US drone strikes in Yemen over the past few years have not weakened al Qaeda forces in Yemen, says Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. He's just back from visiting al Qaeda in southern Yemen, and says since his last visit two years ago the fighters of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have descended from their mountain strongholds, and established a firmer foothold in coastal areas.
Abdul-Ahad says AQAP operatives are trying "to show themselves in a more sophisticated light than the jihadis in Iraq or Afghanistan." Abdul-Ahad says, for example, al Qaeda checkpoints in Yemen do not menace civilians.
He says in Afghanistan, "when you see the (al Qaeda) black flag (in other countries), this is a sign of death for you as a journalist. This is 'end of the game.' Yet there (in Yemen) , they don't stop you and they don't take bribes," Abdul-Ahad says. "They're trying to give this feel that we're different than in the days of Iraq and Afghanistan."
He adds that in the middle of chaos, "al Queda has found a footstep and from there they
emerge as a major player in the south of Yemen."