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U.S. Troops in Yemen Will Strengthen al-Qaeda

U.S. Troops in Yemen Will Strengthen al-Qaeda

The Majlis
January 7, 2010


Members of Yemen’s anti-terrorism force take part in a training session on the outskirts of Sanaa on January 9. Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh says he is open to dialogue with Al-Qaeda militants, as a top official warned that dozens of foreign jihadists are grouping in a remote part of the impoverished country.

Rashad al-Alimi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister for security, warned today against direct U.S. intervention in his country, saying (عربي) it would “strengthen al-Qaeda.”

“We cannot accept any foreign troops on Yemeni territory,” he told a group of reporters in Sana’a.

Alimi’s remarks follow similar comments yesterday by Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, the country’s foreign minister, who told the Associated Press “there is a lot of sensitivity about foreign troops coming to Yemeni territory.” Qirbi cited the American experience in Afghanistan and Iraq to argue that “direct intervention complicates things.”

There’s a certain amount of parsing required when reading statements like this. Yemeni officials have always been reluctant to publicly discuss American involvement in their country: In 2002, for example, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was furious that the U.S. revealed it was behind the cruise missile strike that killed Abu Ali al-Harithi.

This sensitivity is motivated partly by fear of public outrage, and partly by the government’s desire to be seen as competent and able to provide its own security.

So these comments by Qirbi and Alimi are public statements intended for public consumption. Yemeni officials will almost certainly sign off on further cruise missile attacks or drone strikes, and they might also approve limited incursions by U.S. Special Forces, as long as the government retains a degree of deniability.

Speaking of “able to provide its own security,” the new offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is proceeding as expected. The Yemeni government claims to have captured Mohammed al-Hanq, the AQAP “commander” behind recent threats against the U.S. and U.K. embassies in Sana’a. Hanq, and two other suspects, were reportedly wounded earlier this week and arrested at a hospital north of the capital.

Hanq was reportedly captured yesterday; Yemeni news sources don’t have any updates on the fighting today.

Yemen tells U.S. soldiers to keep out

 

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