The move comes as concern heightens globally over the growing strength of Al Qaeda in Yemen, highlighted by the Nigerian national who attempted to bomb a US plane Christmas day and claimed he had traveled to Yemen and received training from the group. As the terrorist group faces pressure in Afghanistan and Pakistan, many are concerned that Yemen could become the group’s new hub and training ground.
A raid last week killed more than 30 militants, claimed Yemeni officials, possibly including the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a US-born imam who allegedly had communicated with the Fort Hood shooter. A raid on Dec. 17 reportedly killed 30 militants.
The Yemeni and Saudi branches of Al Qaeda united earlier this year to form Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a bid to underline the group’s growing foothold in Yemen. The impoverished country is also fighting rebels in the north and an insurgency in the south.
Another Reuters report adds that Yemen has become an attractive home base to Al Qaeda since the group has come under pressure in Pakistan and Afghanistan and because the Yemeni government is incapable of controlling all its territory.
The New York Times reported Sunday that because of this concern, the US is quietly aiding and equipping Yemeni security forces and providing them with intelligence. The Pentagon will spend $70 million over the next 18 months on counterterrorism in Yemen, and uses teams of special forces to train Yemen’s military. The Times reports that this more than doubles previous military aid levels.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the US involvement in Yemen may have provoked increased threats toward the West from Al Qaeda in Yemen. Those threats, particularly against Western aviation, increased in the months before Friday’s attempted bombing by Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab. A growing number of militants fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan are also retreating to Yemen, reports the Journal.
The Journal also reports that earlier in December, a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula identified America as the enemy in a eulogy for a comrade killed by a government strike, and said “We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God.”
The Christian Science Monitor
The Associated Press