Yemen: Al Qaeda Losses Its War In The South

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June 8, 2012: Al Qaeda has lost its war in the south. For much of the past year thousands of pro-al Qaeda gunmen and armed foreigners held several large towns and cities in the south. This forced many tribes to take sides, and most lined up against the "foreign" al Qaeda. The tribes have long resisted giving up power to the national government, and there is great hostility towards the many foreigners showing up to support al Qaeda. The last four weeks have seen al Qaeda take heavy losses and get pushed out of much of the territory it has controlled for over a year. As a result of these setbacks, al Qaeda has reverted back to suicide bombings. Lacking much conventional firepower, al Qaeda keeps its name in the news with suicide bombings. This form of combat has long been popular in the Arab world but decades of use for failed causes (especially in Iraq) has made it more difficult to recruit men to carry out the bombings. Al Qaeda has been using the Internet more heavily to find young men willing to kill themselves for the cause. This campaign is also aimed at Moslems living in the West, who have not been as enthusiastic about Islamic terrorism as al Qaeda had hoped.

Al Qaeda in Yemen still has tribal allies and that means there are remote villages, and urban neighborhoods, where al Qaeda can operate from. But these sanctuaries are less secret and more often under attack as the Americans move in with their intelligence resources (UAVs and electronic monitoring) that work in cooperation with Yemeni agents on the ground. The Americans have acquired a lot of experience over the last decade working in tribal and Islamic environments. The Americans know what to look for and they are quickly finding the al Qaeda leaders and key technicians and killing them.

A year of violence by pro and anti-al Qaeda tribal militias in the south has disrupted the economy and transportation system and left several million people short of food for months at a time. While foreign food aid is available, sufficient bribes or political clout to get the trucks past roadblocks is not. The government forces and pro-government tribes consider the al Qaeda held towns as being under siege and starvation a legitimate weapon. Some food does get through, mainly for the al Qaeda fighters. Most of the starvation is suffered by women and children.

The fighting has mainly been in the south and has been causing over a hundred casualties a day for the last week. Most of the dead and wounded are al Qaeda, who are being hit by artillery, bombs, and missiles (some from American UAVs) as well as gunfire from ground level.

The country is still a mess, with political and tribal disputes, a failed economy, and a growing water shortage. While al Qaeda makes itself popular by sharing scarce resources more equitably (at least among its allies), economic rebuilding and using billions of dollars of aid pledged by Gulf Arab oil states cannot start working until al Qaeda is crushed and pushed back into the background (and back country). That may take as long as a year to finish.

June 7, 2012:  In southern Abyan province, the scene of most of the fighting in the last year, 30 people were killed in fighting around al Qaeda held towns. Most (25) of the dead were al Qaeda.

June 6, 2012: In the south at least 23 died in several incidents of violence involving al Qaeda. Most (17) of the dead were al Qaeda.

June 5, 2012: There was a flare up in violence in the north, between Shia tribesmen and government forces. This has caused over a hundred casualties in the last few days. The Shia tribes want more autonomy but there are also old feuds with pro-government Sunni tribes and the action often gets very violent.

June 4, 2012: Troops have pushed al Qaeda out of most of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, in the last few weeks. Fighting continues as al Qaeda diehards, trapped in the city, prefer death to surrender.

May 31, 2012: One al Qaeda faction in Abyan province released 27 soldiers it had captured over the last year. This was seen as a peace gesture by al Qaeda fighters, who do not want to fight to the death. Plus, it was apparently becoming more difficult to feed the prisoners and protect them from rescue attempts.

In Abyan province a U.S. UAV killed 11 Islamic radicals with a missile strike on a house.  

May 30, 2012: In southeastern al Baydah province, over a hundred al Qaeda gunmen roared into a town they had briefly held last year and briefly fought with troops before fleeing. Four attackers and three soldiers were killed.

 

 

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