Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is widely acknowledged to be the most capable, best funded and most dangerous of the Al Qaeda franchises still operating. As a result, it is the most feared, and the U.S. government has focused heavily on degrading it, especially via drone strikes flown from within Yemen before the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi lost control of the country to the Houthi insurgency.
According to the U.S. Government, one of the most important AQAP supporters is Abd al-Wahhab Muhammad Abd al-Rahman al-Humayqani who is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) and uses his status as a philanthropist to steer funding to AQAP.
AQAP fighters in Yemen, 2014.
Al-Humayqani is the Secretary General of the Al-Rashad party, which is the first ever Salafist associated political party in Yemen. His position at the head of this important Salafi movement also provides him with ample access in Saudi Arabia which he has used to further grow his influence in Yemen and advance AQAP’s agenda. He has served as a negotiator with the Yemeni government on behalf of AQAP and he has used his status as a leading Salafist in Yemen to steer donations from Saudi Arabia to AQAP.
In addition to using his connections in Saudi Arabia, Al-Humayqani has also done major fundraising from sources in Qatar. He is a former mufti at the Qatari Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments and while there he served as an advisor to the government on charitable giving. More recently, he has made public appearances in Yemen celebrating Qatari donations with their Director of Islamic Affairs Abdulmajid al-Zindani. Zindani - a SDGT as well - is a former mentor to Osama bin Laden.
Another Qatari associate of Humayqani’s is Abd al-Rahman bin 'Umayr al-Nu'aymi who was designated by the Treasury Department at the same time as al-Humayqani and who is a founding member of the Al-Karama charity, based in Switzerland. Interestingly, Al-Humayqani has been identified as Al-Karama’s Yemen-based spokesman. Al-Nu’aymi is also the founder of the Sheikh Eid bin Mohammed al-Thani Charitable Foundation which helped organize the funding for the Mosque at whose opening al-Humayqani and al-Zindani appeared together.
The picture grows even more complicated when al-Humayqani’s recent political activities are considered. He served as a representative of the Government in Exile of Yemeni President President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi at peace talks in Geneva in June 2015. There has been speculation that al-Humayqani was included in the talks representing the strongly Saudi-backed Hadi government because of his Saudi connections, and the Saudis hope that a Salafist voice in the Yemeni government could help displace influence from other Muslim Brotherhood-backed Islamist parties. Despite Saudi support for the cooperation between their Yemeni clients, Hadi and Humayqani, it further is complicated because the U.S. government is also backing the Hadi government, and continuing to do so, despite criticism of its cooperation with Humayqani.
Obviously, the fear of AQAP is justified not only based on its operational capabilities, but also on the breadth and strength of its fundraising capabilities. Its key fundraiser travels freely in and brings donations from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He also serves as a representative of the U.S. backed Yemeni Government in Exile. AQAP therefore has support from three of the most important U.S. allies on the peninsula. Extensive drone strikes notwithstanding, it will be almost impossible to dismantle this fearsome Al-Qaeda franchise as long as it is being supported financially in this manner; in order to defeat terrorists, you must target their sources of funding.