American officials, for a long time not content with the actions that the government of Yemen has taken against anti-American terrorists, now want to send in their own troops and intelligence officials to root out al-Qaeda members. With several nuclear aircraft carriers now located in the surrounding seas, and with thousands of combat-ready Marines becoming available as the fighting winds down in Afghanistan, Yemen could well become the next battle ground in the American war on terror.
Since the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor in, American officials have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the Yemen government’s handling of anti-American terrorists in the country, indicating they believed Yemeni officials turned a blind eye to anti-American terrorist activists in Yemen, and were not doing nearly enough to end them.
Apparently losing patience with the Sanaa government, the United States has now formally requested that Yemen allow American Marines into the country, allowing them to track down and eliminate the al-Qaeda fighters believed to be in the country. In addition, the Americans want to send in CIA officials to coordinate the fight against al-Qaeda in Yemen.
US Newspaper New York Post has reported that both U.S. and Yemeni officials confirmed that Washington wants to send in the Marines and the CIA, and that a formal American request has been issued to Yemen. A Yemeni official said the government was considering the American request. Apart from the implied threat, there is also a substantial American incentive being offered for cooperation – the Washington Post reported that Bush administration officials discussed a package of $400 million in U.S. and international aid with President Salih when he visited Washington last month.
US policy against terrorism since the September 11 attacks has been very simple, as demonstrated in Afghanistan: a regime that harbors anti-American terrorists within its borders is also by default an enemy of the United States. In this context, the American “request” of the Sanaa government comes close to an ultimatum of war. In the new lexicon of American foreign policy, if Yemen does not “assist” the US, it is obviously hand in hand with al-Qaeda, and can expect the same treatment as Afghanistan.
Defense sources indicate that Yemen does indeed have a sizeable al-Qaeda presence, including both commercial concerns that form the organization’s economic base and many fighting personnel. These Al-Qaeda fighters, some of whom were trained in Afghanistan, are believed to be spread throughout the country, located in both key cities and remote mountain bases.
Recently, Yemen’s government has been taking action against the al-Qaeda fighters, and several clashes and gun battles have been reported between the Yemeni Army and the anti-American fighters. However, it appears this is a case of “too little, too late”, and is not enough to appease Washington. It now seems as though American Marines, fresh from Afghanistan, may soon be arriving in Yemen – one way or another…
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