There have been a couple of signs that they are trying to do the right thing in Yemen, especially when it comes to establishing relationships with the tribes. This is a good thing to do because not only does it give us some leverage in a post-Salih world, but also because it might help undercut on of AQAP's strengths- namely, their increasing coziness with the tribes. But in American politics there is always the temptation to say "screw it, let's just throw some guns at them." I will believe that there is a more long-term strategy when I start to see non-military aid promises fulfilled.
What I found strange in the Times article actually came at the end, in Greg's quotes. I will put the three paragraphs here in full.
If the Saleh government was once seen in Washington as too cozy with Islamic militants, that has changed, in part because Al Qaeda has stepped up its attacks. In recent weeks, Yemeni security forces have rousted Qaeda fighters from the southern city of Lawdar. In retaliation, Al Qaeda on Friday published the names of 55 regional security, police and intelligence officers, calling them “legitimate targets.”I'm not quite sure what is going on here. I don't want to say what Greg means, but my take is that there should be an "only" before "against Al Qaeda". I hope Greg will correct me if I am wrong, but I think Salih does want to stop this generation of Qaeda, as they are intent on ruining him- no negotiations. Our interests in that field at least loosely dovetail. The fear, to me- and this isn't so much a fear as it is a guarantee- is that Salih will use our aid money against the Houthis and the Southern Movement.
“That response shows Al Qaeda sees a real threat from security forces,” said Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen scholar at Princeton. But Mr. Johnsen said the priorities of President Saleh, an autocrat whose family has ruled for three decades, do not coincide with those of the United States.
“If we’re just pouring money and equipment into the Yemeni military in the hopes that it will be used against Al Qaeda,” Mr. Johnsen said, “that hope doesn’t match either with history or current reality.”
This is the big paradox, and one the article strangely avoids. What Salih is facing is a violent crisis of legitimacy. His right to rule is bought by hardly anyone. And yet, our goal in Yemen is to maintain at least enough government to fight AQAP and (hopefully) tackle some of the major structural issues. If our aid money is used by the government to fight their other enemies, that will increasingly delegitimize Salih, and the United States. Propping up Salih is the least-bad of a number of bad options. We can't make it worse by doing nothing except giving him new toys.