Yemen: Assessing the Threat

After the attempted bombing of Northwest flight 253 in December, Yemen again became the focus of US and international counterterrorism policy. A flurry of media reports in January gave the world a glimpse of this fragile country, sliding disastrously towards collapse.

Through their long-term project, "Yemen: Assessing the Threat," reporters Paul Stephens and Haley Sweetland Edwards will explore the complex politics, society, and history of Yemen, with the goal of providing a more in-depth understanding of this often misunderstood nation. While the international media is primarily focused on the terrorist threat in Yemen, policy makers will have to work to solve the numerous other crises contributing to the country's instability.

At the start of 2010, Yemen faces a number of challenges. The government is battling an on-going insurgency in the northern provinces, a separatist movement in the south, and renewed concern over Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a branch of al-Qaeda active in many regions of the country.
Yemen, the poorest nation in the Arab world, must also absorb record numbers of refugees fleeing Ethiopia and Somalia, at a time when its own unemployment rate is over 35 percent. In the background, a growing water crisis, dwindling oil resources, and widespread malnutrition loom large.

Yemen to Get Limited Attention at London Conference

SAN'A, Yemen (Jan. 26) – The international community had better work fast. The portion of this week's conference in London meant to address Yemen's multitude of problems is scheduled to last only two hours.

US lends firepower to Yemen fight

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni policemen sprinted up a rocky dirt road, firing AK-47s, lobbing grenades and detonating explosives at a cinderblock house, a supposed Al Qaeda hideout.

The scenario was fake, but the firepower very real, as U.S. and U.K. military trainers put local counterterrorism forces through their paces northeast of the capital one morning recently.

The 200-person counterterrorism police force is trained daily by the foreign commandos, according to a Yemeni soldier who addressed a small crowd of journalists invited to watch the training.

Al-Qaida Closely Linked to Yemeni Tribes

SANA'A, Yemen (Jan. 14) – As the Yemeni government steps up its fight against al-Qaida, its task is complicated by the militant group's longstanding, familial and often intimate relationship with Yemeni tribes.

"You cannot have a conversation about al-Qaida in Yemen without having a conversation about the tribes. It's a natural alliance," said Abdulelah Hider Shaea, a journalist with sources in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. "Both tribes and al-Qaida are socially and morally conservative, both like to acquire weapons and both are at odds with the formal authority."