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Examining Yemen's challenges as Yemeni Al-Qaida leader trumpets Paris Attack




In this April 23, 2013 file photo, a suspected Yemeni al-Qaida militant, center, holds an Islamist banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court in Sanaa, Yemen. A top leader of Yemen's al-Qaida branch has claimed responsibility for last week's attack on a Paris newspaper when two masked gunmen killed 12 people, including much of the weekly's editorial staff and two police officers. Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP as the branch is known, appeared in an 11-minute Internet video posted Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.
In this April 23, 2013 file photo, a suspected Yemeni al-Qaida militant, center, holds an Islamist banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court in Sanaa, Yemen. A top leader of Yemen's al-Qaida branch has claimed responsibility for last week's attack on a Paris newspaper when two masked gunmen killed 12 people, including much of the weekly's editorial staff and two police officers. Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP as the branch is known, appeared in an 11-minute Internet video posted Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.
Hani Mohammed/AP

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A top commander of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is claiming Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al-Qaida, ordered last week's massacre at the "Charlie Hebdo" office in Paris. U.S. intelligence officials say they have no evidence to back up the claims that Nasr Al-Ansi made in a video posted online. However, Yemeni officials have said both Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, the two brothers who allegedly carried out the Paris attack, were trained in camps run by AQAP.

The very same day as last week's attack, a suicide bomber in Yemen's capital of Sanaa killed 37 police recruits. It underscored the country's instability and tensions.

U.S. strategy for Yemen has focused on counterterrorism measures, primarily drone strikes and targeted killings. Analysis by the former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine (co-authored by AirTalk guest Danya Greenfield) argues: "Any US strategy to counter jihadists needs to address the pervasive lack of economic opportunity, structural unemployment, cronyism, and the inequitable distribution of state resources [in Yemen]." Following the so-called Arab Spring, Washington aided the transition from discredited President Ali Abdullah Saleh to a working agreement for a power-sharing government led by President Abdrabo Mansour Hadi.

Current power struggles are not just domestic. Saudi Arabia and Iran each have their conflicting interests in Yemen. Will there by convincing proof that Al-Qaida coordinated the attack in Paris? What is the future of U.S. strategy in Yemen?         

Guest:

Danya Greenfield, Deputy director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council, where she leads the Yemen Policy Initiative.