Al-Qaeda is adopting a new and specific strategy in its bloody confrontation with the Yemeni regime. From the operations it is carrying out in parts of Yemen to its complete control and establishment in some Yemeni cities and the careful planning of operations now and in the future, Al-Qaeda is employing new, effective and quite diverse tactics in its military operations and armed confrontations.
- The organization has become more powerful, effective, and popular than ever before.
- It has become more effective at planning and coordination, and has become well aware of what it wants and how to reach its goals very efficiently.
- The organization has the confidence to do what it wants based on its credible threats, which it does not hesitate to follow through on.
- It has become a significant force on the ground. It dictates conditions and implements its agenda through well thought-out plans.
Therefore, the organization must be dealt with on that basis, while taking the following into account:
- Tribal Yemeni society is culturally and socially idiosyncratic. The Al-Qaeda component has been mixed with the tribal spirit along with extremist religious ideas, and has thus became widely accepted in some areas because it emerged from within the tribal context. It has gained the protection of many tribal areas that reject foreign interference or intrusion into their religious and national identities.
- Al-Qaeda should be dealt with through intellectual and persuasive logic, religious dialogue and rehabilitation — not through purely military means. Al-Qaeda is not merely an armed organization that can be defeated militarily, but also an ideology that must be fought through logic and reason.
- Effective plans must be found quickly to prevent the “Torrential River” from flooding the national body and dealing a blow to the security and peace of society.
- Dialogue must be held with the “members” of the organization to make clear to them the severe damage they will be causing if they continue to pursue violence, religious extremism and international terrorism.
- A continuous awareness campaign about the dangers of the organization and of allowing its presence — whether in those areas now captive to its influence or in the rest of the republic’s governorates — must be launched. What happened in the city of Radaa was a vivid example. The city fell into the hands of Al-Qaeda and the organization incited and organized its supporters under the cover of judicial, financial and administrative corruption and the state’s failure to resolve outstanding issues affecting the community. This prompted many to see in Al-Qaeda a deliverer from and substitute for the state, and they fell into its lap.
The spread and establishment of Al-Qaeda in some areas has become remarkable. In the months during which the problem was left to fester, Al-Qaeda has expanded its area of deployment northward and southward and had sufficient time and ability to put its affairs in order, train its members and disseminate its ideas and methods throughout Yemen. The organization was able to expand and multiply, especially in the poor and isolated areas, by taking advantage of a favorable atmosphere. Yemen was in political turmoil during the uprising and the Yemeni political forces were preoccupied with partisan and political infighting. The central government was weak and fragile, and there were fluctuating loyalties within the army between the supporters and the opponents of the regime for an entire year. Al-Qaeda is now fighting for its existence, especially when the political scene is preparing for a comprehensive national solution. There has been a strong media campaign against the organization, as seen by President Hadi’s speech and the US embassy’s direct involvement in the media and the military war against the organization. There was the “Cutting the Tail” operation, which resulted in 350 casualties (dead, wounded and detained), and involved conflicting reports that Yemeni forces sought the help of American experts to intervene directly. There were also reports that US Marines participated in the cleansing operation after Abin Province’s emir, Jalal Al-Mourqosh, threatened a series of suicide operations called the “Torrential River” at the end of the 10-day deadline for the withdrawal of troops fighting on the outskirts of the city of Zanjibar. Hadi and US Ambassador Gerald Feierstien announced that there would be no dialogue with jihadist groups. All of these considerations make the intervention of foreign and international troops a possibility. This would cause Yemen to become the scene of foreign interventions, and an internationally failed state, with all the dire consequences that entails, from casualties to violations of national sovereignty.
The high caliber of Al-Qaeda’s operations at this particular time pose the question of why the intensity of the confrontations and the beating of the war drums have increased:
- The motivations may be purely spontaneous, especially in light of the presidential and international threats to fight terrorism and cleanse the troubled areas, so Al-Qaeda decided on a strong preemptive strike to stop the slow crawl and the threats to its existence.
- The reasons may have been the end of Al-Qaeda’s intimate relationship with the former regime, the removal of the protective cover against suicide operations, and the stopping of the logistical support provided by the presidency. There have been rumors about a relationship between Al-Qaeda and the former regime, which used its supposed struggle against the organization to score political points internationally. So after the cover provided by the former regime fell, Al-Qaeda may have decided on a preemptive strike.
- It may be the result of direct intervention and operational help from elements of the former regime and the ruling family in order to spread chaos and destruction and create security imbalances that give them opportunities to survive and remain at their command centers at the top of the military and security echelons; especially given the strong relationship and the close cooperation between the former regime and the United States in fighting terrorism. All that would bring Yemen back to square one politically under the pretext of fighting the international danger of Al-Qaeda and the threat it represents to national security, thus blocking the desired political changes.
- It may be a political ploy designed to absorb the public anger and draw attention away from upcoming political deals and public demands for improved living and economic conditions, and also to lend legitimacy to the new regime, whereby priority will be given to fighting Al-Qaeda in a long war that will drain the budget and silence all opposing voices, which will then lose all hope of change.
In light of last week's bloody confrontations and the resulting losses — especially soldiers and members of the armed forces — and in light of how easily military garrisons were captured by jihadist organizations, and the mystery of how well brigades and units stationed in the contact areas were defended, several logistical questions are being raised about the ability, readiness and efficiency of the armed forces and the security services to defend the homeland, and on the effectiveness of training those forces against extremism and terrorism, and the prohibitive costs of funding and equipping them.
There are big questions about the fall, or surrender, of some brigades, such as the 39th Mika Brigade in Al-Kod. Perhaps it was a plan by leaders loyal to the former president, who were involved in the large-scale Al-Qaeda “Torrential River” attack, which began with a series of suicide car bombs and an encirclement operation from the sea that surrounded the infantry brigade in Al-Kod and the artillery battalion in Dofs, which is the front line in the confrontations with Al-Qaeda militants. Then the battle started with members of the brigade, alongside the 115th infantry brigade at Dofs’ entrance, and the seizure of camps and garrisons, along with their heavy and medium military equipment.
There are questions as to why the rapid intervention units coming from Aden to provide the necessary assistance and supplies were delayed. All that make plausible the theory that there is a relationship between Al-Qaeda and the presidential palace, especially after Al-Qaeda bombed an Antonov aircraft while it was sitting inside the Daylami airbase, under the pretext that it was supplying the military units in Aden and the south with weapons and equipment used to strike Al-Qaeda in Abyan.
Are we facing a new kind of Al-Qaeda organization that is using novel tactics? Has this new organization broken with the traditional Al-Qaeda methods, and is it now able to plan defensive and offensive operations with great skill? Can it now set conditions and lay down dictates in order to survive? Can it control areas on the ground? Can it preempt attacks, as happened in the bombing of the presidential palace in the province of Hadramaut only a few minutes after the president threatened Al-Qaeda in his speech, and in the bombing of the republican guard garrison in the province of Bayda’ shortly after the organization’s leader, Tariq Al-Zahab, was killed in Radaa? Right now, Al-Qaeda is gathering its supporters, energy and capacities in order to deal successive revenge attacks against national institutions and control areas in some provinces, making a military confrontation necessary. The strategy of how to confront the organization must be reassessed. A new strategy and new mechanisms must be developed to counter Al-Qaeda. A “decapitation” operation must be adopted to put a stop to this “Torrential River” of extremism and terrorism.