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American Forces Press Service

U.S. Assessing Military Assistance to Yemen, Spokesman Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2012 – Defense officials are assessing what U.S. national security role they are called upon to perform in Yemen, a department spokesman said today.

Navy Capt. John Kirby told Pentagon reporters the Defense Department had suspended military assistance activities in Yemen because of political instability there. Kirby said with a new administration now governing Yemen, defense leaders “are beginning to reassess, and to start up again, some elements of military assistance.”

That assistance in the past has meant “helping Yemen deal with their own terrorism problems inside their borders,” Kirby said.

A Sept. 30 U.S. airstrike in Yemen killed terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, whom President Barak Obama has called “the leader of external operations” for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

But the threat inside Yemen presented by al-Qaida -- particularly al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula -- remains, Kirby said.

“We believe it’s a serious threat. We’re working with the Yemeni government, even now, on how best to help them deal with that threat,” he added.

Defense leaders believe al-Qaida terrorists are a threat not only to nations in which they find safe havens, Kirby said, but also to other nations, including the United States.

“We still consider al-Qaida a threat to national security,” he added.

Yemeni civil strife began to escalate in 2011, part of the “Arab Spring” or “Arab Awakening” movement that started in December 2010, and included a series of mass protests against ruling regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries. Protests in Yemen eventually led to a transfer in power from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to his former vice president, Abdo Rabo Mansour Hadi, who assumed the presidency Feb. 25 following a Feb. 21 election.

In a White House statement issued Feb. 25, President Obama congratulated the “brave Yemenis who have set their country on a path for a more stable, secure, and democratic future.”

The United States will remain “a steadfast partner to Yemen and its people as they transition to a democracy worthy of their struggle,” the president added.

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