The overburdened and crisis-ridden government has never felt much urgency in dealing with this last category of concerns. But Yemen’s first two troubles, security and governance, are a combustible mix — and together they might explode in 2010 if al Qaeda consolidates its gains by taking advantage of a government in disarray. The organization, already the most regionally and economically representative of any group in the country, has only grown stronger over the past three years. Once disorganized and on the run, today al Qaeda members are putting down roots by marrying into local tribes and establishing a durable infrastructure that can survive the loss of key commanders. They have also launched a two-track policy of persuasion and intimidation, first by constructing a narrative of jihad that is broadly popular in Yemen, and second by assassinating or executing security officials who prove too aggressive in their pursuit of al Qaeda fighters. So, while U.S. President Barack Obama is busy trying to stamp out terrorist safe havens in Jalalabad and Waziristan, new ones are popping up in Marib, Shabwa, and al-Jawf.
The Critical Threats website has been a great source for things Yemeni in the wake of the failed airliner attack thanks to Fred Kagan and his team.