Published on
The Telegraph/UK

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.

Alex Spillius

In this Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010 file photo, soldiers from the anti-terrorism force of the Yemeni Defense Ministry take part in an exercise in a training camp at the Sarif district, north of the capital San'a, Yemen. U.S. special operations forces are expanding their training of the Yemeni military as the Obama administration broadens its program to counter terrorism in countries reluctant to harbor a visible American military presence.(AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

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.


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"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

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."

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