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Guest Thinkers

The Scariest Thing You Will Read Today

… is this brief from News Yemen that makes the claim that people in Shabwa are asking members of al-Qaeda to teach in their schools after the government has been unable to respond to their requests for more teachers. The brief says their patience ran out after a year.

Two things. First, I would want to be more sure of the sourcing before passing this off as fact: which tribes are asking for this?, to whom are they making the request to?, and who exactly does the brief mean by al-Qaeda members? There is an unhelpful tendency in Yemen to call nearly anyone an al-Qaeda member, which for me means someone who identifies primarily as an al-Qaeda supporter. And this, as Ghalib al-Zayadi has pointed out, does not always work in a Yemeni context.

But assuming that the brief is an accurate representation of what is going on then this is not good. I have made the statement a few times – including once to USA Today – that if al-Qaeda in Yemen ever turned itself into a positive organization, by which I mean an organization that could be for something instead of only against things, if it could provide services and be a force for good in people’s daily lives in Yemen then its growth potential would be nearly unlimited. I have always added the caveat to that statement that there was no evidence to support the idea that AQAP was looking to go that way, and this is a pretty flimsy piece of evidence but it is still evidence. Whether it is a one-off item or a precursor is impossible for me to know, even with my magic 8-ball.


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