Al Qaeda haven? Yemen fights concerns with strikes, 10-point plan.
Yemen reportedly killed 34 Al Qaeda suspects today. Such steps, together with a new 10-point plan for reform, aim to reverse the Arab nation’s downward trajectory.
Facing growing international concern that Yemen is becoming a new haven for Al Qaeda operatives, Yemeni security forces struck back hard today against suspected militants. In separate attacks, they arrested 17 Al Qaeda suspects and killed 34, including a top leader and four operatives who had planned suicide bombings abroad, according to press reports and a statement by Mohammed Albasha, spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington.Skip to next paragraph
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Yemen’s central government has been severely tested in the past year by multiple domestic crises, as well as an acute economic downturn. There’s a war raging in the north that has recently spilled into Saudi Arabia, a secessionist movement in the south with alleged ties to the local branch of Al Qaeda, and 35 percent of Yemen’s population is living on less than $1 a day. The central government has little control beyond the outskirts of Yemen’s major cities – areas where tribal sheikhs traditionally wield the most power. Foreign Policy magazine recently ranked Yemen 18th of 177 countries in its 2009 Failed States Index, commenting dryly that “refugees and extremists were perhaps Yemen’s most noteworthy imports in 2008.”
However, one US-educated Yemeni government official has created a 10-step plan that aims to reverse the trajectory of this Arab nation over the next two years. Commended by President Obama but characterized as superficial by some Yemenis, it focuses on increasing the the government’s legitimacy by weeding out corruption and enhancing competence within government ranks.
“The cause of the majority of the problems facing Yemen today is the low level of services provided by the Yemeni government,” says Jalal Yaqoub, deputy minister of finance and the plan’s author, during an interview. “If you think the government is weak then you will take advantage of it, but if you see that the government is strong then you will think twice.”
100 new hires for top government positions
Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh ratified the 10-step agenda – the first completely homegrown road map for reform to come out of the country – in August, and set a 24-month time-line for its implementation.
The plan prioritizes specific areas for reform, which he hopes will have a ripple effect on broader difficulties the country is facing, Mr. Yaqoub said.
The first point of the agenda is to hire 100 Yemenis from inside and outside the country based solely on qualifications – not favors or connections – who will replace those in high-level posts within several key ministries.