Last week, after the US launched an airstrike in Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), FDD’s Long War Journal noted that US Central Command (CENTCOM) has consistently maintained since April 2017 that it has conducted more than 80 attacks against the terror group. Over the weekend, we inquired with CENTCOM to see if that number has changed, and received a response that “To date, the US has conducted more than 100 strikes against AQAP militants, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment.”
In addition to the updated strike total for Yemen, the response is interesting as it notes that AQAP operatives who are targeting the West are not the only target of the air campaign: the US military is also hitting the entirety of the network. This is important as AQAP is not merely a grouping of cells with a leadership that can easily be decapitated; it is a networked jihadist insurgency that seeks to overthrow the Yemeni state. This jihadist insurgency operates hand in hand with AQAP’s desire to attack the West.
AQAP has maintained an effective insurgency in Yemen despite nearly a decade of US targeting that has killed some of its top leaders, including its founder, Nasir al Wuhayshi. AQAP controlled large areas of the south, including provincial capitals, between 2011-2012 and again in 2015-2016. It has benefited greatly from Yemen’s multifaceted civil war, which includes a weak central government and Iranian-backed Shia Houthis that control the capital. The rump Yemeni government receives support from the US, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, yet AQAP still maintains control of rural areas in the south.