Sanaa, Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- The US Department of Defense informed the Congress of its intention to extend additional aid to the Yemeni Special Forces to help them confront the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula. The Congress is currently considering the Pentagon’s decision to give additional aid to Yemen. If no amendments are made, the US Defense Department is expected to begin to step up the program of additional aid to the Yemeni Special forces soon.
In Yemen, meanwhile, the authorities stepped up their security measures around the Western interests in the country for fear of terrorist attacks by the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula, which uses Yemen as its base. These measures coincided with the United States’ announcement that it will step up its military aid to Yemen with the aim of launching a campaign against the Al-Qaeda Organization.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Our priority is to build the Yemeni capabilities in the fight against terrorism.”
He added: “There are several areas in which we can help, including an additional aid to the current antiterrorism programs.”
The United States focuses on the importance of training and strengthening the Yemeni Special Forces to fight terrorism in Yemen, based on current talks with officials in Sanaa.
In February, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved security aid to Yemen worth $150 million for this fiscal year of 2010, an increase of $67 million on last year. However, the Pentagon did not give much detail on the program due to its sensitivity.
The Pentagon spokesman underlined the importance of US-Yemeni cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
He said: “We strongly support the Yemeni Government’s steps against the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula. The Yemenis are very interested in this cooperation.”
He added: “The Yemeni Government must be praised, and we are pleased with the Yemenis’ decision to prevent Yemen from being used as a land for terrorists.”
It is recalled that the Yemeni authorities announced in December that several successful operations were carried out against the Al-Qaeda members in Yemen. On the basis of these developments, the United States is looking to allocate more aid to the Yemeni forces.
Citing informed officials, Reuters reported that the Pentagon informed the Congress that it will give $34 million in the form of “tactical aid” to the Yemeni Special Forces and $38 million to provide Yemen with a military transport plane. They added that additional funds to reinforce the air transport capabilities in Yemen will be announced at a later date.
Meanwhile, a Yemeni official told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The latest Yemeni-US talks centered on boosting the capabilities of the Special Forces and antiterrorism units, in addition to developing and improving these units’ means of air transport to enable them to carry out antiterrorism operations.”
The official added: “The new development in this issue is that, contrary to the usual stand, the US side now also focuses on the development aspect.” He was referring to the next US budget, which is expected to earmark development aid to support Yemen “as a partner”, rather than limiting the dealing with Yemen to the security framework.
At a time when the US statements suggest that the Al-Qaeda Organization might carry out new strikes in Yemen, experts in the fight against terrorism believe that Al-Qaeda in Yemen is passing through an unprecedented phase of weakness.
Saeed Ubayd al-Jamahi, author of a book on the Al-Qaeda Organization, tells Asharq Al-Awsat that, in light of the current situation and because of the recent preemptive strikes against the Al-Qaeda Organization, the organization is passing through a phase of weakness. He adds: “Given my knowledge of Al-Qaeda, however, it has not died and there are no signs that it is dying. This phrase was repeatedly uttered in Iraq, but time proved the opposite.”
In reply to a question as to whether Al-Qaeda can carry out new attacks in Yemen, especially in light of the stepped up security measures, Al-Jamahi who is an expert of the Al-Qaeda affairs says that the Yemeni Government, namely its intelligence agencies, “may have information indicating that Al-Qaeda is getting ready to carry out operations.” He adds: “Perhaps, this explains why security measures were stepped up.”
Commenting on Washington’s announcement of military aid to Yemen to help it in its war against terrorism, Al-Jamahi points out that the Americans are “most aware of the Al-Qaeda danger.” He says that what he terms “Yemeni awakening” may be attributed to the cooperation between the two sides in this regard. He notes: “The Americans are proceeding in a steady pace in this regard and will not stop.”
In the wake of the events of 11 September 2001, Yemen was likely to come under a military strike immediately after Afghanistan. After a US warship, USS Cole, was subjected to terrorist action by Al-Qaeda off the Yemeni coast in October 2000, Yemen became one of the most important partners of the United States in the war on terrorism.
After the preemptive strikes that were carried out in December and January against positions believed to be Al-Qaeda strongholds in the south and north of the country, Sanaa asserted that these operations were carried out through intelligence coordination with the United States and a number of Arab states.