One consequence of the Yemeni civil war has been the advance of al-Qaeda into towns and villages where they have begun to expand their presence in anticipation of setting up an Islamist government.
Troops loyal to the government of President Saleh have tried to dislodge the terrorists but have met with limited success:
Yemen's army is fighting to regain territory lost to suspected al Qaeda operatives during months of political upheaval that have weakened central government control over parts of the country, notably Abyan.
Abyan's capital Zinjibar was "liberated" from Islamist fighters by government troops last month, but clashes continue to flare there. Local officials and residents said 15 militants were killed in air strikes on the city on Sunday, while four soldiers died in combat with gunmen.
Since popular protests against PresidentAli Abdullah Saleh paralyzed impoverished Yemen earlier this year, international powers have feared growing lawlessness might embolden al Qaeda's local wing and imperil shipping routes via the Red Sea.
There is a real danger that once Saleh is gone, it will take many months for the new government to deal with the advance of the terrorists. By that time, AQAP might be so entrenched in some areas that they would have carved out their own independent state and would be very difficult to dislodge without assistance.
The recent assassination of al-Awlaki may slow AQAP down, but won't stop their advance.