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Terrorism & Security

US officials weigh how to fight terrorism in a post-Saleh Yemen

Reports that US support for Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh is waning raises the question of whether a new leader would continue helping the US fight the local Al Qaeda franchise.

By Nissa RheeCorrespondent / April 4, 2011

Anti-government protesters show their arms during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa University April 4. Negotiations for Saleh to hand over power appear to have stalled, prompting escalating clashes and mounting pressure from the United States.

Ammar Awad/Reuters

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The United States is quietly withdrawing its support for embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, The New York Times reported on Sunday. The change in stance toward one of Washington’s staunchest security allies in the region has raised questions about what a new president would mean for counterterrorism initiatives in the region.

The Obama administration has been accused of hypocrisy for strongly supporting protesters in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, but standing behind strategic allies in other countries who have brutally quashed their own protests, such as Mr. Saleh and the Bahrain royal family.

White House and Yemeni officials told The New York Times that staunch US support of Saleh began wavering at about the same time that negotiations opened with Saleh on transferring power. Officials now consider his hold on the presidency "untenable" and think he should leave office.

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For Washington, the key to his departure would be arranging a transfer of power that would enable counterterrorism operations in Yemen to continue.

One administration official referred to that concern last week, saying that the standoff between the president and the protesters “has had a direct adverse impact on the security situation throughout the country.”

“Groups of various stripes – Al Qaeda, Houthis, tribal elements, and secessionists – are exploiting the current political turbulence and emerging fissures within the military and security services for their own gain,” the official said. “Until President Saleh is able to resolve the current political impasse by announcing how and when he will follow through on his earlier commitment to take tangible steps to meet opposition demands, the security situation in Yemen is at risk of further deterioration.”

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