- Yemen’s unrest has not ended with the ouster of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
- President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi pledges to continue military operations against AQAP and Ansar al Sharia
- The Parallel Revolution has had the most success in non-military institutions; it deposed prominently placed leaders
Yemen’s unrest has not ended with the ouster of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Yemeni Revolution instead has entered a new phase, the “Parallel Revolution,” a wave of labor strikes and protests against regime officials at state institutions and commercial enterprises across the country. The dismissal of Saleh’s son-in-law Abdul Khaleq al Qadhi, the director of Yemenia Airways, on December 22, 2011 launched this second stage. The Parallel Revolution is an additional burden for the new Yemeni government, already facing challenges posed by two established opposition movements: the al Houthi rebels in northwestern Yemen and the southern secessionists. The new Yemeni government must also confront the daunting array of long-term structural problems. Moreover, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has steadily expanded its safe haven in the south over the past year through the gains of Ansar al Sharia, its insurgent arm.
American counter-terrorism strategy in Yemen has relied on local Yemeni forces and limited direct action operations to combat Ansar al Sharia and to pursue AQAP operatives with limited success. The Parallel Revolution has restricted the Yemeni government’s ability to fight these groups during an already fragile time of political transition. The new government headed by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi has pledged to continue military operations against AQAP and Ansar al Sharia. Its resources to pursue that fight are limited, however, and more exigent threats to its survival may divert its attention and assets. The Parallel Revolution poses a particular challenge in this regard because the protesters’ demands include replacing key officials within the Yemeni armed forces who are Saleh’s kin or cronies. Those demands could disrupt the continuity of operations if the new Yemeni government concedes to them, or they could generate new violence that will distract the government from the fight against AQAP if it refuses. Either way, although the demands of the Parallel Revolutionaries are eminently reasonable from an internal Yemeni standpoint, they are likely to put American counter-terrorism strategy in Yemen at risk.
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