Ever since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies have been battering al-Qaeda terrorists wherever they have found them. Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, everywhere. What used to be safe havens have now become graveyards. But other bastions have emerged in the meanwhile.  Somalia and Yemen are two of them.

Al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate was bolstered by its merger in 2009 with the Saudi Arabian al-Qaeda affiliate forming al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This merger poses a significant destabilization threat throughout the Arabian Peninsula.

Though Yemen still maintains vestiges of its tribal history, they are less pronounced than in Somalia. This allows al-Qaeda to utilize Yemen as an ideological base.

Al-Qaeda’s Saudi Arabian affiliate has significant media outlets from which it spreads ideological propaganda. The merger allowed the two affiliates to pool resources and reach a broader audience of potential recruits. The recent elimination of Qasim al-Rimi, the leader of AQAP, may end up slowing the growth of the group. Al-Rimi had committed unconscionable violent acts against civilians in Yemen and sought to conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the United States and its forces. President Trump believes that the elimination of al-Rimi will bring us closer to removing the threats this group poses to our national security.

Chief Special Warfare Operator Ryan Owens, a SEAL Team Six operator, was killed during the operation against AQAP terrorists back in 2017.

AQAP’s media output shows how al-Qaeda tries to make different ideas, beliefs, myths, and traditions work to radicalize and mobilize the population. These media outlets not only identify grievances and assign blame; they also outline actions necessary to correct the problems. By doing so, AQAP has managed to rise above many of the previous tribal and economic divisions and unite a growing number of Yemenis to its cause.

A shared grievance narrative has led to claims by Yemeni analysts that while al-Qaeda may number in the hundreds, there are tens of thousands of Yemenis who share its grievances. With potentially thousands of recruits, AQAP poses a severe threat to international security despite the death of al-Rimi. Furthermore, Yemen’s weakened state is more useful to the group’s purposes than a completely collapsed state, such as in Somalia, would be. AQAP walks a tight wire in inciting grievances and mobilizing citizens, yet not being the catalyst behind total civil collapse.