Al Qaeda in Yemen is made up of Saudis & Yemenis & is said to total approximately 400 people. The government of Yemen is said to be one of the most corrupt in the region and is backed by Saudi Arabia, America and Britain. Yemen is also stricken with severe poverty, partly as a result of corruption but also because oil money is tapering off.
As well as this Al Qaeda group, Yemen is home to 2 major anti-government movements - the Shia Houthi rebels in the North and the Sunni secessionists in the South. The Yemen government backed overtly by Saudi Arabia and covertly by America launched "Operation Scorched Earth" in August 2009 in a bid to eliminate the Houthi rebel group, aka the Sa'dah Insurgency. So far it has failed to reach it's objective.
The US has a strategic interest in having an "enduring" military presence in Yemen because of the location - it forms part of one of 7 maritime trading route choke points in the Gulf of Aden. Approximately 3.3 million barrels of oil crossed this choke point every day by sea.
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