News / Middle East

US Official Defends American Strategy in Yemen

John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism / APJohn Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism / AP
x
John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism / AP
John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism / AP
WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama's counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, John Brennan, on Wednesday defended the U.S. strategy in helping Yemen's government battle a major al-Qaida affiliate.

Brennan's remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations were partly a response to criticism President Obama received in June from more than two dozen prominent foreign policy experts.  In a five-page letter, they said there was a perception that in Yemen the United States was "singularly" focused on the battle against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, over broader underlying and important economic and social issues.

Key recommendations included increased economic aid, support for good governance and institution-building in Yemen, restructuring security forces, and a reevaluation of U.S. drone strikes, which the group said generated significant anti-American sentiment.

Referring to the letter, Brennan said President Obama always understood that Yemen's challenges are "grave and intertwined" and said that U.S. policy emphasizes governance and development as much as security.

Brennan noted that more than half of the $337 million provided to Yemen this year is for political transition, humanitarian assistance and development.

"In fact, this is the largest amount of civilian assistance the United States has ever provided to Yemen.  So any suggestion that our policy toward Yemen is dominated by our security and counterterrorism efforts is simply not true," Brennan said.

Brennan listed key pillars of U.S. foreign policy toward Yemen, which he said include "timely, effective and full implementation" of the Gulf Cooperation Council agreement.  Going forward, he said, the United States calls on all Yemenis, including former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to put Yemen's national interests ahead of parochial concerns.  

Brennan noted steps toward a national dialogue, a military reorganization, and the recent decree by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi reassigning several brigades from under the command of Saleh's son, and a leading Saleh rival.

At the same time, Brennan said Yemen's economic, political and social success depend on eliminating "the cancerous growth" of AQAP.

Brennan defended what he called a multidimensional counterterrorist approach that he said has thwarted terrorist plots, and eliminated key leaders, such as an U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed last year by a drone.

Reiterating the Obama administration's position that drone strikes are "legal, ethical, wise and highly effective," Brennan said the United States believes they have not made the job in Yemen more difficult.

"We see little evidence that these actions are generating widespread anti-American sentiment or recruits for AQAP.  In fact, we see the opposite.  Our Yemeni partners are more eager to work with us.  Yemeni citizens who have been freed from the hellish grip of AQAP are more eager, not less, to work with the Yemeni government," Brennan said.

Brennan said, "targeted strikes against the most senior and most dangerous AQAP terrorists are not the problem, they are part of the solution."

Despite the continuing U.S. commitment to Yemen, and what he called "exceptional consistency" in cooperation since President Hadi came to office, Brennan said the United States is under no illusions about the tremendous challenges Yemen faces.  He mentioned the suicide bombing last Saturday that killed at least 35 people and wounded dozens of others in the village of Jaar, one of several towns retaken by the government in June, and clashes last week at the Ministry of the Interior in Sanaa.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid