Jemen: Den amerikanske anti-terrorpolitikken viser seg helt feilslått.
In all, more than 230 Yemeni soldiers have been killed in battles with the militants since last May. “These guys are incredibly brave,” the general concedes, speaking of the militants. “If I had an army full of men with that bravery, I could conquer the world.”
Ansar al Sharia repaired roads, restored electricity, distributed food and began security patrols inside the city and its surroundings. It also established Sharia courts where disputes could be resolved. “Al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia brought security to the people in areas that were famous for insecurity, famous for thefts, for roadblocks,” says Abdul Rezzaq al Jamal, an independent Yemeni journalist who regularly interviews Al Qaeda leaders and has spent extensive time in Zinjibar. “The people I met in Zinjibar were grateful to Al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia for maintaining security.” While the militants in Abyan may be bringing law and order, this is, at times, enforced with horrifying tactics such as limb amputations against accused thieves and public floggings of suspected drug users.
Some of the unilateral strikes have killed their intended targets, such as the CIA attack on Awlaki. But others have killed civilians—at times, a lot of civilians. And many of these have been in Abyan and its neighboring province of Shebwa, both of which have recently seen a substantial rise of AQAP activity. President Obama’s first known authorization of a missile strike on Yemen, on December 17, 2009, killed more than forty Bedouins, many of them women and children, in the remote village of al Majala in Abyan. Another US strike, in May 2010, killed an important tribal leader and the deputy governor of Marib province, Jabir Shabwani, sparking mass anger at the United States and Saleh’s government. “I think these airstrikes were based on false intelligence from the regime, because that is the nature of the contractor,” Qahtan charges. “The contractor wants to create more work in return for earning more money.”
The strikes “have recruited thousands.” Yemeni tribesmen, he says, share one common goal with Al Qaeda, “which is revenge against the Americans, because those who were killed are the sons of the tribesmen, and the tribesmen never, ever give up on revenge.” Even senior officials of the Saleh regime recognize the damage the strikes have caused. “People certainly resent these [US] interventions,” Qirbi, the foreign minister and a close Saleh ally, concedes.
The key to accomplishing anything in Yemen is navigating its labyrinthine tribal system. For years, a tribal patronage network helped bolster Saleh’s regime. Many tribes have had a neutral view of AQAP or have seen it as a minor nuisance; some have fought against Al Qaeda forces, while others have given them safe haven or shelter. The stance of many tribes toward Al Qaeda has depended on how they believe AQAP can forward their agenda. But US policy has enraged tribal leaders who could potentially keep AQAP in check and has, over the past three years of regular bombings, taken away the motivation for many leaders to do so.
Several southern leaders angrily told me stories of US and Yemeni attacks in their areas that killed civilians and livestock and destroyed or damaged scores of homes. If anything, the US airstrikes and support for Saleh-family-run counterterrorism units has increased tribal sympathy for Al Qaeda. “Why should we fight them? Why?” asks Sheik Ali Abdullah Abdulsalam, a southern tribal sheik from Shebwa who adopted the nom du guerre Mullah Zabara, he says, out of admiration for Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. “If my government built schools, hospitals and roads and met basic needs, I would be loyal to my government and protect it. So far, we don’t have basic services such as electricity, water pumps. Why should we fight Al Qaeda?” He says that AQAP controls large swaths of Shebwa, conceding that the group does “provide security and prevent looting. If your car is stolen, they will get it back for you.” In areas “controlled by the government, there is looting and robbery. You can see the difference.” Zabara adds, “If we don’t pay more attention, Al Qaeda could seize and control more areas.”
“The US sees Al Qaeda as terrorism, and we consider the drones terrorism,” he says. “The drones are flying day and night, frightening women and children, disturbing sleeping people. This is terrorism.” Zabara says several US strikes in his region have killed scores of civilians and that his community is littered with unexploded cluster bombs, which have detonated, killing children. He and other tribal leaders asked the Yemeni and US governments for assistance in removing them, he says. “We did not get any response, so we use our guns to explode them.” He also says the US government should pay money to the families of civilians killed in the missile strikes of the past three years. “We demand compensation from the US for killing Yemeni citizens, just like the Lockerbie case,” he declares. “The world is one village. The US received compensation from Libya for the Lockerbie bombing, but the Yemenis have not.”
“Once I got stopped by AQAP guys at one of their checkpoints, and they saw I had a bottle of Johnnie Walker,” he recalls as he guzzles his second Heineken in ten minutes and lights a cigarette. “They asked me, ‘Why do you have that?’ I told them, ‘to drink it.’” He laughs heartily. “I told them to bother another guy and drove off.” The message of the story is clear: the Al Qaeda guys don’t want trouble with tribal leaders. “I am not afraid of Al Qaeda; I go to their sites and meet them. We are all known tribesmen, and they have to meet us to solve their disputes.” Plus, he adds: “I have 30,000 fighters in my own tribe. Al Qaeda can’t attack me.
The United States “should have never made counterterrorism a source of profit for the regime, because that increased terrorism,” asserts Iryani. “Saleh's regimes agenda was to keep terrorism alive, because it was their cash cow.”
Konklusjonen som er like trist, som den viser hva feilslått politikk kan føre til, er som det klart sies av en tidligere rådgiver til president Saleh.
"Jeg tror at hadde vi bare blitt overlatt til oss selv, så ville vi hatt færre terrorister i Jemen enn det vi har nå."