Sunday, November 27, 2011
Security in Post-Saleh Yemen
Earlier this past week the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, signed an agreement in Saudi Arabia officially transferring power to his vice-president. This came after 30 years of autocratic rule and months of protests by civilians, a renegade general, and tribal dissidence. President Saleh was a staunch ally of the U.S., allowing U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, such as the one that took out Anwar Al-Awlaki. Initially the U.S. did not push for the removal of Saleh, however, after months of protests and the increasingly volatile situation, the U.S. now supports Saleh resigning power.
The question then, is how will Saleh's departure from the office of the president affect the U.S. national security situation in Yemen? My answer is that not much will change over the next several months or years. In fact the situation may get worse before it gets better. Yemen will become even more unstable as various factions and opposition groups grapple for power. Yemeni security and intelligence forces may be too overwhelmed keeping track of the domestic issues to thoroughly fight Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
However, the security situation is not as bad as it sounds. Saudi Arabia has no interest in seeing democracy flourish south of the border and the reality is that a relatively hardline government will emerge once again. In addition, a son and three nephews retain powerful posts in the military and intelligence service, and will no doubt continue to work with the U.S. to fight terrorists as President Saleh did. Drone strikes and intelligence gathering on Yemeni soil are likely to continue as normal.