As Revolt Grows against Yemen’s Dictator, U.S. Expands Training of Yemeni Military
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Ali Abdullah Saleh
In the wake of public overthrows of two longtime Arab dictators, the United States has stepped up military assistance to the regime governing Yemen out of concern that al-Qaeda may seek to exploit the volatile situation in the strategically important nation.
American military advisers are expected to launch a new training program with Yemen’s counterterrorism unit so it can thwart any terrorist plots aimed at the U.S. The $75-million plan calls for doubling the size of the 300-member Yemeni anti-terror force and reorienting its mission, which until now has been to protect the capital, including President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power since 1978.
When WikiLeaks began releasing State Department cables, it proved particularly embarrassing for Saleh. In December 2009, U.S. forces bombed al-Qaeda camps inside Yemen. In order to avoid anti-American protests, Saleh told visiting U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours”
The increased American help comes at a time when thousands of students and human rights protesters have taken to the streets calling for Saleh to step down, mirroring developments in Tunisia and Egypt before their authoritarian leaders were forced to flee.
Saleh recently cancelled a planned trip to the U.S. citing “circumstances in the region” for the decision.
U.S. intelligence officials in Washington insist the new training program is designed to keep the local al-Qaeda presence, AQAP, from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and using them against Americans.
President Barack Obama’s newly unveiled budget for FY 2012 includes an additional $35 million for Yemen’s military and $69 million in economic aid.
Official: US to Expand Yemeni Military Training (by Lolita Baldor, Associated Press)
Government Supporters Clash With Protesters in Yemen (by Laura Kasinof and J. David Goodman, New York Times)
So Long, Saleh (by Ellen Knickmeyer, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting)
Yemen Sets Terms of a War on Al Qaeda (by Scott Shane, New York Times)
WikiLeaks Cables Confirm Suspected U.S. Warfare in Pakistan and Yemen (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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