EMAIL SIGN UP!
Most Popular This Week
Today's Top News
Pentagon to Funnel US Arms to Yemen to Fight al-Qaeda
The Pentagon has proposed a $1.2 billion (£778m) military aid package to Yemen for its battle against al-Qaeda, sparking a warning from some US government quarters that the extra resources would be used in the country's civil wars.
The US State Department has reportedly raised concerns that with President Ali Abdullah Saleh facing rebellions in the north and south of the country he could divert the additional weaponry, coast patrol boats and aircraft from its intended purpose.
The terror threat from Yemen has escalated in the past 18 months, with estimates that about 300 al-Qaeda members or cells are operating there.The gravity of the situation deepened after the failed Christmas Day attack on a flight heading for Detroit.
The young Nigerian accused in the plot was reportedly trained in by al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen and given his final orders by Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric and American citizen based in the country.
Daniel Benjamin, the state department's counterterrorism coordinator, said recently that the US was placing unprecedented emphasis on Yemen, but stressed that the approach must combine military and civil aid.
"Security operations may over time weaken the enemy's leadership and deny it the time and space it needs to organize, plan and train for operations," he said in a speech in Washington. "At the same time, countering violent extremism in Yemen over the long term must involve the development of credible institutions that can deliver real economic and social progress."
The US military is already training in Yemen, aiming to fix shortfalls in the Yemeni military's aviation, intelligence and tactical operations. US Predator drones have been used in several attacks on suspected al-Qaeda targets.
Diversion of military aid has happened in the past as in Pakistan under the presidency of Gen Pervez Musharraf, who used US aid to strengthen forces on the border with India, rather than in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal zones.
Experts in the region have questioned the wisdom of heavily arming the military of the poorest country in the Middle East.
Christopher Boucek, a Yemen expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: "If we just focus on the military and security for them to become more lethal, it's not going to improve the country's security; it will only fuel recruitment and grievances."