In a speech on September 10, 2014, President Obama famously cited Yemen as a model of “success” in the war on terror. A little over six months later, Yemen was a failed state.
As we’ve documented exhaustively (here, here, and here for instance), the situation in Yemen is a reflection of failed US foreign policy. Washington’s tendency to pursue short-term, narrow-minded, geopolitical expediency at the expense of promoting long-term regional stability has led directly to multiple bloody proxy wars including the conflict that is unfolding in Yemen today.
As the US attempts to navigate what is now a hopelessly conflicted set of regional alliances, and as Washington tries to keep track of where the US supports Shiite militias versus where the CIA assists Sunni militants, a new picture has emerged of pre-Arab Spring Yemen.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, a former al-Qaeda informant for the Ali Abdullah Saleh government claims Abdullah Saleh and his lieutenants not only turned a blind eye to AQAP operations in the country, but in fact played a direct role in facilitating al-Qaeda attacks even as the government accepted anti-terrorism financing from the US government.
Via Al Jazeera:
Hani Mujahid chose to tell his story to Al Jazeera because he felt trapped: When the al-Qaeda operative-turned Yemeni government informant tried to brief the CIA on his allegations that Yemen had been playing a double game in the fight against al-Qaeda, he found himself detained and badly beaten by Yemeni security personnel.
No longer able to trust any of the stakeholders, he turned to the media to tell his story. If his allegations prove true, they will be deeply embarrassing to the US.
But the testimony of men like Mujahid, erstwhile foot soldiers of al-Qaeda, is valuable in itself, offering the world unique insights into the motivations of the young men who answered Osama bin Laden's call to arms.
By his account, he became an insider at the highest levels of both al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Yemeni security services - and concluded that those two entities had more in common than was generally known..
The story of Mujahid's remarkable interview with the network began on December 5, 2013, when fighters from AQAP wearing Yemeni military fatigues shot their way past security inside the Ministry of Defence complex and mounted a prolonged and gruesome rampage that killed 52 people, most of them unarmed civilians and medics.
That attack prompted unprecedented unanimity in condemning AQAP among all of Yemen's political and religious factions, outraged by the targeting of innocent Muslims in a hospital. It also appears to have prompted Mujahid to reach out to 42-year-old lawyer Abdul Rahman Barman..
"Brother Abdul Rahman," Mujahid's text message to Barman read, "consider me a suicide attacker of another type. My bombing will be the information I shall divulge". Barman closed his phone, unsure of whether his correspondent was just suffering from the high emotion of the day..
Mujahid had previously met Barman through some of his other clients facing harassment by the security services of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Mujahid'sstory was not unfamiliar to the lawyer. Bin Laden's message of "global jihad" as a response to the problems of the Muslim world had resonated with many young men in Yemen, and in 1998, Mujahid - unemployed, and with only a high school education at age 20 - decided to act on it..
The US invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks saw Mujahid and his al-Qaeda brethren retreat to Pakistan's tribal areas in 2002, from where they staged cross-border attacks against the US and its allies before being arrested in September 2004 in Quetta by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)..
Mujahid says that while imprisoned at Sanaa's squalid prison, he was tapped to work as an informer for Yemen's two most powerful security services - the National Security Bureau (NSB) and the Political Security Organisation (PSO)..
The first incident that troubled him, Mujahid explained, was a July 2, 2007, AQAP ambush that killed 10, including eight Spanish tourists. Mujahid says he warned his handlers of the preparations one week before the operation and then again on the morning of the attack, but that it went ahead without any interference.
He was even more alarmed by the September 17, 2008, attack against the US embassy in Sanaa, which resulted in 19 deaths, most of whom were Yemeni citizens. In Al Jazeera's documentary - Al-Qaeda Informant - Mujahid alleges that Colonel Ammar Mohammed Saleh, the then-president's nephew who was second in command at the National Security Bureau, provided AQAP with money and arrangements to receive the explosives they needed for the attack.