Mon 13-08-2018 17:58 PM
ABU DHABI, 13th August, 2018 (WAM) — The UAE announced today that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been so suppressed in Yemen that its ability to export terrorism internationally is now bordering on the negligible. In 2015, when the Coalition began counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the country, AQAP governed swathes of strategic territory including populous port cities which it used to finance operations and recruit new fighters. It had previously claimed responsibility for a number of successful and attempted attacks around the world, including against Paris-based Charlie Hebdo staff in 2015 and a US passenger airliner in 2009. For many years it has been considered by most governments the most dangerous of Al Qaeda’s branches.
Today, AQAP has been forced back into the mountains and rural villages, where barely 200 remaining fighters can focus on little else but surviving Coalition strikes. The number of attacks by AQAP in Yemen has fallen by over 93% in the past three years. The vast majority of the group’s most-wanted leaders have been killed, many of whom were experts in civilian targeting, such as bomb miniaturisation.
Despite this reduction in the group’s capabilities, more work needs to be done, as AQAP retains the ambition to regroup and threaten the rest of the world. It has kept its commitment to the original Al Qaeda creed, which is to go global, and is one of the few franchises that still talks about its plans to do so.
AQAP cannot be contained through physical superiority alone. The UAE and its partners have had success politically by working hard with Yemenis on the ground to win back the support and trust of local populations, including by investing in development and undermining the support for AQAP among tribal leaders. In this effort, it has been essential that the Yeminis themselves are the ones doing the work on the ground.
A senior UAE military official commented: “Where once it was ruling and plotting, Al Qaeda is now running and hiding. We have deprived them of their safe havens, finance streams, and recruitment pools. The Coalition has been relentless in its pursuit of the group, thanks to the 30,000 Yemeni forces we have trained and equipped to take them on. The terrorists have been pushed back into the wilderness, territorially and politically. Counter-terrorism is as much a battle for hearts and minds as it is for military victory; it is essential that this campaign is waged and won by Yemenis. We cannot become complacent; we will not end our support until there are no terrorists left in Yemen.”
WAM/Hazem Hussein/Tariq alfaham