Al-Qaeda benefits from a decade of missteps to become a threat in Yemen
...U.S. development aid to combat Yemen's soaring poverty rates and high unemployment -- key factors in enticing new recruits to militancy -- was minuscule. It declined from $56.5 million in 2000 to $25.5 million in 2008, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. U.S. officials say the aid was cut largely because of corruption concerns.
"When you look back and see how little attention Yemen was getting several years ago, it's shocking," said Christopher Boucek, a Yemen analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "None of these problems with Yemen's stability are new, and we've known what was coming down the road."
...Today, the jailbreak is viewed as the genesis of the current generation of al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. But it was two more years before the United States substantially increased counterterrorism aid -- after al-Qaeda militants, including some who broke out of the jail, attacked the U.S. Embassy in September 2008, killing 16 people, including one American.
...U.S. officials said their counterterrorism efforts have also been hampered by a Yemeni government that has frequently been unpredictable and fickle in its support. After early successes in arresting and killing al-Qaeda operatives after Sept. 11, 2001, Yemeni officials appeared to pull back out of fear of alienating powerful tribes and religious figures.
...The aggressive tactics could backfire. As in Pakistan, al-Qaeda militants thrive on the support and protection of tribes, which are highly sensitive about outside interference, even from the government. The militants live among the population, raising the odds of civilian casualties.
Mukhbil Mohammed Ali, the tribal leader, said his tribesmen are angry. They have even more sympathy for al-Qaeda, he said, as well as a growing animosity toward the Yemeni government and its benefactor, America.
"We all want revenge," he said.