Yemen’s army is not fighting Al Qaeda

Yemen’s army has claimed to be fighting of an onslaught of Al Qaeda militants in its southern region. Fighting in and around Aden has been raging for months following Ali Abdullah Saleh’s transfer of power. Yemen has falsely been using this narrative to suppress secessionist protesters in the south of the country.
Until 1990 Yemen was divided into two separate nations, with the south being ruled as a quasi-Marxist state. Ever since the consolidation of the two entities those in the south have long complained of being neglected by the central government in Sana. Saleh showered his tribe, predominately locates in the north, with money and services. Those in the south suffered from underdevelopment and massive poverty and unemployment. Many in the south have in fact complained about the influence that Al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia have had in the region. Yet this is the direct result of Saleh’s policy of divide and conquer. Saleh allowed for militants and Al Qaeda to flourish in the south to pressure the United States to provide him with aid to fight “terrorism.” Letting the militants run wild also insured that those shouting for secession would be divided and more concerned with protecting themselves rather than gaining independence. In reality it was mainly local tribes that have been responsible for pushing Al Qaeda elements out or their southern strongholds. Yemen’s military on the other hand has been going after the persistent protesters calling for freedom from Sana. The military has implemented a “shoot on sight” policy in the south, with the neighborhood of Mansoura receiving the brunt of this repression. Fighting has become so bad that most of its residents have left the area entirely.
Compounding this stupidity is the United States acquiescence to Yemen’s military operations. Those fighting for freedom in the south are not fundamentalist militants. They are by and large nationalists whose allegiances are to their tribes not Al Qaeda. This could make them stable and reliable allies of the US in their fight against Islamic militants. America’s support for the militaries operations in the south are instead further stoking a growing anti-American sentiment.
If this policy continues the secessionist tribes could align themselves with some of the local Islamic militant factions. This was the strategy used by the secular Tuareg separatist group the MNLA in Mali, which led to the entire north of the country coming under control of Tuareg fighters. Now in Mali the MNLA and Islamic militants, some of whom have ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have begun fighting amongst themselves for power and dominance. Northern Mali now has been made into a safe heaven for Islamic militants. Yemen is close to succumbing to a similar scenario. The end result of this would be incredibly destabilizing to Yemen and the region at large. The threat to the American homeland will only increase under the current trajectory. Worse still, it would lead to countless deaths of the poorest or the poor in Yemen.

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