Yemen: the success of Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has occupied two cities in the southern part of the country: Zinjibar and Jaar. These cities were briefly occupied by the same force four years ago. Jaar and Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, are about 50 km (30 miles) east of the main port city of Aden.


AQAP is believed to be the most dangerous al-Qaeda branch. In the Yemeni war, it is fighting the forces of Houthi led government of Yemen, supporting the Saudi-led coalition, in practical terms. Despite its anti-Saudi propaganda, the AQAP is financed by Saudi Arabian backers and is helping to neutralize Iranian influence in the region. Like ISIS in Yemen today, it is active mostly against Houthi forces which are backed by Iran.

There is a diversification of American proxies. AQAP finds recruits and allies among Sunni tribes who are seeking to defend against what they view as a Shia and Iranian invasion. It performs the same role as their rivals from ISIS in Yemen and Syria.

The situation in Southern Yemen

As the Arab Spring protests spread to Yemen in 2011, former president Saleh moved troops deployed throughout the country to Sana in order to save his regime. Amid the security vacuum in the south, Islamists seized territory in the southern province of Abyan.

During the war, the territory was controlled by many forces. In the March–August 2015 there was a campaign for control of the Abyan Governorate of Yemen, between the Houthis and Yemen Army units loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh on one side, and militiamen and Yemen Army units loyal to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi on the other side, supported by AQAP. The Pro-Hadi Forces recaptured the Abyan Governorate on the 11th of August, after launching an offensive against pro-Houthi forces in early August.

This region has high geopolitical importance. By controlling it, Islamists prevent the enemy forces from seizing control of the coast of the Aden Gulf and block their approach to the port of Aden, the Bab-el-Mandeb, and the main communication route from the Mediterranean through the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.

Yemen war

Yemen remains fractured since President Hadi, in January of 2015, was ousted from the capital and went into exile. The country is torn between Houthi led Interim government (Shia rebels backed by Iran), remnants of the former regime, AQAP, and a secession movement in the south, and none are capable of controlling the entire country. In March of 2015, Saudi Arabia initiated a military intervention in the country.

While the Houthi led government is dominating in former Northern Yemen, the opposite forces including AQAP have their stronghold in the former South Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition includes the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, and Pakistan. The United States announced that it was assisting with intelligence, targeting, and logistics.