The United States and Yemen: coin in the absence of a legitimate government
Gillam, Jarrod J. H.
Moran, James E.
Robinson, Glenn E.
Rothstein, Hy S.
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The problems Yemen faces today seem insurmountable. The geographic divisions widened by imperialism were cemented by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. His heavy-handed suppression of the Houthi rebellion on the border with Saudi Arabia, the Southern secessionist movement, and the Arab Spring protesters delegitimized the regime in the eyes of the Yemeni people. With President Saleh at the helm, water and oil resources were squandered and mismanaged. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has found this volatile, ungoverned environment a welcome area in which to recruit, equip, train, and conduct operations. That their antagonistic narrative continues to find a welcome audience in the tribal areas of Yemen and their securing of safe havens is testament to the failed policies of the Saleh regime. The United States has focused on eradicating AQAP since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). In its counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign against AQAP, the United States has focused almost all its effort in working with the Yemeni government. While enjoying a modicum of success, this success has been limited to the elimination of AQAP operatives through kinetic strikes. Moreover, the gains were tempered by President Saleh, who at times acted in direct opposition to America's goals of eradicating AQAP. His recent removal will likely do little to counter the array of problems Yemen faces. In this light, America's foreign policy toward Yemen and AQAP is inadequate in securing our regional interests and needs to be overhauled. To delineate which COIN practices may work best, an investigation of past COIN campaigns was conducted. Malaya, Nicaragua, and Somalia were chosen to provide the widest possible range of tactics used in fighting an insurgency where the host nation government is illegitimate, and represent both success and failure. These three case studies formed the basis of three courses of action: working with the government, circumventing the government and working directly with the tribes, and assisting in the state failure. While all three courses of action have merit, only the third course of action addresses the root causes of the problems in Yemen. For this reason, the only way to eliminate AQAP as a threat to the United States is to work through the Yemeni tribes without the central government acting as a roadblock.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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