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There has been extensive discussion of and assertions about al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), some of it deliberately inaccurate, some misreported, much sensationalised. The then Director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) Michael Leitner is often quoted as saying: “AQAP is now the greatest single terrorist threat to the United States.” This is derived from his public testimony to the Committee on Homeland Security in which he stated "I actually consider al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with Awlaki as a leader within that organization, probably the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland." Not only has Dir Leitner’s “risk” become “threat”, but the selective quotation omits both his previous comparative remarks (that AQ Prime in AFPAK have been so suppressed by UAV attacks that they are unable to mount coherent attacks), and also his reticence to rank AQAP as more or less of a threat than AQ Prime. Nor do the reports note that AQAP itself has not increased in capability or intent; it owes its new ranking to the diminished capability of AQ Prime.
As a result of this careless reporting, AQAP’s Capability and Intent (which together comprise the Threat it represents) have been little addressed - at least in the public discourse - and less understood. This paper examines AQAP’s low intensity operations in Yemen, analyses AQAP tactics, from that identifies an operational structure (and operating divisions), its various Intents and deduces its key weaknesses.
- Multiple concurrent uprisings in Yemen are ideologically unconnected
- AQAP’s kinetic capability against the West has been over-emphasised
- AQAP appears to be geographically and operationally divided into 3 groups:
- Key threat is AQAP’s inspiration to disenchanted Muslims in the West
- AQAP’s key weakness is alienating the tribes among whom they live
- AQAP appear to have limited funding, and conduct robberies to raise cash