The evaluation ofthe success or failure of the AQAP to sustain its strength and power to achieveits goals are presented in this paper in contrasting arguments in terms oftheir strategic strengths and vulnerabilities. First of all, the Saudi-ledmilitary operations in Yemen prioritizes the Houthi threat over AQAP, whichallows AQAP some room to grow and operate (Yemen’s al-Qaeda: Expanding the Base, 2017).
More so, thesectarian element of Yemen’s war has encouraged some Sunni tribes to ally withAQAP to halt the Houthi advance, allowing AQAP to stretch its resources and itsinfluence (Laub, 2016).AQAP has also adapted its strategy in recent years, pushing for a more gradualadoption of sharia, and buildingbetter rapport with locals by providing order and public goods, and concealingthe group’s identity by adopting a local brand (Zimmerman , AQAP Post-Arab Spring and the Islamic State, 2017). Related to this,AQAP preserves and even increase local memberships as the group often paysfighters better and more consistently than pro-government forces, leading to defectionsto the group (Horton, 2016).
This extensive connection of AQAP tothe locals of Yemen allows fighters to blend with tribes, which are often waryof Yemeni government forces (Thomas, 2017). In terms of resource mobilization, AQAP’sconnection to al-Shabaab and the broader AQ network gives it access to fundingpipelines and weaponry (Sudarsan, 2010). One set back thatmight affect the sustainability of AQAP’s operations is the group’s source offunding. One of AQAP’s major source of income, looting, is nonrenewable andless likely to be sustainable without territorial expansion. Looting alsocontradicts their strategy of developing local support as this practice posesrisks of pushing away the populace. Moreover, AQAP’s other source of revenue, kidnapping,is also inconsistent and is highly dependent on countries’ willingness to payfor ransom. In addition, the government of Yemen has seemed to recognize thestrategy of AQAP in securing memberships through provisions of local publicservices, and is now using similar strategies to combat the spread of AQAP’sfavor among the locals. In recent times, AQAP’s ability to expand theseservices, as well as infrastructure, seem to be weak as compared to itsgovernment opponents.
In Mukalla, a formerly controlled territory of AQAP, thelocal Yemeni government is now investing on better public services than AQAP.These efforts are further strengthened with assistance in reconstruction andsecurity from the UAE. This bilateral arrangement has also boosted the shippingcommerce. Such strategy has been proven successful thus far, and will likelyundermine AQAP’s base of support in the community (Fitch, 2017).However, AQAP’s strategy of deepening its regional and tribal ties by focusingon its “hearts and minds” campaign across the globe has been its strongestasset. In fact, a major factor in the group’s resilience over time has comefrom AQAP’s ability to exploit local popular grievances, which the Yemenigovernment has avoided addressing for decades (Zimmerman, 2017).
These local grievances are drivingYemen’s own instability. The fundamental and clear lesson from past experienceis that the terrorist threat from Yemen is not susceptible to a kineticsolution. As daunting a task as it is, no strategy against AQAP will besuccessful if it does not address underlying factors key to AQAP’s continuedprosperity.
Thus, the group will remain a serious player in Yemen – and aserious threat – for the foreseeable future.