The destabilizing legacy of US military aid and counterterrorism efforts in Yemen

The destabilizing legacy of US military aid and counterterrorism efforts in Yemen

By Adam Baron, Maged Al-Madhaji and Waleed Alhariri

Executive summary:

Since the administration of United States President George W. Bush, Washington has provided military assistance to the Yemeni government under the stated goal of bolstering the Yemeni Armed Forces’ capacity to combat Yemen’s local branch of al-Qaeda. This assistance was fairly consistently provided up until the outbreak of the most recent conflict in 2015, irrespective of the domestic upheaval taking place in Yemen.

Widely supported by US officials, this military assistance has had undemocratic and destabilizing consequences for Yemen. For instance, in the early 2000s, American aid to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh allowed him to consolidate power around his family through the placement of his sons and nephews in key positions in the US-trained-and-equipped elite military units. When Saleh officially stepped down to end the prolonged political crisis that followed Yemen’s 2011 uprising, US military aid continued under Saleh’s successor, Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Washington’s myopic emphasis on counterterrorism issues, however, led American officials to ignore the deep tensions underlying Hadi’s transitional administration, which were only exacerbated by Hadi’s deeply unpopular decisions to publicly endorse American drone strikes in Yemen and allow the US military unprecedented leeway to conduct operations in the country.

Much if not most of the previous US military aid to Yemen has today been re-directed away from counterterrorism efforts with, for instance, large quantities falling into the hands of Houthi fighters subsequent to their capture of the capital, Sana’a, in September 2014. Army units loyal to Saleh also retained much of their American equipment after Saleh allied himself with the Houthis.

The start of the Saudi-led military coalition’s intervention to reinstate the Hadi government – dubbed Operation Decisive Storm – in March 2015 has spurred massive setback in US interests in Yemen, even as Washington continues to supply the coalition with military support. Institutional state collapse, economic devastation, social fragmentation, famine, a cholera epidemic, and the proliferation of arms and armed groups have all undermined Yemen’s security and stability, creating an environment in which al-Qaeda is thriving. Thus, even when an armistice is reached to end the immediate fighting, the Yemeni state and US interests in Yemen will face immense challenges, while simultaneously an entrenched and emboldened al-Qaeda will make Yemen more important to US counterterrorism policy than ever.

From the Cold War to counterterrorism

During the Cold War years of the 1970s and 1980s, the United States provided both economic and military backing to the then-Yemen Arab Republic (YAR), colloquially known as North Yemen, aiming to push back any potential expansion of the Marxist and Soviet-allied People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), otherwise known as South Yemen, the latter of which the US government designated a state sponsor of terrorism.[1] Following Yemeni unification in 1990 under President Ali Abdullah Saleh, US military support continued, particularly as US firms entered Yemen to engage in oil and gas exploration through the 1990s.

US-Yemen dynamics changed dramatically towards the end of the Clinton administration when, on October 12, 2000, a group of Al Qaeda operatives launched a guided missile at the USS Cole as it refueled in the southern port of Aden, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 more.[2] The effects of this attack would only be accentuated by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York less than a year later. Masterminded by Osama bin Laden, a Saudi of Yemeni descent, the attack drew further attention to Yemen, particularly in light of the Yemeni intelligence services’ and military apparatuses’ historic ties to radical groups — particularly the Political Security Office (PSO) — dating back to the Afghan jihad against the Russians in the 1980s. These ties were reinforced by the incorporation of Islamist fighters into the Yemeni military after the 1994 war.[3] The ever-pragmatic Saleh, however, quickly aimed to portray himself as a potential ally in the US’ newly-launched “War on Terror”; Washington’s new foreign policy focus in Yemen were spearheaded by the appointment of a security-focused US Ambassador, Edmund Hall, in October 2001.

Saleh succeeded in gaining increased military and financial support from the US government. However,  Washington continued to retain operational independence in Yemen, and at times even acting against elements of the country’s security and political establishment. For instance, the US Treasury Department designated a number of key Yemeni figures as terrorist sponsors, such as Abdulmajid al-Zindani, an erstwhile Saleh ally who played a key role in the founding of Yemen’s Islah party.[4] Most notably perhaps, on September 19th, 2002, US and Egyptian law enforcement carried out a sting operation to arrest Yemeni businessman and security officer Abdulsalem al-Hillah, an associate of PSO head Ghaleb al-Qamish, in Cairo, eventually transferring him to the detention center in Guantanamo Bay where he remains imprisoned to this day.[5] Wider US distrust of the Yemeni security establishment lead to American support for the creation of a second intelligence agency, the National Security Bureau (NSB), in 2002; backed by US aid and funding, the NSB was meant to provide a clean slate from the PSO’s marred history of corruption and torture. Saleh, however, stacked the nascent agency’s leadership with relatives and loyalists as a further means to consolidate his family’s hold on power.

A key milestone was passed in 2002 as well, with the first US drone strike and the first extrajudicial killing of an American citizen, Kamal Darwish, in Yemen. On November 3, 2002, a CIA operated Predator drone fired a hellfire missile at a vehicle carrying the mastermind of the USS Cole attack, Qa’id Salim al-Harithi, killing him and five others. In a telling precedent, the CIA, Pentagon and the Yemeni government declined to comment on the incident, while Yemeni observers cast the drone strike as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty and international observers remained split on its legality.[6] Following the strike, the efforts of Yemeni security services gained marked success, and by the mid-2000s the majority of prominent Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen had been killed or imprisoned.[7]

While the US was focus remained on al-Qaeda in Yemen, the Yemeni government itself began shifting its attention to a growing insurgency in the north by the Houthi movement, a group founded on a revivalist interpretation of Zaidism, a brand of Shi’ism found almost exclusively in northern Yemen. The Houthi movement’s firebrand cleric, Hussein al-Houthi, had risen to prominence in part due to his acerbic criticism of Saleh’s alliance with the United States, amid growing anti-American sentiment in the wake of the invasion of Iraq.

Yemeni officials pushed for increased military aid to battle the Houthis, which was initially provided as US government officials regarded it as a means to support the Yemeni government in cracking down on illicit weapons flows in the region.[8] Saleh himself was keen to leverage greater support by portraying the battle in terms consonant with the “War on Terror” rhetoric of the Bush administration.

“We are fighting your fight,” Saleh said in 2005 in reference to renewed clashes in the Houthis’ stronghold of Saada. “They are anti-U.S., anti-Israel, and pro-Iranian, whereas we are your friend.”[9]

Saleh’s and Washington’s deviating agendas soon became apparent to the American officials involved, however;[10] as the fighting in Saada continued, the al-Qaeda threat soon reemerged. In February 2006, a jailbreak from a PSO-run prison saw 23 al-Qaeda members escape. The escapees included Nasser al-Wuhayshi, a former bin Laden aid who was later to be the founding leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – the soon-to-be-formed conglomeration of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni and Saudi branches – and his eventual successor as AQAP leader, Qassim al-Raymi. The prison break, which remains shrouded in allegations of insider complicity, could not have come at a more opportune time for the group. Pressure from US military interventions in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a crackdown against extremists neighboring Saudi Arabia had led numerous al-Qaeda aligned fighters to relocate to Yemen, where the central government’s weak control over much of the country’s rural areas and the continuing corruption in the security sector provided a fertile environment for the group’s resurgence.

 

International fears and increased military aid

In January 2009, Wuhayshi announced the formation of AQAP, which occurred almost simultaneously with the inauguration of President Barack Obama. On June 1 of the same year, American Muslim convert Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, née Carlos Bledsoe, opened fire on a recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas, killing one private and wounding another. Previously based in Yemen between September 2007 and January 2009 – where he ostensibly worked as an English teacher but later admitted to being in contact with terrorist operatives – Muhammad claimed he had been dispatched to carry out the attack on behalf of AQAP.[11] The first two major US strikes of Obama’s tenure in office then came in December of 2009. The first, in Shabwa governorate, targeted a suspected meeting of AQAP officials. The second, on December 24, targeted a suspected al-Qaeda training camp in al-Majalla, Abyan governorate, though at least three dozen civilians were also killed.

The following day, AQAP-devotee Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – now popularly known as the “underwear bomber” – attempted to bring down a US passenger flight on its approach to Detroit. Though he only succeeded in injuring himself, his ability to smuggle plastic explosives through airport security drew significant attention to AQAP, its chief bombmaker, Saudi-national Ibrahim al-Asiri, and Yemeni-American dual citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, whose radical preachings inspired Abdulmutallab.

At a conference the next month, Gulf States and the Group of Eight (G8)[12] met in London to discuss matching anti-AQAP security efforts in Yemen with humanitarian and development aid. Such international concern would only heighten as AQAP increased its outreach efforts towards western and English-speaking Muslims—epitomized by the June 2010 launch of Inspire, an English language online magazine—exhorting them to carry out attacks. For Saleh, the attention on AQAP and pledges of international support came at a fortuitous  time: he was simultaneously facing tensions with the Saudis, Yemen’s powerful neighbors to the north, and yet another round of fighting with the Houthis that was spiraling out of control.

The deaths of civilians in al-Majalla had also spurred widespread popular condemnation, with anti-US sentiment compounded by a May 25, 2010 drone strike in the province of Marib that killed the province’s deputy governor and respected tribal leader Jabir al-Shabwani; this strike spurred members of the Shabwani tribe to attack the country’s key oil pipeline, causing Yemen’s crude exports to temporarily grind to a halt.[13]

Nonetheless, the strikes continued, as did increasing US aid to the Yemeni military, despite concerns from some US officials that even the specifically dedicated Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) – a key beneficiaries of American aid and training – was being employed in the fight against the Houthis rather than AQAP.[14] Large portions of US military assistance also continued to flow to the counterterrorism arms of the Central Security Forces (CSF) and the Republican Guard, which were headed by Saleh’s nephew Yahya and son Ahmed, respectively, which had the effect of strengthening Saleh and his family’s hold position in power.

 

Impacts of the 2011 uprising

The year 2011 began with a surprise trip from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Sanaa, a testament to the positive relationship between Washington and the Saleh. A mere month later, the Arab Spring inspired an uprising that would set in motion a series of events forcing Saleh leave power — and granting AQAP latitude to establish unprecedented operational space in the country.

Inspired by events in Egypt and Tunisia, Yemeni youth — later joined by the country’s establishment opposition factions — took to the streets to demand Saleh’s ouster. As in Egypt, the US government was placed in the uncomfortable position of watching a longtime ally being unseated by a popular revolt, with his potential successor remaining uncertain.[15] Even more alarmingly, weapons that had been sent to the country’s armed forces to combat terrorists were increasingly being utilized against unarmed demonstrators and internal political adversaries.

In the midst of the crisis, AQAP made substantial gains: over the course of April and May 2011, Al Qaeda-aligned militants, fighting under the name Ansar al-Sharia, took control of swathes of the southern province of Abyan, eventually establishing a series of emirates where they consolidated rule and meted out their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. For the US, this represented not just a setback, but an embarrassment: natives of the province attested that the US-backed Yemeni military effectively stood by as the fighters took over, in many cases abandoning their post rather than fighting, despite holding a significant numerical advantage.[16]

Nevertheless, Saleh continued to enthusiastically employ “War on Terror” rhetoric in an attempt to maintain power, consistently warning that his exit would pave the way for AQAP and other radical militants to take over the country, while also drawing attention to radical elements within the opposition.[17]  

“The departure of the regime…means the departure of Yemeni unity and the republic,” Saleh opined in a speech on May 20, 2011, directing his remarks to the United States and Europe. “If the regime goes, al-Qaeda will flourish.”[18]

While the bulk of US agencies did not buy into this zero-sum narrative, there remained widespread anxiety among western and regional officials regarding who would succeed Saleh. This was not just due to their historical ties with Saleh, but also owing to the inexperience as well as ideological and structural incoherence of the bulk of the country’s opposition. Diplomatic efforts largely focused on a smooth power transfer deal that would preserve much of the preexisting order, even as it led to changes at the top. For many of those who had taken to the streets against Saleh, this represented a unquestionable betrayal, fueling resentment that would linger long after.[19] Nonetheless, on November 22, 2011 Saleh inked a power transfer deal in Riyadh, and on February 27, 2012 formally transferred power to his longtime deputy, Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

For the US, Hadi immediately proved a far more malleable partner. Eager to please and lacking Saleh’s mercurial temperament, the new president quickly moved to tighten ties with the United States. US officials claimed counterterrorism cooperation had improved even during the interregnum period before Hadi formally took office.[20] And as time went on, Hadi quickly became the focus of one of the most ballyhooed facets of the Obama administration’s foreign policy: the so-called “Yemen Model”.

As a wider strategy for combatting foreign terrorist groups, the aim of the Yemen Model was to limit US troop involvement as much as possible: the model effectively consisted of bolstering a proxy force—in this case, Yemen’s US-backed government—with arms, aid and training, while the US military carried out targeted killings against terrorist leaders and gatherings using drones and other aircraft.[21] In context, this was given a democratic sheen by Yemen’s contemporary internationally-backed transition, which itself was cast as a post-Arab Spring model for the region. All the while, it was clear where the US’ priorities laid: CIA director John Brennan conducted more visits to the country than any other US official during Hadi’s presidency — a continuation of his time as US point man on Yemen as under Saleh.

Largely centered around Hadi, the Yemen Model undeniably benefitted from the president’s willingness to write a blank check for US forces. In contrast to Saleh, who quietly allowed the US to carry out drone strikes while publicly claiming that they were carried out by the Yemeni Air Force, Hadi openly hailed the strikes, providing an unqualified endorsement for targeted killings during his September 29, 2012 remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC.[22]

“They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” he said. “The electronic brain’s precision is unmatched by the human brain.”[23]

Coming amidst rising resentment over the surge in US drone strikes, such remarks gestured to Hadi’s growing distance with popular sentiment in the country; indeed, AQAP began to forcefully leverage popular opposition to drone strikes in its propaganda operations. That’s not to say, however, that Hadi’s cooperation with the US didn’t lead to some success. Prior to the Yemeni president’s trip to the Washington, a spring offensive had succeeded in dislodging Ansar al-Sharia from the bulk of Abyan province. Nonetheless, even at the time, many observers remained deeply skeptical — correctly predicting that the fighters would simply go underground and relocate elsewhere.[24] This fell in line with deepening criticism of Hadi’s wider counterterrorism policy: while seeking to portray himself as a break with the past, Hadi — with the exception of offering the US a freer hand — largely maintained continuity with the past, both in terms of monopolizing contacts with security partners and with regards to elevating his familial and provincial allies.

“Like Saleh, Hadi wants to run counterterrorism policy out of Sanaa — not because he can, but because he wants to monopolize the Americans,” remarked one tribal leader from al-Jawf governorate, which had a significant AQAP presence at the time, before continuing in jest: “these corrupt politicians fear us more than they fear al-Qaeda because we actually know what’s going on.”[25]

This distance with what was happening on the ground increasingly came to a head as Hadi’s time in power lengthened. While western officials may have been satisfied with Hadi’s counterterrorism cooperation, Yemenis grew increasingly frustrated with the continuing lack of security and the country’s economic stagnation, as — under the cover of the continuing transition — various political factions continued to wage war on each other. Finally, on September 21, after having completed a US-backed military restructuring process, the Yemeni Armed Forces simply acquiesced with little resistance as Houthi fighters overran Sana’a.

The US Embassy would remain open in the capital for several more months, but the trajectory was clear: Yemen — and US policy in Yemen — was coming apart. On January 22, Hadi resigned from the presidency under Houthi pressure. Roughly three weeks later, on February 10, the US evacuated its embassy staff. The situation escalated further as the Houthi forces, and those allied to former President Saleh, pushed south to conquer the rest of the country before a Saudi-led coalition launched Operation Decisive Storm, a military intervention intended to restore Hadi to power. By the end of March 2015, the US-backed Yemeni president had fled the country, Saudi jets had destroyed Yemen’s air force; a week later, AQAP took over Mukalla, the country’s fifth largest city. The Yemen model, it seemed, had spectacularly unraveled.

 

Fallout from Operation Decisive Storm

Regardless of US backing for Operation Decisive Storm – it’s worth stressing that the military operation was officially announced by the Saudis in Washington rather than Riyadh – there is little question that the ongoing war has led to a massive setback for key US interests in the country. Yemen has devolved into the scene of the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis. A multifaceted series of conflicts have ripped apart Yemen’s social fabric, leading to rampant destabilization, the evaporation of the government’s presence in much of the country and the absence of basic services. Hadi himself rarely visits the government’s de facto capital, the city of Aden, spending most of his time in Riyadh. In areas on the ground that pro-Hadi forces nominally control, and even within the Hadi government itself, AQAP’s influence has rarely been stronger.

There is little question that the conflict has proven a boon to AQAP — and mainstream Yemeni politicians that the US government alleges have worked with the group. Key figures aligned with the Yemeni government, including Salafi politician and member of the government of Yemen negotiating team Abdulwahab al-Homaiqani, former al-Bayda governor Naif al-Qaisi and Islah politicians Hassan Abkar and Abdulmajid al-Zindani, have been designated by the United States Treasury Department; Qaisi and Abkar have specifically been accused of funneling arms and funds to AQAP fighters since the launch of the war; this has come despite the coalition’s reliance on the American military support and diplomatic cover, suggesting that Washington is unwilling or unable to exercise its leverage with Saudi Arabia or the Yemeni government to prevent them from cooperating with those it views as terrorists. Simultaneously — and far more importantly — AQAP has managed to capitalize on the situation unleashed by Yemen’s collapse. Despite the loss of Mukalla in Spring 2015, AQAP remains stronger, wealthier and more powerful than any time in it or its predecessor groups’ history.[26] The continuation of a force heavy US response to AQAP has done little to effect decisive change, notably through failing to demonstrably change the environment that has allowed AQAP and its affiliate groups to thrive.[27]

There have been signs of potential positive change — albeit ones wrought by the effective collapse of the Yemeni state. In parts of South Yemen, the US has — in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates — made tentative steps towards the creation of locally-based counterterrorism forces. The greatest success of these forces has been along the coast of Hadramawt governorate, where they’ve played a key role in maintaining stability in Mukalla and its environs since the withdrawal of AQAP and its allies, while such forces have also developed in areas such as Abyan, Lahj and Shabwa.

The growth of local counterterrorism forces has not been without repercussions, largely associated with their unregulated and unaccountable nature and growing power and autonomy. This was notable when Hadi recently sacked Hadramawt governor Ahmed bin Brayk, one of their biggest proponents, due to his reported insubordination.[28] Furthermore, human rights groups have accumulated damning evidence that local counterterrorism forces have been involved in widespread human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial detentions. Nonetheless, many locals in areas where said groups operate have hailed their effectiveness, encouraging the US and other western powers to work with them further, stressing the importance and effectiveness of locally rooted security forces.

 

Looking ahead

Nearly two decades after Yemen emerged as a key focus for US counterterrorism policy, US interests in the country are in tatters. At time of writing, Yemen’s US-allied government remains largely in exile, the capital remains under the control of vociferously anti-American rebels and AQAP remains more powerful than ever; in many regards, the current status of the country has surpassed many worst case scenarios. This is not to say that blame belongs solely—or even primarily—on the US government for Yemen’s current state. Still, US policy in Yemen has frequently created situations which have exacerbated, rather than resolved, the very problems it was theoretically aimed to solve.

With Yemen currently on the verge of dissolution and its formal government all but evaporated, the US will face even greater challenges moving forward. Even in the event of a peace deal, Yemen’s military and law enforcement agencies will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. Government institutions will have to be virtually reconstituted. In short, the challenges faced by the US will only multiply, even as AQAP’s rising strength will likely mean that Yemen will be more important for US counterterrorism policy than ever.

 

Adam Baron is co-founder of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Maged Al-Madhaji is executive director and a co-founder of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.

Waleed Alhariri heads the New York office and US-based operation of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.


Notes:

[1] Export Administration Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-72, § 6(i), 93 Stat. 515 (currently codified as amended as Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2405(j)).

[2] This was far from the first incident of extremist activity in Yemen. US soldiers staying at the Aden Hotel were targeted as early as 1992, while armed Islamist militias—most notably, the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, which kidnapped 16 foreign tourists in 1998—were active in areas of the country launching attacks against military and political targets; indeed, many Yemenis left the country—with the encouragement of some prominent political and religious figures—to join the Afghan jihad. Nonetheless, the USS Cole represented a watershed in its severity—and, indeed, irony, considering Saleh had declared Yemen free of foreign terror groups earlier that year.

[3] Adam Baron, The Limits of US Military Power in Yemen: Why Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to thrive, Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, March 27, 2017, http://sanaacenter.org/publications/analysis/86

[4] “United States Designates bin Laden Loyalist,” United States Department of the Treasury, February 24, 2004, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js1190.aspx

[5] Farea al-Muslimi, “Yemen’s President dismisses powerful security head,” al-Monitor, March 11, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/03/yemen-president-security.html

[6] Brian Whitaker and Oliver Burkeman, “Killing probes the frontiers of robotics and legality,” The Guardian, November 6 2002, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/nov/06/usa.alqaida

[7] Ibid at 3.

[8] Krajeski, Thomas C. (2004-09-02). “President Saleh to A/S Bloomfeld ‘No new MANPADS’”. WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks cable: 04SANAA2346. Retrieved 2017-08-02.

[9] Krajeski, Thomas C. (2005-05-10). “Saleh discusses security concerns with Ambassador’”. WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks cable: 05SANAA894. Retrieved 2017-08-02.

[10] Department of State, Embassy Sanaa, “Scene setter for visit of A/S Bloomfield to Yemen (04SANAA2055),” August 24 2004, accessed via Wikileaks Cablegate search, https://cablegatesearch.wikileaks.org/cable.php?id=04SANAA2055.

[11] Muhammad was deported by the Yemeni government after overstaying his visa. He was far from the first American to travel to Yemen and eventually find his way into radicalism: perhaps most infamously, Johnny Walker Lindh studied Arabic in the country prior to joining up with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

[12] The Group of Eight (G8) refers to the group of eight highly industrialized nations—France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Canada, and Russia.

[13] Mohamed Ghobari, “Yemen Strike kills mediator, tribesmen hit pipeline,” Reuters, May 25 2010, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-yemen-idUKTRE64O17W20100525

[14] Department of State, Embassy Sanaa, “Yemen’s Counter Terrorism Unit Stretched Thin by war against Houthis (09SANAA2320),” December 17 2009, accessed via Wikileaks Cablegate search, https://cablegatesearch.wikileaks.org/cable.php?id=09SANAA2230..

[15] Key security figures backing the uprising, including military strongman turned defector (turned current vice president) Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, were known for their longstanding ties to radical militants.

[16] Adam Baron interviews, May 2012.

[17] The irony being that said radical elements were largely allied with Saleh before 2011, particularly in his efforts to suppress Yemen’s Socialist party following the country’s 1990 unification.

[18] Ammar ben Aziz and Mustapha Ajballi, “Saleh gunmen hold many envoys hostage in UAE Embassy in Sanaa,” al-Arabiya, May 22, 2011, https://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/05/22/150031.html.

[19] See Adam Baron, “Yemen Inflamed,” The Nation, September 15, 2012, https://www.thenation.com/article/yemen-inflamed/

[20] Personal interview, February 2012

[21] Kathleen Hennessey, “In devising a plan for Iraq, US looks to its Yemen model,”The Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2014,  http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-obama-iraq-yemen-20140622-story.html#page=1

[22] Scott Shane, “Yemen’s leader Hadi praises US Drone Strikes,” New York Times, September 29, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/29/world/middleeast/yemens-leader-president-hadi-praises-us-drone-strikes.html.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Adam Baron, “In Southern Yemen, Al Qaeda leaves Overnight,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2012, https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0614/In-southern-Yemen-Al-Qaeda-leaves-overnight

[25] Adam Baron interview, November 2013

[26] Javier E. David, AL Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said to be flush with cash and positioned to launch new attacks,” CNBC, July 31 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/31/al-qaeda-in-arabian-peninsula-said-to-be-flush-with-cash-and-positioned-to-launch-new-attacks.html.

[27] For a more in-depth take see Adam Baron and Farea al-Muslimi, “The Limits of US Military Power: Why Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to Thrive,” Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, March 27, 2017, https://t.co/EuYg6ryUP7.

[28] Saeed al Batati, “One Yemeni governor wants Trump to known you’re fighting Al Qaeda all Wrong,” Foreign Policy, June 6, 2017http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/06/one-yemeni-governor-wants-trump-to-know-youre-fighting-al-qaeda-all-wrong/.