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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid