Yes, Sometimes Drones Are Actually Effective
The Atlantic — 24 July 2012
In Yemen, we’ve seen that allowing the government to retake areas from AQAP can be effective at addressing the terrorist threat; the U.S. should make effective Yemeni governance its next priority. The recently announced influx of aid to Yemen is being directed almost exclusively to Yemen’s security services, which have already proved capable of removing AQAP from its territory. What’s missing is everything else that isn’t security: immediately countering the growing malnutrition there, strengthening and expanding the good governance programs groups like NED run, and establishing a long term commitment to fortifying Yemen’s shaky economy. As a part of a comprehensive strategy to both physically and politically secure the country, there is a definite role for drones to play: one that is moral, effective, and constrained. Assuming drones are the counterterrorism strategy — an impression one can get reading some of the coverageof the drones program — would be a mistake.
A Voice of Authority Emerges From the Opposition in Yemen
New York Times — 21 July 2012
The state in Yemen was always weak, and even before the conflict last year, local chieftains had a lot of autonomy and power. But Mr. Mikhlafi’s new role is emblematic of how opposition voices that were marginalized under the 33-year authoritarian rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh have gained increasing influence as the government in Yemen has grown even weaker since his ouster.
Why is Yemen’s food crisis off the world’s humanitarian radar?
The Guardian — 24 July 2012
When the revolutionary tide of the Arab spring swept Ali Abdullah Saleh from power in Yemen last year, optimism abounded. The conclusion of Saleh’s 33-year presidency – a reign more notable for the suppression of dissent and a descent into economic turmoil than any inroads on poverty, inequality and corruption – was meant to herald a fresh start for the Arab world’s poorest country. But, despite the appointment of a transitional government led by the former vice-president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, the promised end has failed to materialise. Continue reading
Strife-Torn Yemen Tops The World’s Worst Economies
Forbes — 17 July 2012
With per-capita income of $1,418 and an estimated adult illiteracy rate of 45%, Yemen ranks among the poorest countries on earth. This despite the fact that Yemen has 3 billion barrels of oil, providing about a quarter of the country’s $63 billion GDP and 70% of government revenues. Attacks by al Qaeda and militant tribes helped trim oil production by 125,000 barrels a day last year amid widespread violence that also led to the resignation of longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Yemen’s power vacuum could provide window for secessionists
Christian Science Monitor — 18 July 2012
Yemen’s Southern Movement has emerged defiantly from the power vacuum caused by last year’s uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Though the Yemeni government and the bulk of the international community still see Yemen’s continued unity, forged in 1990, as nonnegotiable, many emboldened separatists increasingly feel they’re on the verge of restoring their independence.
In Yemen, a Controversial Memorial Makes an Important Point
Time — 18 July 2012
When soldiers are killed by a suicide bomber, commanders face a quandary: the fallen deserve to be mourned, but to make a public show of grief could give the terrorists the propaganda victory they crave. Most militaries quickly clean up the scene of the attack, issue a statement of condemnation and draw a curtain of silence over the mourning process. Not Yemen’s Central Security Force (CSF). Nearly two months after the May 21 suicide bombing that killed over 100 graduating CSF cadets during a parade in Sana‘a, the attack is relived over and over where it happened, in Sabaeen Square. Giant billboards bear portraits of the dead and over 300 wounded. In a geodesic tent, a large TV screen plays a continuous loop of video of the attack’s grisly aftermath: body parts and blood everywhere, the screams of the dying and the maimed, the horror and rage of their comrades-in-arms. Continue reading
Yemen’s Ticking Time Bomb
Al-Monitor — 9 July 2012
The need for a clear economic vision is urgent. Some economic activity has started to resume, but unemployment remains debilitating and the cost of food and basic goods has skyrocketed. Inflation is at 23% overall; bread is nearly 120% its previous price. According to the IMF, the economy shrank by more than 10% last year and is predicted to contract another 0.9% this year. The government is unable to meet the most basic needs of electricity and water and the budget deficit has risen with declining oil revenue due to attacks on pipelines in Marib, low levels of tax collection and subsidies for fuel and food. Foreign reserves have declined substantially as the Central Bank has tried to prop up the currency and the government is running a $2.5 billion deficit.
Camping on the Edge of Catastrophe
International Business Times — 10 July 2012
Since mid-January 2012, 38,500 people have been displaced within the Hajjah governorate in northern Yemen, due to prolonged fighting between the al-Houthi group of Shia insurgents and their tribal rivals. This wave of ostracism has taken the official number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) across Yemen past 140,000, although the real figure is thought to be far higher.
In Yemen, Little Relief for Hunger
New York Times — 11 July 2012
Hunger in Yemen — the poorest country in the Middle East — has doubled since 2009, according to the World Food Program. The ability of families to feed their children has deteriorated significantly in the last year as food and fuel prices have soared amid the political turmoil and economic activity has ground to a near halt. Continue reading
University employees protesting/Aden University Employees Union via Yemen Times
Enduring Conflicts, Threatened Transition
International Crisis Group — 3 July 2012
The political settlement has numerous flaws. It was an elite compromise that excluded many original protesters as well as marginalised constituencies. It failed to adequately address issues of justice, and it kept in power leaders and parties at least partially responsible for the country’s woes. But, at a minimum, it offers the chance for a different future. If politicians in Sanaa fail to resolve, or at least contain, the ongoing elite confrontation and move forward with an inclusive dialogue, the country risks experiencing further violence and fragmentation. Yemen has long run away from critical decisions. It should run no more.
A Hollow Victory
Foreign Policy — 2 July 2012
As cautious optimism fades and if lingering resentments continue to harden, it’s not hard to see violence erupting in Abyan yet again — regardless of al Qaeda’s intentions. Pushing the militants out was one thing. Repairing the damage of the past year is quite another. “Even if we’ve achieved victory in this battle with weapons,” an opposition politician told me upon my return to Sanaa, “we can only win the war through economic progress and real efforts towards development.”
The Drone Blowback Fallacy
Foreign Affairs — 1 July 2012
From al Hudaydah in the west to Hadhramaut in the east, AQAP is building complex webs of dependency within Yemen’s rural population. It gives idle teenagers cars, khat, and rifles — the symbols of Yemeni manhood. It pays salaries (up to $400 per month) that lift families out of poverty. It supports weak and marginalized sheikhs by digging wells, distributing patronage to tribesmen, and punishing local criminals. As the leader of one Yemeni tribal confederation told me, “Al Qaeda attracts those who can’t afford to turn away.” Religious figures echoed these words. Though critical of the U.S. drone campaign, none of the Islamists and Salafists I interviewed believed that drone strikes explain al Qaeda’s burgeoning numbers. “The driving issue is development,” an Islamist parliamentarian from Hadramout province said. “Some districts are so poor that joining al Qaeda represents the best of several bad options.” (Other options include criminality, migration, and even starvation.) A Salafi scholar engaged in hostage negotiations with AQAP agreed. “Those who fight do so because of the injustice in this country,” he explained. “A few in the north are driven by ideology, but in the south it is mostly about poverty and corruption.” Continue reading