The failed attack on a commercial airliner on 25 December 2009 by a suicide bomber trained in Yemen focused the attention of U.S. policymakers and the public on the situation in that country,where ex-detainees have openly returned to terrorist activity and where a resurgent al-Qaeda poses a regional and international threat. As of March 2010, around 90 of the 188 detainees remaining in U.S. custody at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were Yemeni. Although detainee transfers to Yemen were on hold, officials had determined that nearly two-thirds were suitable for resettlement if conditions there were to stabilise dramatically.
Recent counter-terrorism operations within Yemen, too, suggest that the need to handle Yemeni prisoners with terrorist affiliations may continue for some time. Is it possible for deradicalisation strategies to mitigate, even in small degree, the threat these dangerous individuals might pose after release?
U.S. and Yemeni officials have wrestled with this problem for years. But this predicament now weighs on the entire international community, as policymakers try to address the wide range of strategic challenges in Yemen. The potential radicalisation of Yemen's vulnerable populations is a central concern, and options for the deradicalisation of Yemeni prisoners are a necessary part of that discussion.