SANAA, Yemen, June 5 (UPI) -- Yemeni forces are facing difficulties it taking on al-Qaida fighters because militants are ingrained within local tribal culture, an expert said.
The military in Yemen, supported by U.S. forces and unmanned aerial drones, is pushing toward the south of the country in an effort to uproot al-Qaida.
Yemeni forces are fighting near Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, al-Jazeera reports. Yemeni military officials last month said some progress was made in Abyan, though Peter Neumann, a scholar at King's College in London, told al-Jazeera the military is fighting an unconventional war.
"All these people, whilst being al-Qaida, are also anti-government, and it is often not so easy to distinguish between the two because al-Qaida is so immersed in tribal structures in the south of Yemen," he said. "It has become virtually indistinguishable from a normal insurgent force."
Yemeni Col. Ali Radman Qahtan told the Arab broadcaster that al-Qaida supporters are able to exploit their native terrain.
"The biggest challenge we face is that al-Qaida fighters are constantly on the move in small numbers, they never hold out in one place," he said.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, has emerged as a major security concern since former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh resigned early this year.