Source: Reuters, 07/11/2010
MELBOURNE - The U.S. military may boost training of Yemeni forces as a way to put more pressure on al Qaeda following last month's failed parcel bomb plot, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday.
Al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing last week claimed responsibility for two U.S.-bound parcel bombs, which were intercepted and neutralized in Dubai and Britain after a tip from Saudi Arabia.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has previously taken credit for a failed attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner last Christmas.
"I think in terms of training and so on there are more things we could do to help the Yemenis and strengthen their capabilities," Gates said, speaking to reporters shortly before landing in Australia for bilateral talks.
"And I think it's fair to say that we're exploring with them a variety of possibilities along those lines."
Asked to elaborate, Gates said only: "I think the primary focus would be on training."
Analysts say Yemen's weak central government faces colossal economic problems and fierce anti-American sentiment that complicates its partnership with Washington. Too big a U.S. military footprint could backfire, they warn, feeding into al Qaeda rhetoric used for recruitment.
The United States has already ramped up counter-terrorism assistance to Yemen to $155 million in fiscal year 2010, from just $4.6 million in 2006, a reflection of the growing threat seen from AQAP, identified as the most active al Qaeda branch outside of its traditional base in Afghanistan and Pakistan.