Political Analysis

The Deadly Struggle in Yemen’s Governorates: a Year in Review

War with al-Qaeda in 2010 Drains State Resources
Provinces / special

Yemeni towns, especially in Marib, Abyan, Shabwa, Hadramout (the valley and the coast), and Aden and in other provinces outside the capital Sana’a have recently witnessed intense security measures and mobilization of the army and special forces under orders of the country’s central political leadership.

Checkpoints in many cities have been set up to hunt down members of the Al-Qaeda organization, especially after the deaths of more than a hundred officers and soldiers from the army in different security incidents in a number of cities.

The authority accuses members of Al-Qaeda of these killings. Dozens of alleged members of the organization have been killed, and a sercurity campaign against the organization has been stepped up in these provinces.

The perceived urgency of the security has been exacerbated by the recent parcel bomb affair, allegedly involving Yemen-based Saudi militant Ibrahim Al-Asiri.

The campaign has been characterized by the bombardment of Al-Ma’jalah region and confrontations with Al-Qaeda elements in Mudyah directorate, and the towns of Lawdar and Zinjibar, which claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers in assassinations carried out by Al-Qaeda elements.

Bombings and assaults against military checkpoints have also claimed the lives of a number of soldiers. Among the most serious operations credited to the group was the the assassination attempt on Abyan Governor Ahmed Al-Maysari and the killing of his brother, which missed the offical but resulted in the incineration of many military cars and armored vehicles.

Abyan is one of the provinces where the Southern Movement is active. In addition, many elements of the Al-Qaeda organization have been killed there and more than 28 of them surrendered. The security situation in the governorate remains highly combustible.

Armed confrontations in Lawdar on Wednesday between al-Qaeda and the army led to the deaths of a number of soldiers.

The Yemeni government has made desperate attempts to develop its military capabilities, which was clearly evident in the government’s purchase of four U.S. “Huey” helicopters which cost more than $27 million, as part of the U.S. military aid to Yemen against the Al-Qaida organization.

Some political and military analysts believe that the Yemeni government is capable of imposing its control it wishes. The state’s military abilities were on display in Yemen’s hosting of the Gulf 20 Tournament, which passed without any security incidents.

Shabwah province has witnessed several military operations against Al-Qaeda by the Yemeni army which resulted in the deaths not only of many elements of Al-Qaeda, but also a number of soldiers in Ataq, Al-Hootah, Al-Aqlah and Al-Sa’eed towns.

Prominent operations of the organization have included assassination attempts on many important leaders in the province, including Major General Salem Qahtan, official in the Yemeni Ministry of Defense; Dr. Ali Hasan Al-Ahmadi, Shabwah Governor and chief military officer in Shabwa; Colonel Mohammed Al-Juma’ee, and Shabwah Security Director; and Brigadier General Ahmed Al-Maqdashi.

The attempt on Mr. al-Juma’ee’s life led to the death of one soldier and the injury of seven others.  In a separate attack, the security director of al-Sa’eed was seriously injured and remains in hospital in Sana’a.

Al-Sa’eed is the main stronghold of the Yemeni radical Islamist clerics Anwar Al-Awlaqi as well as Fahd Al-Qasa’, and government operations are in force there to eliminate their partisans.

Related confrontations that took place in Al-Hootah region led to the death of a large number of alleged al-Qaeda fighters, according to official statements.

The government has signed an agreement with the Al-Awaleq tribe to recruit ‘Sahwa’ militias to fight Al-Qaeda, after the fashion of the Iraq’s Sahwat, “Awakening Councils.”

Hadramaut

Fua’h city in Al-Mukalla has witnessed from time to time military operations to track down Al-Qaeda elements, but Al-Qaeda in the largest cities of Mukalla and Say’oon has succeeded in using motorcycles in the assassination of many high-ranking officers.

According to official media, many Al-Qaeda elements have been detained. In Hadramout, the local authorities have pledged 20 million riyals to anyone who can provide information about those wanted for security reasons.

Sana’a

Several Al-Qaeda operations took place in and around the capital, including the targeting of embassies and foreign nationals.  However, the group has not established a consistent presence due to the tightened security measures in the capital.

Also, the Yemeni air force in Sana’a has bombarded some local regions where Al-Qaeda organization elements exist.

The incident involving packages mailed through Dubai to the USA has terrified the countries in Europe and the Gulf and drawn attention to the seriousness of the Al-Qaeda presence in Yemen.  In response, the Yemeni foreign minister has repeatedly assured international audiences that the Yemeni state has the capability to counter the organization.

Marib

Marib province is a known refuge of the group and authorities there claim to be in continuous pursuit of alleged terrorist elements.

But the airstrike that led to the death of the Marib Deputy Governor and his escort, apparently by mistake, has led to tense relations between the tribes and the government leadership, but ended in the acquiescence of local tribal leaders in the parliament and formation of a committee to investigate the incident.

The Yemeni state is mobilizing staggering resources to fight the al-Qaeda organization. The provinces of Yemen have witnessed a stepped-up security campaign backed up by the Yemeni air force in a number of military operations and aerial bombardments throughout this year.

Aden

Aden, the economic capital of the South, has witnessed tightened security measures in recent weeks. More than 30 thousand soldiers were deployed to Aden during the Gulf 20 Tournament to strengthen the government’s hand against the southern movement and Al-Qaeda. Many suspected elements of the two movements were jailed preemptively in order to forestall possible dsiturbances.

Local and Saudi sources revealed that terrorist groups were planning to carry out terrorist attacks against Yemeni and Saudi interests during the event.

The blast at the Wahdat Aden Club in October, blamed on the Southern Movement, revealed the ability of government opponents to target vital national infrastructure and personnel.

Recent operations include the blowing up of oil pipes in Shabwah province, in addition to the much-publicized mailing of parcel bombs via US shipping corporations, which aroused deep international concern.

The Yemeni economy has suffered losses of a billion dollars as a result of the military operations against Al-Qaeda since 2009, as the state’s budget has massively shifted toward supporting a military campaign directed toward fighting terrorism.

A large part of the state’s general budget, a full 40% of the annual gross domestic product, has gone toward financing the Yemeni army and its military operations.

International observers, within and outside of Yemen, have called for fundamental political reforms. Security analysts have commented that said that the country must perform basic political reforms in the form of laying off and replacing many government administrators, governors, and officers who have failed to succesfully perform their security missions.

It has been said that said certain serious efforts are being made by the central government, but coordination with the governorates is lacking, and oftern reports and plans are being made spontaneously, or are even being conveyed by standard telephone.

Oil Pipeline Attacked by al-Qaeda in Shabwa

Generally, authorities have been accused of ignoring the citizens’ grievances, which has had a negative impact on the general situation and led to the spread of terrorist movements and other anti-government groups.