A U.S.-backed coalition—led by Saudi Arabia—has been cutting secret deals with al Qaeda fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns in Yemen, the Associated Press reports. An investigation found that some fighters have been paid off, others have been allowed to retreat with weapons, equipment, and cash, while hundreds more have been recruited to join the coalition. Over the past two years, the coalition has claimed decisive victories that drove al Qaeda militants from strongholds across Yemen and paralyzed their ability to attack the West. But the secret deals suggest they’ve merely allowed militants to survive to fight another day, potentially from a stronger position. Key participants in the agreements said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements, the AP reports. “Elements of the U.S. military are clearly aware that much of what the U.S. is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] and there is much angst about that,” said Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. analysis group that tracks terrorism.