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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs