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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More