In addition to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, yet another U.S. military intervention is in shambles: the U.S. drone war against al Qaeda’s most potent regional affiliate — al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Heretofore, despite the rise of the perhaps even more brutal Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), mainly a threat to the Middle East region, the U.S. government has continued to regard AQAP in Yemen as the most severe terrorist threat to the United States. Although the group hasn’t been very active recently, it was involved in the Paris attacks a while back and in foiled bomb plots against U.S.-bound aircraft, including the underwear bombing, even further back.
After the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush expanded his “War on Terror” from the Afghanistan/Pakistan region and started attacking Islamist militants in Yemen from the air. In 2006, AQAP was born after 23 militants escaped from prison in Yemen. Journalists, both locally in Yemen and from the West, have documented that the U.S. drone war under Bush and now Obama has actually increased the numbers of AQAP fighters.
Now, because the Shi’ite Houthi group, financed by Shi’ite Iran, has taken over large parts of Yemen in a civil war, Sunni Saudi Arabia, with critical U.S. military aid, has begun a bombing campaign to attempt to halt the Houthi offensive on the ground and to destroy U.S. weapons earlier given to the now defunct Yemeni government, which are now in the hands of the Houthis. (Can any pattern be seen with U.S. military support of the Shah’s Iran when the current Shi’ite Islamist government overthrew that monarchy in the late 1970s, getting all the U.S. weapons, or U.S. military support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s that morphed into al Qaeda, or the more recent debacle in Iraq in which U.S. trained and equipped Iraqi forces cut and ran in the face of an ISIS offensive that captured much advanced U.S. armament?) In addition, Yemeni counterterrorism forces trained by the United States are in disarray because of the ongoing civil war. Yet the ill-advised, U.S.-assisted Saudi bombing campaign has not only not halted the Houthi offensive on the ground, but has increased chaos and suffering in the country, thus allowing, many experts say, a space for the Sunni AQAP to strengthen itself.