedEx the following year.

And while some of al Qaeda's most-wanted members may be "scrambling," as Obama put it during his State of the Union speech Tuesday, AQAP's goal of striking the United States either overseas or at home has not diminished, according to one U.S. official.

"AQAP hasn't changed its two main aims which are to attack the West, while establishing a safe-haven in Yemen. They may have more success at the latter if they continue to take advantage of the political unrest there, which is going to be tense for some time," said the U.S. official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University, said AQAP members "are taking advantage of the chaos" in Yemen right now.

In addition to the fight against AQAP, Yemen has been wracked with protests throughout the past year, with demonstrators and rival factions demanding the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and calling for elections.

Daniel Green, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, agreed that AQAP has much more room to operate within Yemen, and offered a dire prediction: the group has an incentive to launch a spectacular attack in a presidential election year.

"They have shown a very entrepreneurial ability to get explosives into the U.S.," Green said. "I wouldn't put it past them to try and do something this year."

Most of the group's gains have been in the southern provinces where the government exercises little control, according to the experts.  Clashes between suspected militants and security forces have been particularly fierce over the past year in southern Abyan province, where suspected AQAP members held the provincial capital of Zinjibar under siege for months before eventually being flushed out.

The U.S. official agreed AQAP is "particularly strong" in the southern provinces and warned, "they'll most likely try to expand from there to establish themselves as a force in the surrounding provinces."

It appeared they did just that with the recent seizure of Radda only 100 miles south of the capital of Sanaa and considered a key transit route to the south.  Suspected militants stormed the town earlier this month, taking over government buildings and mosques and freeing inmates from jails, according to local authorities and residents.

The U.S. official acknowledged AQAP had "made some new gains" in Radda, but questioned soon after it happened whether the militants would be able to hold onto them.

"Often in the areas where AQAP has some control, they use intimidation and violence against tribal officials to force local support for their activities," the official said.

In the end, the militants relinquished control.  They agreed to leave Radda in exchange for the release of three prisoners, according to the office of the Yemeni vice president.

The U.S. official also cautioned against confusing secessionist violence with AQAP actions.

In 1990, North Yemen and South Yemen united as one country, but a secessionist movement has been gaining steam in the south, emboldened by the popular uprising against Saleh.

Green said that measuring the apparent gains of the organization is tricky.

"The challenge is discerning how much of this is al Qaeda and how much of this is just tribes taking advantage of the security vacuum to get more power."

There is also a question of whether al Qaeda is growing in Yemen.

Johnsen estimated the number of fighters at more than 1,000 - what he called a "significant increase" from the hundreds just a couple of years ago.

Two U.S. officials suggested that while difficult to determine, there are probably hundreds of hardcore operatives. When low-level and affiliated fighters are included, the total number could be anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 people, the officials said.

Meanwhile, the emergence of a group last year called Ansar al-Sharia has experts debating its connections to AQAP. The group has been linked to the takeover of Radda, according to Johnsen.

"Ansar al-Sharia seems to be a front AQAP sometimes uses in Yemen to avoid the baggage that comes with the al Qaeda name. But, they are still al Qaeda," a U.S. official said.

However, a U.S. counterterrorism official referred to Ansar al-Sharia as a social movement that favors Islamic rule in Yemen and appears to support the ideals of al Qaeda.

Johnsen thinks the group is certainly tied to AQAP and is pursing a model similar to the one the Taliban used to gain control of Afghanistan.

"These people are coming in and they are trying to provide some services to the people," said Johnsen, noting that all they have to do is be better than the Yemeni government to gain support.

Ansar al-Sharia recently released a video on its website of what it claimed to be U.S. soldiers on the roof of the Sheraton Hotel in the capital of Sanaa. There has been no confirmation of when the video was shot or whether in fact the men on the roof are American soldiers.

Johnsen said the group could use the video as a rallying cry to justify waging jihad against the United States, similar to what al Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan did in response to U.S. forces being in country.

For his part, Green said he believes AQAP is also trying to balance its image among the populace having learned a lesson from the playbooks of al Qaeda operators in Iraq and Pakistan where their brutality alienated local populations.

"They are being very careful pursuing a softer policy in addition to this hard policy of fighting," Green said.

Post by:
Filed under: AQAP • Arab Spring • CIA • drones • Terrorism • Yemen
soundoff (172 Responses)
  1. Fbshreext

    https://thesisacloud.com/ – thesisacloud.com mba thesis thesisacloud.com thesis online

    April 8, 2021 at 12:43 am | Reply
  2. Abgcreext

    https://thesiswritingtob.com/ – thesiswritingtob.com how to write thesis proposal thesiswritingtob.com thesis topics in education

    April 7, 2021 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  3. Lorenza Pelto

    This is a topic that's close to my heart... Take care! Where are your contact details though?

    https://extraproxies.com/tag/mathematicians/

    April 2, 2021 at 6:59 am | Reply
  4. Abgcreext

    https://thesiswritingtob.com/ – thesis only phd thesis proposal help education thesis thesis help free

    March 30, 2021 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  5. Phillip Mccandlish

    Excellent article. I absolutely love this website. Continue the good work!

    https://extraproxies.com/tag/haskell/

    March 30, 2021 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  6. John Standage

    Having read this I thought it was very enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this informative article together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

    https://extraproxies.com/buy-proxies/1000-proxy-pack

    March 28, 2021 at 6:43 am | Reply
  7. Lmoppreext

    http://essaywriteris.com/ – order cheap essay online fake essay writer best essay writing websites how can i pay someone to write my essay

    March 27, 2021 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  8. BrfgVelm

    https://ljcialishe.com/ – goodrx cialis https://cialisvja.com/ – cialis drug interactions https://viagraonlinejc.com/ – what was viagra originally used for https://viagratx.com/ – viagra manufacturer https://buycialisxz.com/ – cialis for sale

    March 26, 2021 at 3:49 am | Reply
  9. Fbshreext

    https://thesisacloud.com/ – thesis statement help writing thesis thesis binding write my thesis

    March 26, 2021 at 2:25 am | Reply
  10. Jvqqreext

    https://dissertationahelp.com/ – editing dissertations phd dissertation writing service best dissertation writing professional dissertation help

    March 25, 2021 at 7:41 pm | Reply
  11. Abgcreext

    https://thesiswritingtob.com/ – thesis writing service best thesis writing service thesis writing service thesis statement help

    March 25, 2021 at 7:02 pm | Reply
  12. Fbshreext

    https://thesisacloud.com/ – education thesis thesis paper thesis help thesis printing

    March 23, 2021 at 7:54 am | Reply
  13. Abgcreext

    https://thesiswritingtob.com/ – law thesis how to write thesis thesis in writing thesis proposal writing

    March 22, 2021 at 11:07 pm | Reply
  14. Ozie Harland

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    March 4, 2021 at 10:26 am | Reply
  15. ClarkClurn

    z2c82 mycwn unpm

    March 1, 2021 at 4:33 am | Reply
  16. ClarkClurn

    7i024 3si9p jul3

    February 28, 2021 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  17. KndnVelm

    buy viagra in mexico what viagra does viagra without a doctor prescription canada

    February 28, 2021 at 1:41 am | Reply
  18. Fjjufiple

    viagra online pharmacy http://viagraonlinejc.com/ statins and viagra

    February 27, 2021 at 10:45 am | Reply
  19. vreyro linomit

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade web site post from you in the upcoming as well. In fact your creative writing skills has inspired me to get my own blog now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings fast. Your write up is a good example of it.

    http://www.vreyrolinomit.com/

    February 26, 2021 at 4:24 am | Reply
  20. zithromax pack

    zithromax antibiotics zithromax.com zithromax 100 mg

    February 23, 2021 at 11:49 am | Reply
  21. KbbfTaism

    viagra online without prescription http://kloviagrli.com/ can you get viagra sent to australia

    February 18, 2021 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  22. Nbnhfiple

    100mg sildenafil 30 tablets price cheapest brand viagra online where can i get genuine viagra

    February 18, 2021 at 9:39 am | Reply
  23. Abcfallogegen

    supreme suppliers viagra buy viagra cheap overnight cheap viagra

    February 17, 2021 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  24. Labxreext

    qual o mais forte viagra ou cialis cialis what dosage is best cialis doctors

    February 17, 2021 at 3:19 am | Reply
  25. 1000000GSA Backlinks

    Best Social Media Services and Website Traffic Services 2021: https://www.seoclerk.com/user/jackpower99

    https://www.seoclerk.com/user/jackpower99

    February 16, 2021 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  26. child porns

    child porns

    http://www.hataygencradyo.net/

    February 16, 2021 at 8:04 am | Reply
  27. Jbnvclups

    payday loans that don't require a credit check easy money cash advance tuscaloosa al cheapest payday loans direct lenders

    February 15, 2021 at 10:58 pm | Reply
  28. clonidine hcl

    chloroquine without prescription chloroquine cancer chloroquine phosphate tablet

    February 15, 2021 at 5:15 pm | Reply
  29. Secure Proxy

    as I website possessor I conceive the subject material here is very wonderful, thankyou for your efforts.

    https://dreamproxies.com/tag/recurring-proxies-discount/

    February 15, 2021 at 4:04 am | Reply
  30. Usa Private Proxies

    I’d must examine with you here. Which is not something I usually do! I take pleasure in reading a submit that may make folks think. Also, thanks for permitting me to remark!

    https://dreamproxies.com/tag/buy-private-proxies-sale-discount/

    February 14, 2021 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  31. Jbbnreext

    does insurance cover viagra cialis atacand plus cialis cialis 5 mg take two

    February 14, 2021 at 5:03 am | Reply
  32. Perry Dikeman

    Get Our Passive Income System – Step 1: Get our ready made niche websites, Step 2: Setup your Paypal account. Step 3: Run our Unlimited Traffic System from 850 sources of traffic (Approximately 35000 views a day guaranteed). Then just wait and earn your income 100 on autopilot. More info: https://www.k3reviews.com/2020/08/16/monster-mode-700k/

    https://www.k3reviews.com/

    February 13, 2021 at 3:29 am | Reply
  33. KvaxVelm

    best payday loan with bad credit payday loan gardner ks how do payday loans work in canada

    February 12, 2021 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  34. Fbsgfiple

    purchase cialis online canada generic cialis fast shipping generic cialis forums

    February 12, 2021 at 10:31 am | Reply
  35. Fqbbreext

    payroll cash advance definition payday loans henryetta ok saint john payday loans

    February 11, 2021 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  36. Ahbzreext

    cash advance gallipolis ohio payday loans nanaimo bc payday loans no credit check nsw

    February 11, 2021 at 12:02 am | Reply
  37. Nncsfiple

    generic viagra 50 mg canadian rx pharmacy online super viagra online

    February 10, 2021 at 5:55 pm | Reply
  38. KuikTaism

    viagra repacement viagra users comments viagra sale

    February 9, 2021 at 10:40 pm | Reply
  39. Cardiff House Clearance

    Having read this I thought it was very informative. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this article together. I once again find myself spending way to much time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

    http://www.dumpawaste.co.uk

    February 9, 2021 at 7:42 am | Reply
  40. Lbsxreext

    prescription prices comparison is viagra covered by insurance compare prescription prices

    February 9, 2021 at 6:29 am | Reply
  41. vasúti szállítás Kínából Europa-Road Kft.

    Hello.This post was extremely motivating, particularly since I was looking for thoughts on this issue last Saturday.

    https://europa-road.eu/hu/vasuti-szallitmanyozas.php

    February 9, 2021 at 3:46 am | Reply
  42. Aqcfallogegen

    cialis online cialis softabs online cialis uk

    February 8, 2021 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  43. Jbnbclups

    online pharmacy india pharmacy price comparison herbals

    February 8, 2021 at 11:52 am | Reply
  44. adana escort

    iskenderun escort bayanlarla tanışmak için bu siteyi ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

    http://www.cuba.tc/escort-kategori/adana-escort-bayan

    February 7, 2021 at 11:06 pm | Reply
1 2

Leave a Reply to Jbnbclups


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.