Yemen: The Hunger Games

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May 7, 2012: President Hadi, to the surprise of many Yemenis, has managed to get two kin of former president Saleh to accept orders to resign from the military. Thus Hadi now has control of the air force and the Republican Guard (the best equipped and trained troops in the army). In the last week a brother of Saleh accepted his dismissal from command of the air force and a Saleh nephew accepted losing command of the Republican Guard. Other Saleh kin still hold lesser commands in the armed forces, and efforts continue to fire them or persuade them to resign. Despite the continued presence of Saleh loyalists in the armed forces, the new government has gone on the offensive against al Qaeda in the south during the last month, and the Islamic terrorists are taking a beating and, so far, holding their ground. The government is using its air force and artillery to attack al Qaeda wherever they are. Finding the terrorists is made easier because more tribesmen in the south are turning against the Islamic radicals and the United States has assigned more UAVs, and spy satellites, to seek out al Qaeda activity in the area.

The new government has also attempted to halt another form of corruption, the payment of over $50 million a month to tribal leaders. These payments are meant to ensure tribal loyalty to the government. Doesn't always work, especially when money is short and some of the payments must be reduced. Saudi Arabia pays even more cash each month and has even less influence over the tribal chiefs. For all that Saudi cash they get little beyond helping out Saudi citizens who get in trouble down there. The tribes are still mini-nations, replete with armed forces (most adult males have a firearm) and a foreign policy (many tribal leaders negotiate with foreign governments and make deals).

The fighting continues outside Loder (or Lawder), where soldiers and pro-government armed tribesmen fight to drive away or kill the several thousand al Qaeda and anti-government gunmen holding villages surrounding the town. For the last few weeks there have been several hundred casualties (most of them anti-government tribesmen and al Qaeda) around Loder each week. The pro-government tribesmen are often locals who don't want to live under al Qaeda rules, especially since many of the al Qaeda they see are foreigners (Syrians, Saudis, and Somalis). Located in the southern province of Abyan, Loder is 150 kilometers northeast of Zinjibar, the provincial capital. In Zinjibar the fighting is sometimes as intense as it is in Loder. Al Qaeda and anti-government tribesmen have been fighting around Zinjibar for months and local tribesmen are increasingly turning against the Islamic radicals, if only to permit food aid trucks to get through.

The government decided to just deport two Belgian men (of Arab descent) who were stopped as they tried to fly home on April 13th and were arrested on suspicion that the two were working for al Qaeda. Young Moslems in Europe are often persuaded by al Qaeda Internet propaganda to travel to Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen and join an existing terrorist organization. These kids usually have no skills and are often given suicide missions. Few return home, unless police detect them at the airport and send them back. But some, like these two Belgians, who said they had been in Yemen to study Arabic and Islam, were believed to have been trained as Islamic terrorists for missions back home. The presence of so many religious schools, many of them doubling as terrorist training facilities, is what makes Yemen such an international threat.

May 6, 2012: an American UAV killed al Qaeda leader Fahd al Quso and another terrorist in eastern Yemen. Quso helped plan the 2000, bombing of an American warship in Aden harbor and had a U.S. reward of $5 million on his head.

May 5, 2012: Air force bombers killed at least five Islamic terrorists outside Loder.

May 4, 2012: Air force bombers killed 17 Islamic terrorists outside Loder.

Outside the southern town of Zinjibar, eight al Qaeda gunmen were killed when they attacked an army checkpoint.

May 3, 2012: Yemen is asking for $10 billion in foreign aid to rebuild its economy. Most of this money is being solicited from Gulf oil states, which have a direct interest in a prosperous, and peaceful, Yemen. But the big problem in Yemen is corruption and lack of effective national government. If the past is any precedent, $10 billion worth of foreign aid would be distributed among tribal chiefs and other powerful individuals, as a way of keeping the peace and the national government in power. The tribal leaders consider this money their own and pass it along to their own followers as they see fit.

Former president lost his touch at this and lost his job, after three decades, when he was no longer able to keep everyone happy with the cash he handed out. Meanwhile, food shortages, caused by growing poverty and extended violence (between security forces and rebels), have left over five million people hungry. Foreign aid is hard to obtain because attempts to bring in food aid have been met with hostile groups that steal the food or extort cash to allow it to pass. This discourages foreign donors from supplying food aid.  Economic conditions in Yemen have been declining for over a decade, which played a major role in causing the rebellion. A year of unrest has created even more poverty and hunger, which gives more people more to fight about. Those who have the means (mainly cash) are trying to leave Yemen. That's not easy, as few countries welcome poor Arabs, including wealthy Arab states.

April 29, 2012: In the south Islamic radical group Ansar Al Shariah freed 75 soldiers it had captured earlier. The freed soldiers agreed not to fight Ansar Al Shariah anymore.

April 27, 2012: Outside the southern town of Loder pro-government tribesmen ambushed Islamic terrorists and killed seven of them.

April 26, 2012: The United States is expanding its UAV missile attacks on terrorists in Yemen. In addition to well-documented terrorist leaders and specialists, the U.S. will now go after unnamed but clearly identified terrorists (armed and participating in terrorist activities). This will mean more attacks and more dead terrorists.

April 25, 2012: An air strike on an al Qaeda camp in Abyan province left 15 terrorists dead.

For the second month in a row someone has blown up part of the pipeline that carries natural gas to the coast for export.

 

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