WASHINGTON, (AFP) — The United States warned Thursday that US budget cuts would undermine efforts to help Yemen reduce the threat from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, ranked as the top menace to the US homeland.
The US Congress is struggling to cut spending, including foreign aid, in order to scale back a record deficit and encourage economic recovery from a lingering crisis.
“Unfortunately, severe budget cuts to foreign aid contemplated by Congress will constrain our ability to help Yemen reduce this threat,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on the microblogging website Twitter.
He recalled that US officials told the House of Representatives on Wednesday that AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) in Yemen is now the “most significant” threat to the US homeland.
Michael Leiter, the top administration counterterrorism official, told the House Committee on Homeland Security that US-Yemeni cleric and terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaqi and his organizations are the top threat to the United States.
Awlaqi, an American citizen who remains at large in Yemen, is suspected of being a leader of AQAP and of instigating a string of attacks against the United States.
Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told US lawmakers that Awlaqi poses a danger because of his influence on people both within and outside the United States.
Awlaqi and his organization have been “quite successful at being innovators that make our jobs more challenging,” he told the hearing.
“I actually consider Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with Awlaqi as a leader within that organization, probably the most significant risk to the US homeland,” he added. “I’m hesitant to rank them too carefully.”
Washington in the last year or two has sharply boosted not just military aid to Yemen but also development assistance as it seeks to ease the economic, social and political problems that allow AQAP to grow.
In 2010, the United States provided Yemen with $130 million (100.4 billion euros) for development and $170 million for military aid, according to a US official.