Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East and North Africa

Mutiny in the Yemeni military

The United States relies on the Yemeni security forces to conduct counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as part of America’s strategy to combat the virulent Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate. The partnership with the Yemeni government previously ran through Ali Abdullah Saleh, who carefully managed the counterterrorism relationship and channeled American military assistance to members of his family and patronage network. Former president Saleh was an unreliable partner: his prioritization of limited security resources created a permissive environment for al Qaeda to re-establish itself in Yemen. Political unrest sparked by the Arab Spring in 2011 forced Saleh into a negotiated transition of power to his vice president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The transition deal, inked under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council, included a mandate for Hadi to restructure Yemen’s security sector. Hadi’s efforts to dismantle entrenched patronage networks and to professionalize a force long accustomed to personal rule have met resistance, however. Though the U.S. may now have a willing partner in Yemen, that partner is currently handicapped by regular instances of insubordination within the ranks of its military.

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