"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Aden-Abyan Army

In his tape, Qasim al-Raymi announced the formation of an "Aden-Abyan Army" to directly fight against the government.  This will remind Yemen-watchers of the old-school Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, or the AAIA, in English shorthand.  I suppose, for a strategist like al-Raymi, there is no "I" in "Aden-Abyan Army." 

I really apologize for that, and will now get to the important part of this.

Announcing the formation of an army is a lot different than having one, of course.  But AQAP has never been much for idle threats or cheap bluster.  A question that a lot of people might have is: how is this any different than what they had?  The answer, glibly, is this: an army consists of foot-soldiers who have more talents than merely exploding. 

Here is a good quick read on this phenomenon- a post by Clint Watts over at Selected Wisdom called "Foreign Fighter Terrorism: Worry More About 'Fighters' Than 'Martyrs'".  Basically, when people move over to al-Qaeda, they are asked if they want to be fighters or martyrs- martyrs are going to do suicide-bombings, for fighters, however, "the message morphs to something more complicated: “I’ll fight the infidel, but if I survive, I’ll probably head home or to another safe haven and ultimately fight again somewhere else.” While ‘Martyr’ recruits are tactically devastating, ‘Fighter’ recruits have far greater strategic impact.  Only poor performing ‘Martyr’ recruits survive the battlefield but high performing ‘Fighter’ recruits are more likely to head back home (equipped with skills and combat experience) and become the thread for future jihadi campaigns at home or in the West."   Clint also points out that, in the Sinjar records, Yemenis were behind only Algerians in choosing fighter over martyr- a full 61% choose to do something more long-term than strapping a bomb to their chest.

With this possible new army in Yemen, you have some of the fruits of fighterdom and the roots for other battles.  Yemen will increasingly have a foreign fighter problem, and these people can be trained and dispersed.  But you also have an immediate problem.  It isn't well-known, because suicide bombings make for a more exciting newscast, and grasp our attention with an almost alien violence, but actual fighting forces have been a larger part of Qaeda's goal, particularly in Afghanistan, where in the 90s they helped the Taliban fight against the Northern Alliance.  And while it is true that it was a martyr who killed Ahamd Shah Masood, the Qaeda fighting forces kept him forever on his toes.  An army can continue to apply concerted pressure in tandem with the horrifying and random shocks of the martyrs. 

This would make sense for AQAP to do- a two-pronged attack inside Yemen while still putting their message out to the English-speaking world and hoping to inspire more lone-wolf attacks (incidentally, I am working on my thoughts on the new Inspire, and will get to them after lunch).   This continues to show that AQAP is able to take lessons from jihadi venues all over the world and integrate them into Yemen.  It would be a nice to have dumb as they are barbaric, but in Yemen we don't have that luxury.


  1. Can you remember the bit in the Q'ran about an army coming out of Aden - Abyan? I'm sure I saw it referred to when AQAP first started talking about an army of was it 50,000? or 5,000?

  2. It is a hadith,it is apocryphal and it is 12,000.

  3. Thank you Anonymous - it is helpful to be aware of how these things chime in with religious/historical aspects, the significance of which non-Islamic westerners wouldn't be aware of. The sense of participating in the fulfilment of prophecy can be a powerful force. I had forgotten it was a Hadith, not in the Q'ran.

  4. Thanks anon. Dozival, that is a good point about the "fulfillment of prophecy"- it is part of the mentality of wanting to be seen as something greater than yourself. I think looking at it like that, it hardly matters if the hadith is apocryphal or "true". What matters is the emotive sense of restoring the glory days.

    I'm not saying that is the reason for the AAA, of course, but it doesn't hurt from a publicity standpoint.

  5. It's more than just Yemen, several Ahadith (plural of Hadith) mention Yemen like that one that mentions that there will be an army in Iraq, in Shaam (Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon) and Yemen. (before the end of times)

    And the one about the 12.000 soldiers coming from Aden-Abyan.

  6. OK. Don't mean to be stupid or ignorant, but is the Aden-Abyan Army different from the AAIA or is it just a new version of the AAIA?

  7. Ali Baba Ghanouj - no answer yet to your question?

  8. Whoops- sorry, didn't check in to this post in a while. Different army, similar name. Similar ideas, goals, etc. Maybe they can be seen as part of a moral continuity, but this is starting fresh.

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