Soon after the Saudi-led coalition, with the United Arab Emirates being a key partner, began its bombing campaign in Yemen against the Houthi rebels in 2015, it was reported that al Qaeda militants were fighting on the same side as the Saudi militia to defeat the Iran-linked Houthis.
As the United States continues to fuel Yemen's worsening humanitarian crisis, and boast that it's targeting al Qaeda in the impoverished nation (AQAP) with airstrikes, new reporting reveals that the U.S. - and U.K-backed Saudi coalition waging a bombing campaign there is recruiting al Qaeda fighters to join its ranks, and paying off the extremists to leave areas.
Beyond that, the "coalition-backed militias actively recruit al-Qaeda militants", AP found, based on on-the-ground reporting including interviews with members of al Qaeda, tribal mediators, Yemeni security officers, and militia commanders.
In early 2016, al-Qaeda pulled out of the southern port city of Mukalla and seven areas in the nearby Abyan province, under deals reached with the UAE, according to five military, security and government officials and four tribal mediators involved in the Abyan arrangement.
"Since the beginning of 2017, we have conducted more than 140 strikes to remove key AQAP leaders and disrupt its ability to use ungoverned spaces to recruit, train and plan operations against the U.S. and our partners across the region", spokesman Navy Cmdr.
"The idea that a Saudi-led coalition had air strikes today against a fish market and a hospital in Hodeida that may have caused dozens of casualties", said Haley.
In February, Emirati troops and their Yemeni militia allies flashed victory signs to TV cameras as they declared the recapture of al-Said, a district of villages running through the mountainous province of Shabwa-an area al-Qaeda had largely dominated for almost three years. But in reality, it was a sealed and negotiated conquest without any military confrontation, according to AP.
Al-Dahboul said about 200 al-Qaeda members received payments.
"It is now nearly impossible to untangle who is AQAP and who is not since so many deals and alliances have been made", he said. Al-Qaida militants are among the fiercest fighters in the city, driving the rebels out of some areas, and militia commanders have close ties to and recruit from the group.
Under the accord, thousands of local tribal fighters were to be enlisted in the UAE-funded Shabwa Elite Force militia.
"The US is certainly in a bind in Yemen", said Katherine Zimmerman, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. An Emirati government spokesman did not reply to questions from the AP.
"It doesn't make sense that the United States has identified al-Qaeda as a threat, but that we have common interests inside of Yemen and that, in some places, it looks like we're looking the other way".
The U.S.is aware of an al-Qaeda presence among anti-Houthi ranks, a senior American official told reporters in Cairo earlier this year.
For many Yemenis, al-Qaeda is simply another faction on the ground - a very effective one, well-armed and battle-hardened.
Hadi's predecessor as Yemen's president, long-ruling strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, set the model.
The branch is following guidance from global al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to focus on fighting Houthi rebels, another top AQAP member said.
Under the terms of the deal, the coalition promised al-Qaeda members it would pay them to leave, according to Awad al-Dahboul, the province's security chief.
"There is no filtering in the war".
All but a few of those sources spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.
Abdel-Sattar al-Shamiri, a former adviser to the governor of Taiz province, said he recognized al-Qaida's presence from the start and told commanders not to recruit members.
'Their response was, 'We will unite with the devil in the face of Houthis, " al-Shamiri said.