Washington — Yemen is confronting an array of political, economic, social and security challenges, and the current crisis there is making other issues worse, a senior U.S. State Department official says.
The political crisis Yemen faces has worsened such issues as unemployment, the effects of a rapidly growing population, weak state institutions, declining government revenue, a growing scarcity of natural resources and violent extremism, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Janet Sanderson said at a U.S. Senate committee hearing July 19.
“Consistent with U.S. national interests, we have adopted a two-pronged strategy for Yemen: helping the government confront the immediate security threat represented by al-Qaida, and mitigating serious political, economic and governance issues that the country faces over the long term, the drivers of instability,” Sanderson said in prepared testimony.
The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs met to evaluate the complex set of policy challenges facing the United States in Yemen, Subcommittee Chairman Robert Casey said. That examination comes amid five months of protests and political unrest in Yemen.
“During this historic period of sweeping change in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Syria, Yemen often gets overlooked,” Casey said. “However, as a result of the power vacuum caused by President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh’s departure to Saudi Arabia in June, there are serious concerns over the government’s ability to prevent al-Qaida from gaining a foothold or, I should say, a stronghold in the country, as well as broader concerns about the growing humanitarian and economic crises that are plaguing Yemen today.”
Casey said al-Qaida’s presence in Yemen is not new, but in the past several years it has grown increasingly worrisome both in the region and in the West. Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978, was wounded in a bomb attack June 3 and was hospitalized in Saudi Arabia, where he is recovering from injuries sustained in the attack.
During her testimony, Sanderson, who is a deputy secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, said that while the situation in Yemen remains fluid, the solution must come from the Yemeni people with assistance from international partners such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Saudi Arabia. The GCC countries are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“Conditions in Yemen continue to deteriorate under the pressure of growing protests and increasing divisions throughout the country,” Sanderson said.
Yemen is buffeted by widespread inflation and the threat of a food shortage this summer, she said. These factors tend to indicate a potential economic crisis in the coming months.
“The goal of the U.S. and international efforts is a stable, secure, prosperous and effectively governed Yemen,” Sanderson said. But she conceded that it is an ambitious, long-term goal that demands a deep and ongoing coordination with the Yemeni government and its partners.
“We will be able to more effectively engage in Yemen once the Yemeni government initiates the political transition and identifies its way forward,” she said.
Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s counter-terrorism coordinator, said the Saleh government had been working closely with the United States in its struggle to curb efforts by the terrorist group al-Qaida. Cooperation has fallen off and terrorists have taken advantage of a lack of security in various regions of the country as a result of the political uncertainty and internal conflicts, Benjamin said.
“Our political efforts are just one element of our work in Yemen,” Benjamin testified. “We are implementing a multifaceted strategy designed to address the terrorist activity that threatens Yemen and the United States, as well as the causes underlying Yemen’s instability.”
The strategy seeks to improve the country’s overall economic stability, increase the sustainable and equitable delivery of services and improve local governance and civic participation, he added.
A part of the counterterrorism strategy is to build the capacity of Yemen’s security forces to counter al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Benjamin said.
July 21, 2011
Inside Washington’s Propaganda Factory
The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a has run the Senate’s hearing on Yemen through Washington's propaganda machine. Boasting of this monstrosity is the latest evidence of a disjointed White House: