Challenging the Yemeni State: ISIS in Aden and al Mukalla

By Katherine Zimmerman, Jon Diamond

ISIS is prosecuting a campaign in Yemen designed to elevate its position on the global stage and compete with one of al Qaeda’s strongest affiliates. ISIS will likely surge in Yemen during Ramadan 2016 and attempt to derail ongoing efforts to bring stability and security to southern Yemen.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) operates in Yemen in support of its global campaign to expand the Caliphate. Yemen is a key theater for the Salafi-jihadi movement because of its religious significance and location on the Arabian Peninsula. Al Qaeda has operated there since the early 1990s, using the country as a logistics and planning hub for international operations, establishing a base from which to attack the House of Saud, and setting conditions for the creation of a Muslim army.[1] ISIS seeks to compete directly with al Qaeda in Yemen, particularly al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), to suppress the Yemeni state, to expand the regional sectarian war, and to disrupt Saudi Arabia by both inspiring attacks within the country and threatening the Gulf nation from multiple sides.[2] It is actively challenging the reconstitution of the Yemeni state in southern Yemen, which also supports its narrative campaign to contest AQAP’s dominance over the Salafi-jihadi movement in Yemen.

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