Report: U.S. Pursues Wider Role in Yemen Terror Fight
The U.S. is preparing for an expanded campaign against al Qaeda in Yemen, mobilizing military and intelligence resources to enable Yemeni and American strikes and drawing up a longer-term proposal to establish Yemeni bases in remote areas where militants operate.
The developments are part of a U.S. scramble to step up the hunt for members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist organization behind a recent failed attempt to blow up two planes over the U.S. using bombs hidden in cargo.
Limited U.S. intelligence experience in Yemen has created "a window of vulnerability" that the U.S. government is "working fast to address," a senior Obama administration official said.
For now, the U.S. gets much of its on-the-ground intelligence from a growing partnership with Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen and has a fruitful informant network in Yemen's tribal areas.
In the rush to build up capabilities, the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies are moving in equipment and personnel from other areas, and over the past year have expanded the size of teams in the U.S. analyzing intelligence on AQAP. The emphasis now is on expanding the number of intelligence operatives and analysts in the field.
There is a debate within the Obama administration and Pentagon about how best to ramp up the fight against AQAP, the Yemen-based terrorist group. Supporters of establishing forward operating bases for Yemeni forces say they would help the weak Yemeni government expand its control and create an opportunity to get a small number of American Special Operations trainers and advisers out of the capital region and into the field.
The proposed bases would vary in size, but could each accommodate scores of troops, including specialized Yemeni commando units, which are trained by the U.S. and would work most closely with the Americans to hunt al Qaeda leaders. The proposal hasn't been presented formally to the full range of policy makers in Washington who would need to sign off on it, officials said, and it is unclear whether the U.S. or another donor, such as Saudi Arabia, would provide funding.
Yemeni officials said the proposal was under discussion. While San'a would support the establishment of bases in some areas, Yemeni officials said the government would be reluctant to allow the U.S. to station trainers in them.
"Why create unnecessary problems? Situating foreigners in security posts would be misconstrued as an unwelcome foreign presence," a Yemeni official said.
U.S. officials said urgent efforts are under way to accelerate delivery of equipment to Yemen, possibly by drawing on U.S. supplies leaving Iraq.
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