Yemen diverted US counterrorism aid meant to tackle Al Qaeda, WikiLeaks reveals
A December 2009 cable, published by WikiLeaks, shows that Yemen deployed a US-funded counterterrorism unit to fight domestic rebels instead of Al Qaeda.
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This was the case during the last round of fighting against the Houthi rebels when the government not only made use of the US-trained counterterrorism squad, but also US-provided armored vehicles and humvees.Skip to next paragraph
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US diplomats admitted in cables that Saleh intentionally tailors his discussions with American officials in order to “elicit the necessary level of political, economic, and military assistance,” and that the US “has repeatedly questioned [the Yemeni government’s] use of US military equipment and US-trained forces intended to combat AQAP in the war against the Houthi rebels.”
Yet American counterterrorism aid to Yemen more than doubled in 2010.
Yemeni leaders under fire from lawmakers
In the past year, Yemen has touted a stepped-up campaign against AQAP members, which have relative freedom of movement in Yemen’s countryside where the central government has little control.
Yemen's government, which faces vehement public opposition to US military involvement in the country's affairs, has sought to portray itself as acting independently against AQAP. But the cables confirmed that Yemen’s leaders knew about US air strikes against AQAP over the past year.
On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minster for Security and Defense Affairs Rashad Al Alimi will appear before Yemen’s parliament to be questioned about telling Yemeni legislators that American-led attacks in the southern Abyan province last December had been carried out by Yemeni forces, as was revealed by WikiLeaks.
When a group of MPs from both the ruling and opposition parties were questioned by the Monitor as to what sort of American aid the Yemeni population would accept, they responded in one voice with a resounding, "We want development! We want help with education and health!" But the men did not think the US was interested in providing that type of assistance.
Dissension within Obama administration?
Indeed, the strong Yemeni reaction to US involvement points to a dilemma for American policy in Yemen.
Analysts have reiterated that quick fix, American military strikes against Al Qaeda, such as was carried out in Abyan last December, could end up backfiring by stirring up anti-US sentiment.
The State Department has sought to employ a comprehensive strategy to tackle Yemen's Al Qaeda threat that includes addressing issues of good governance and socio-economic development in poverty-stricken Yemen. But reports that Washington is considering other options, including elite "hunter-killer" units operating under the CIA's auspices, suggest disagreement within the Obama administration about the best way to accomplish US goals in the country.
The Yemeni government, for its part, has continued to deny that America is involved in direct military action in Yemen. The WikiLeaks cables were inaccurate, it maintains. They “have not conveyed truly what has occurred in such meetings,” said a statement released by the official Saba news agency.