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POSTED | 11:09 AM | 24-03-2015

US counterterrorism strategy in Yemen collapses

Once hailed by President Barack Obama as a model for fighting extremism, the US counterterrorism strategy in Yemen has all but collapsed as the country descends into chaos, US and Yemeni officials told the Associated Press Tuesday (24 March 2015).

Operations against militants have been scaled back dramatically amid the fall of the American-backed government and the evacuation of US personnel. What had been consistent pressure on Yemen’s dangerous al-Qaida affiliate has been relieved, and a safe haven exists for the development of an offshoot of the Islamic State group.

Barbara Bodine, a former US ambassador to Yemen, said even the most optimistic regional experts did not share Obama’s view that the Yemen campaign was a model of success.

“It was being defined in terms of what we were doing to develop local forces and use drones and counter the immediate and real security threat,” said Bodine, now director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. “But what we hadn’t done, certainly had not done visibly enough, was get at the economic and governance issues that were driving the problem.”

Since September, Shiite Houthi rebels linked to Iran have ousted President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi and dissolved the parliament. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has been affiliated with some of the most serious attempted attacks on the US since Sept 11. 2001, has sought to exploit the chaos. Last month, the US shuttered its embassy in the capital of Sanaa, then withdrew the rest of its military personnel from Yemen over the weekend.

Now, virtually all of the Yemeni troops that had worked with the US are engaged on one side or another of a three-pronged political struggle between the remnants of the Hadi government, supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Houthi faction, US officials told AP.

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