Reuters reported that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has left the town of Rada’a in the central province of Baydah after negotiating with tribesmen to ensure that key AQAP prisoners would be released and that sharia, or Islamic law, would be imposed in the town. AQAP, under the command of Tariq al Dhabab, the brother-in-law of Anwar al Awlaki, took control of Rada’a more than a week ago after hundreds of fighters stormed the town. From Reuters:
Dhahab had demanded the release of several prisoners including his brother Nabil, as well as the formation of a council to run the town under Islamic law, but previous efforts to broker the militant group’s withdrawal fell through.
“According to the deal which is due to be implemented on Wednesday, the leader of the group must withdraw his followers from the town and move to… a rural area located far from the town until the al Qaeda operatives are freed from the central security prison,” said tribal leader Ahmed al-Kalz, who took part in the talks, late on Tuesday.
Dhahab was handed the sons of two senior tribesmen as surety against the release of 15 militants held by intelligence services, Kalz said, adding that the council set up to rule Rada’a would follow the laws of Yemen.
What you now have in Yemen is a situation that is analogous to northwestern Pakistan from 2004-2009, when the Pakistani Taliban seized control of significant territory in the tribal areas and even in the settled districts of what was then the Northwest Frontier Province. The Pakistani government’s response was to negotiate a series of peace agreements with the Taliban after the military had been fought to a standstill. The government always claimed, however, that the negotiations with the Taliban were held with tribal leaders.
Today, AQAP controls vast areas of southern Yemen, including Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan province. The Yemeni government has fought AQAP in Zinjibar but has ceded control to AQAP in other cities and towns (Azzan, Al Koud, Ja’ar, Shaqra, and Rawdah).
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.