Yemen: Smoke And Mirrors And Gunfire


July 26, 2010: Despite the almost daily fighting with Shia rebels in the north in the last week, which has left over 70 dead, the government has ruled against resuming the war up there. The official reason is a desire to let the ceasefire work. The real reason is that the security forces are stretched thin. That's despite the large number of people on the payroll. The army has about 66,000 troops, while the Ministry of Interior has 50,000 men in the Central Security Organization (CSO). Most of these are security guards, looking after critical facilities (including oilfields and pipelines). Larger than the army and CSO combined are several police, secret police and intelligence organizations, which are mainly concerned with keeping the current government in power. But this quarter million man force of police, soldiers, paramilitaries and agents is also partly a make-work program. Most of the force is poorly trained, armed and led. There are a few, small, elite units (like the 200 or so people in the CTU, or Counter-Terrorism Unit), but these are only able to perform small operations, and not constantly. The security forces have arrested nearly 200,000 people since last year (for a country of 24 million). More than half of those were soon released, the rest were fined, imprisoned or otherwise punished.

Qatar brokered a truce with the northern Shia rebels on the 23rd, but fighting resumed the next day. Most of the current violence up north is tribal, between rebels tribes, and tribesmen loyal to the government (who are assisted by the army.)

Today, in the capital, officials from 17 Arab countries are meeting to develop workable strategies for fighting corruption in the Arab world. This is part of growing movement, within the Arab world, to deal with internal problems. While Arab media, and public opinion, still blames external forces (the West, Israel, colonialism,) for most of the Arab world's problems, many Arab reformers, including a growing number of senior officials, see the problems, and solutions, as internal.

The Saudis consider their Yemen border a major source of criminal activity. In 2009, the Saudi police detected 130,000 smuggling attempts (of goods or people). In the last month alone, 2,454 Yemenis were caught trying to illegally cross into Saudi Arabia.

July 25, 2010: A Saudi man surrendered to police, along with this car. This vehicle was identified as being involved in two July 14th terror attacks that killed three policemen. The car owner admitted being involved with the attacks, and working with al Qaeda.  The Saudi car had entered Yemen on July 5th. The attack took place in Shabwah province, which is southeast of the capital, on the Gulf of Aden coast. It's 39,000 square kilometers consists mostly of mountains and desert, with a population of half a million. The Awliki tribe (and the family of Islamic radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki) is from here. Al Qaeda makes a lot of noise about its presence in Yemen, but not much else. There have been attacks, but nothing to match the propaganda.

July 22, 2010: In the southeast (Shabwah province), four armed men fired on an army patrol, killing six soldiers. This is the fourth such attack in the last two months.

The government made peace with some southern separatist groups, releasing 163 men from prison as part of the deal.

July 20, 2010: Islamic radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki was added to the UN terror blacklist, making it more difficult for him to travel internationally.



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