Yemen: Al Qaeda Forms An Army Of None

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August 3, 2010: The truce in the north is simply not being honored by many armed Shia groups. Skirmishing continues and the government does not want to resume large scale military operations, at least not while the southern tribes are threatening another civil war. As always, the cause is money, and disagreements over how the ruling party dispenses oil income and foreign aid to allies and potential enemies. There's never enough to go around, and make everyone happy.

Several years of drought and government corruption have resulted in a food shortage, leaving about a third of the population malnourished. This occurs mostly in rural areas, where 70 percent of the population lives. Children are suffering from stunted growth. Nothing is getting done because too many officials are too busy stealing money from the oil and Khat production, and foreign aid. Most Yemeni adult males use Khat, which must be relatively fresh when chewed, or else it loses its effect. About 40 percent of Yemeni women use it as well. Khat gives you more of a buzz than caffeine or nicotine, but less than stronger drugs. In some countries it is legal, but regulated. Many do not consider it a dangerous drug, but Yemenis spend over a billion dollars a year on it, and cultivation of Khat has ruined Yemeni agriculture and caused a worsening water shortage. Khat production has increased over 50 percent in the last five years. There's big money in Khat, and that money buys cooperation from corrupt government officials. So efforts to impose a legal ban on Khat growing have failed. You won't fix the Yemeni economy until you fix the Khat problem, and there's no serious moves to do that.

August 2, 2010:  Shia rebels in the north released another hundred soldiers they had captured.

July 30, 2010: Eritrean pirates seized four Yemeni fishing boats in international waters between the two countries. The four boats and the 26 Yemeni crewmen were taken to Eritrea. A day later, five of the Yemenis were released, apparently to negotiate ransoms.

July 29, 2010:  Al Qaeda announced that it had formed a tribal army of 12,000 gunmen in southern Yemen and would overthrow the government. This was another attempt by the Islamic terrorists to stir up some support among the southern tribes. While these al Qaeda announcements excites its Internet audience, it has little impact on the Yemeni tribes.  Al Qaeda has taken credit for two attacks in the south in the last month, plus two other attacks by tribesmen that might have been inspired by al Qaeda. The terrorist group has been more bark than bite in Yemen, a country where it set up shop a few years ago, after being driven out of Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

July 28, 2010: Shia rebels in the north released two hundred soldiers they captured two days earlier.

July 27, 2010: In eastern Yemen, a group of al Qaeda attacked an oilfield. Six soldiers and three attackers (including their leader) were killed. The attackers were repulsed, and didn't get near the oil operations (that produces over $250 million worth of oil a year.) 

July 26, 2010: After two months of skirmishing, northern Shia rebels attacked and captured an army base guarding the highway south. Rebels killed twelve, wounded 55 and captured 228 people, including soldiers and pro-government tribesmen. The base included the home of a local pro-government politician.

 

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