Negotiate With Al Qaeda?

February 13, 2012 by staff 

Negotiate With Al Qaeda?, On January 15, the residents of Radda – a small rural town 100 miles south of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a – were virtually in a state of siege. The small shops and markets that kept the town’s life afloat were shut down, converted into makeshift military barricades by fighters associated with al Qaeda’s regional-based affiliate, who easily overtook the village from Yemen’s security forces. The mosque – the center of activity in many small villages – became an al Qaeda headquarters, with the group’s black flag erected over the building in a demonstration of firm control.

The Yemeni Government, already fragmented and struggling to progress from the long era of Ali Abdullah Saleh, was powerless to stop the incursion. The Yemeni military promised to assemble reinforcements to re-capture the town and push the al Qaeda militants out of the area, but the mobilization was far too slow for the people whose lives were darkly interrupted.

Yemen’s powerful tribes, long a substitute for the government in large portions of the country, once again had to take matters into their own hands. Tribal officials tacitly representing the Yemeni Government sat down with the militants and attempted to strike a compromise that would avert bloodshed, which has been the unfortunate norm for thousands of Yemenis.

The negotiations, lasting days, eventually succeeded in breaking through. The Islamists agreed that they would withdraw from Radda, but only on the condition that the town council was replaced in full and 15 of its colleagues were released from Yemen’s shaky prison system. The tribes and the government put their stamp on the agreement, and crisis was averted.

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