Many Yemenis blame the regime’s incompetence, corruption and principle commitment to the interests of a handful of elites for their economic troubles and diminishing political freedoms. Without addressing these grievances, which resonate across Yemeni society, AQAP will remain able to compete for Yemenis’ loyalties. The administration must exhort its ally to devolve power and build a more representative political system. It must pressure Salih to permit free and fair elections, to recommit to a comprehensive national dialogue with friends and foes alike, and to dismantle patronage networks that drain already diminutive national coffers.
The stability of Yemen is directly tied to the resolution or mitigation of these crises. The U.S. must commit more resources to issues of poverty, malnutrition and economic development (in FY2010, it gave just over $90 million in non-security assistance, compared to roughly $175 million in security aid). American policy in Yemen must strike a balance between short-term security and humanitarian assistance, medium-range development aid, and the resolve to achieve long-term political and economic structural durability.