Sunday, 19 February 2012

Yemen's next president committed to destroying al Qaeda, US deputy national security adviser says

Source: New York Post, 19/02/2012

SANAA, Yemen -- Yemen's sole presidential candidate, who will be voted in this week, is committed to "destroying" al Qaeda, US deputy national security adviser John Brennan said Sunday in Sanaa.

Brennan, who met with Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi in Sanaa on Saturday, said he was "very encouraged by [Hadi's] comments" on al Qaeda.

"He is committed, as well, to destroy al Qaeda, and I consider him a good and strong counterpart," Brennan told reporters.

Yemenis will hold referendum-like presidential elections Tuesday, in which President Ali Abdullah Saleh will officially hand power over to Hadi, the sole consensus candidate, under a Gulf-brokered power-transfer plan signed by the outgoing leader in November.

Yemen has been gripped by over a year of protests against Saleh's 33-year rule.

The uprising weakened the central government's authority, allowing al Qaeda militants to strengthen their presence in the lawless south and southeast.

But Saleh's opponents accuse him of having used Islamist militants as a tool against them, even though he repeatedly declared himself an ally of the US in its "war on terror."

"There are some individuals in Yemen who have exploited al Qaeda's presence for their own interests," Brennan said. 

"We find it outrageous for any members of the Yemeni government or the Yemeni global system to do so. In my previous visit, I had spoken directly to Yemeni officials about the need to do more against al Qaeda and to dry up their sources of support."

When asked about the US role in fighting al Qaeda in Yemen, Brennan said, "We provide to the Yemeni units that fight al Qaeda advice, assistance and equipment."

The Yemeni government has repeatedly denied direct US involvement in the fight against al Qaeda's Yemeni branch, saying that it only provides logistical support.

Local residents and officials in the southern and eastern provinces, however, insist that US drone aircraft regularly carry out attacks on suspected al Qaeda operatives.

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