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Watching Yemen

2:14 PM, Apr 12, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Fred Kagan and the rest of his Critical Threats team at AEI will begin to focus more directly on coming up with a U.S. strategy for Yemen. It will be called the Yemen Strategic Planning Exercise, and here's how Kagan describes the project

The United States has not developed a coherent strategic approach toward Yemen despite the presence in that country of an aggressive and entrenched al Qaeda affiliate that has already attempted to conduct attacks on American soil. In spite of the obvious need to formulate a strategy incorporating many policy instruments to address the enormous political, social, economic, and resource challenges in Yemen, both the Bush and Obama Administrations confined their efforts almost entirely to enhancing the counter-terrorism capacity of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and, until May 2010, the use of drone strikes against high-value targets. There have been no indications that that approach was likely to succeed, and now it seems destined to be swept aside as the Arab Spring arrives in Sana’a.

The initial reactions of the Obama administration appear to be natural—but doomed. The Administration is understandably unwilling to involve itself in a collapsing Arab state with a population the size of Iraq’s that has the highest birth-rate in the region and massive drug addiction, whose oil and water resources are projected to dry up within the decade. It seems to have been working quietly and behind-the-scenes, probably with Saudi Arabia and possibly other Gulf States, to manage a reasonably smooth transition of power in which Saleh leaves but the relatives in command of Yemen’s U.S.-supported counter-terrorism forces remain. The likelihood that this approach will succeed is negligible. Not only is Yemen unlikely to see a smooth transition to a stable new regime, but its new leaders are singularly unlikely to see pursuing al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on America’s behalf as a high priority for some time. However much we all prefer to wish our Yemen problem away, we cannot.

The Critical Threats Project at AEI has therefore launched the Yemen Strategic Planning Exercise to explore likely scenarios of regime-transition and state-collapse in Yemen and the possible American responses to those scenarios. Because of the rapid evolution of events in Yemen, this exercise will take a different form from previous such undertakings at AEI. The CTP team, led in this effort by Research Analyst and Gulf of Aden Team Lead Katherine Zimmerman, will post estimates for three transition/collapse scenarios as they are completed over the next few weeks. It will then turn to the consideration of American policy options in response to these scenarios.

Whole thing here.

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