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CTC: A False Foundation? AQAP, Tribes, and Ungoverned Spaces in Yemen

Editor: Gabriel Koehler-Derrick
September 1, 2011


This report by the Combating Terrorism Center attempts to disaggregate the threat posed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from the sources of instability surrounding it, by examining the group's strategy, tactics and objectives from a local perspective.

Events in Yemen are moving at a rapid pace. Economic, environmental and political crises that have long limited Yemen’s attempts at developing a strong centralized state now threaten to overwhelm the country. Protest movements similar to those that pushed out autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have plunged Yemen into deeper instability, and multiple competing factions are currently fighting for control of the government. Reports of rising Islamist militancy and a stream of terror attacks by al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have raised fears that soon large parts of the country may be overrun by jihadists intent on striking the United States.

Efforts to understand and evaluate appropriate policy responses to the multiple crises unfolding in Yemen have often met with a major challenge: the seemingly intractable nature of the terrorist threat against the U.S. homeland given Yemen’s weak central government and growing instability. In this highly permissive environment there seem to be few practical solutions to degrade, much less eliminate, the capability of al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula to strike the United States.

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