Saferworld’s new report, “Blown Back,” outlines the mistakes and lessons of the West’s counterterrorism, stabilization, and statebuilding efforts in Yemen. The report also offers recommendations on how the US and other foreign states should reconsider their regional strategies and alliances. External actors’ approaches to Yemen have had significant negative impacts due to an inability, or unwillingness, to prioritize the grievances of Yemen’s people over counterterrorism imperatives. Failure to address these grievances has led to increased popular support of the armed opposition groups that the West is working to eliminate.
Yemen’s most fundamental challenge has been the failure of a state dominated by kleptocratic elites to play a constructive role in addressing the drivers of its instability and poverty...Despairing of political processes, people have turned to group identities to seek redress for grievances, and protect their interests.
In their all-consuming efforts to fight terror, external actors have recklessly provided weapons and equipment to Yemen’s deeply divided security forces despite the high risk of military capacities being diverted from their intended purpose. Furthermore, the use of drones and other sophisticated weaponry by the West, which has killed at least 87 civilians and likely hundreds more, has merely fed anti-US sentiment and boosted recruitment by militant groups. The Saudi-led coalition’s blockade, bombardment, and ground campaign have had a similar effect.
Saferworld’s report advises that, in order to achieve its counterterrorism goals, the West must understand the driving forces behind Yemen’s many conflicts. It should revisit its objectives with a focus on peace while reconsidering its support for fundamentally illegitimate actors. Above all, Western countries need to explore every possible alternative to military attacks inside Yemen as well as demonstrate their genuine commitment to development, justice, and democratic values.