May 22, 2019
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Deepening roots
Al-Qaeda’s shadow government in Yemen A recently captured document written by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) reveals an unusual degree of self-reflection regarding the terrorist group’s short-lived control over parts of southern Yemen. Having retreated to historic safe havens in the interior following last year’s Yemeni military campaign, AQAP has returned to its insurgent roots as it reconstitutes its forces. As part of this regenerative process, it has undertaken a thorough review of its 2011-2012 occupation and administration in the south-a unique approach given that Al-Qaeda has never devoted much attention to the details of governance and development nor administered such a large area in the past. Among other things, the document indicates that AQAP sees value in analyzing its experience with governance and using it as a propaganda tool to blunt criticism that Al-Qaeda does not care about the people. While AQAP’s actual record of administering territory falls far short of what it presents in its self-review, the document’s depth of thinking and its focus on popular sentiment provide valuable insights into Al-Qaeda’s future strategy in Yemen and elsewhere. Unique conditions Throughout its history, Al-Qaeda has usually been hosted by a foreign government, tribal/ethnic group, or other terrorist group (e.g., in Sudan, the Pakistani tribal region, and Afghanistan under the Taliban). In other cases, the g
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