Liberating Shabwa From AQAP
Al Qaeda presence in Shabwa and South Yemen as a whole goes back to the early 90s when the Saleh regime resettled the Mujahideen who returned from Afghanistan in the south. Those Mujahdeen established a terrorist organization called Islamic Jihad in Yemen which then became known as Al Qaeda in Yemen and now known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). To the people of South Yemen Al Qaeda is widely known as the arm of the government in Sana’a used to suppress the Southern Movement and protect the failed ‘Yemen Unity’.
In 2009 the Southern Movement wrote a letter to Stephen Seche who was the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen at the time, explaining that the north Yemeni forces are working together with Al Qaeda against the people of South Yemen. Also to warn him that Tariq Alfadhli who had recently left Sana’a to Abyan to join Hirak was not in any way part of Hirak but rather an agent of President Saleh and him joining Hirak was a ploy to discredit and tarnish the Southern Movement’s peaceful stance. The letter also urged Ambassador Seche that to defeat Al Qaeda the United States needs to work with the local tribes and residents who are the victims of Al Qaeda and because the north Yemeni military is viewed as an adversary. No one listened to the Southern Movement’s advice but instead continued to send millions of dollars to the Yemeni government while Al Qaeda expanded.
Thanks to the Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, now the United States is working with local forces to combat AQAP.
On Thursday Shabwa Elite Forces supported by UAE and US Counterterrorism forces launched an operation to liberate Shabwa from AQAP.
The UAE has been training the Shabwa Elite Forces — who are composed of young men from different tribes in Shabwa for the past nine months. The Shabwa Elite Forces arrived in Shabwa to cheers from residents raising the victory sign and the former South Yemen flag.
While residents of Shabwa are out in the streets celebrating the arrival of the Shabwa Elite forces to cleanse it from AQAP fighters who've terrorized the province for over two decades — Houthi-Saleh and Islah media are out in full force criticizing and demonizing the Shabwa Elite Forces.
We understand why Houthi-Saleh supporters are against liberating Shabwa, for the longest time counterterrorism was a very lucrative business for President Saleh in which he scammed the United States for hundreds of millions of dollars to train and arm the Yemeni government’s counterterrorism forces. The forces that the United States spent millions arming and training are now chanting “Death to America”. As for Islah (The Muslim Brotherhood) they’re angry about liberating Shabwa because they themselves are Al Qaeda and they also don’t like the fact that UAE armed and trained the Shabwa Elite Forces.
Both Houthi-Saleh militia and the Islah Party were also very critical of the Hadhrami Elite Forces during the operations to liberate Mukalla the capital of Hadramout province, and Hadhramout coastal region from AQAP last year.
Following what southerns are saying on twitter in regards to the operations against AQAP in Shabwa — there is so much joy and relief, because for the past decade people of South Yemen were the victims of both Al Qaeda and the war on Al Qaeda. Saleh used the war on terror to target Southern Movement leaders and also to keep the residents of South Yemen under constant threat while he and his allies loot southern land and resources.
The U.S. drone campaign has also killed dozens of innocent civilians in the process of targeting AQAP operatives.
Southerners are also celebrating because they know it’s southern forces fighting AQAP not the north Yemeni forces who use to claim that they’re fighting AQAP when in fact their weapons were constantly pointed at the southern population.