South Yemen Sees Secession as Route to Defeating al-Qaeda

Exiled Former Ruler Says Militias Fighting Against Ansar al-Sharia in Abyan

In much of the world, a successful secessionist movement rests almost entirely on securing Western (read: US) acquiescence. This is particularly true of Yemen, where US drones loom overhead and the US is loudly and aggressively backing the new Hadi regime.

To that end, the long-standing secessionist movement in southern Yemen, which aims to recreate a state in the territory that was once the Soviet-backed People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), is couching its ambitions as a surefire way to defeat al-Qaeda.

The northern mentality cannot live within a state, whereas the mentality of the south cannot live without one,” insisted former PDRY President Ali Salem al-Beidh, who said he believes that an independent South Yemen could make quick work of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) by virtue of its more centralized nature.

This is a big part of the narrative on both sides of the secessionist issue, as Yemeni officials have routinely conflated the various secessionist movements, Ansar al-Sharia and AQAP under the term “al-Qaeda” in statements, even when it makes no sense to do so. Beidh insists pro-secessionist militias have been at the forefront of fighting Ansar al-Sharia in the Abyan Province. Abyan was initially part of the PDRY’s territory.

Whether selling South Yemen as a tool for the US war on terror will work is unclear, but it follows in the trend of similar efforts at Balochistan’s independence from Pakistan, which also presented it as a way to secure supplies into occupied Afghanistan and to install a more pro-US regime in Quetta.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of