Author’s Note: This is a three-part series on AQAP in Yemen. Part II will cover recent AQAP activity at the tactical level, to include assassinations, TTPs, leadership information, and its effect on US foreign policy.  Part III will discuss the future of Yemen as it pertains to US counterterrorism efforts and the strength of AQAP, as well as possible courses of action AQAP could take as a result of ongoing US operations there.

As the US pursues joint counterterrorism operations in various hotspots around the globe, a brutal shadow war in Yemen against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has consistently remained at the forefront of US efforts. Assassinations, targeted killings, drone strikes, bombings, and lawlessness are the frequently referenced terms used to describe this war.

The purpose of this article is to describe the current operating environment in Yemen with respect to its stability and condition, identify the basic capabilities of and appropriate background information regarding AQAP, and describe the status of ongoing counterterrorism efforts in Yemen.

The Operating Environment

In Yemen, there are no holds barred.  As the Arab world’s poorest country (with a poverty rate of over 50%), security issues such as political unrest, organized and violent crime, tribal clashes, secession movements, sectarian violence, and terrorism infest the country.