News / Middle East

US Tries to Enlist Yemen in Anti-Terror Fight

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said that the government of Yemen has recently shown a new commitment to fighting the growing presence and influence of al-Qaida on its soil.

Multimedia

Audio

The connection to Yemen of the foiled December 25 attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner has spotlighted the impoverished Middle Eastern nation as a potential incubator for terrorists.  U.S. officials say the Yemeni government has joined the counterterrorism fight, but some outside experts question the depth of its commitment.

Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said that the government of Yemen has recently shown a new commitment to fighting the growing presence and influence of al-Qaida on its soil.

"I would note that over the past month or six weeks, there has been a much greater focus by the government of Yemen on the threat posed by al-Qaida," he said. "And this is an encouraging sign.  There is a new determination that the government has put toward al-Qaida."

But speaking at the same hearing, analysts voiced skepticism that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has jumped wholeheartedly into the U.S.-led war on terror.  They point out that Yemen's government is fighting the Houthi insurgency in the north of the country and a secessionist movement in the south.

Analyst Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute said al-Qaida is not a top priority for President Saleh.

"I think we're going to have an extraordinarily difficult time persuading him that fighting a group that he's more likely to perceive as our enemies than his enemies should take precedence over fighting a group whose ideology fundamentally undermines the rationale and legitimacy of his rule," he said.

The suspect in the foiled Christmas Day airline bombing plot - 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - is reported to have received his orders and training from the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida, known as Al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula.

Yemeni affairs expert Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University told Senate lawmakers that al-Qaida was able to regroup in Yemen because anti-terror efforts have been diverted elsewhere, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Lapsed vigilance by both the U.S. and Yemeni government allowed al-Qaida to rebuild and reorganize itself, essentially resurrect itself up from the ashes," he said. "

"And so what we're dealing with now is the second incarnation of al-Qaida, which has learned a great deal from its earlier mistakes.  Al-Qaida in Yemen is now much stronger than it ever has been in the past.  And whether or not it realizes this, the U.S. is in a propaganda war with al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula, and it's losing," he added.

State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Daniel Benjamin said the U.S. strategy is to battle al-Qaida by helping Yemen.

"Stated bluntly, to have any chance of success, U.S. counterterrorism policy has to be conceived in strategic, not tactical, terms and timelines," he said. "Therefore, our strategy is to build up the Yemeni capacity to deal with the security threats within their borders and develop government capacity to deliver basic services and economic growth."

But former U.S. ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine told the committee that the United States must be careful not to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach in dealing with Yemen and terrorism.

"Yemen does not have the sectarian divides that we saw in Iraq, and we should be careful not to see the problems through that prism," she said. "It does not have the linguistic and ethnic divides that we have seen in Afghanistan." 

"And it has very blessedly been able to avoid both the clan violence and the warlordism of Afghanistan.  We have a fragile state; we do not have a failed state.  We do have to be very careful that we do not take steps to push it over the edge," she continued.

The State Department's Jeffrey Feltman said the United States has already promised $63 million in aid for Yemen, most of it for counterterrorism, and that that figure is likely to increase in the future.  He also noted that some $5.2 billion in international aid was pledged to Yemen in 2006, but most of it never arrived because of questions about Yemen's governance.

An international conference on Yemen is scheduled to be held next week in London in conjunction with a meeting on Afghanistan. 

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs