MP warns U.S against sending troops to Yemen

News and Press Release
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Amel Al-Ariqi

SANA'A, Dec. 30 - A Member of the Yemeni parliament Shawqi Al-Qadhi warned the U.S. on Tuesday against sending its troops to Yemen to fight Al-Qaeda, describing such action as "a disaster by all means."

The warning comes while some senators argue that "Yemen will be tomorrow's war" for the US.

"If the U.S insists on sending its troops to Yemen, the whole Yemeni people will turn to the Al-Qaeda," said Al-Qadhi, who represents the opposition party, the JMP.

"Yemen is characterized with its army nation that already has a sense of frustration towards the presence of the US and its failure in Iraq and Pakistan," Al-Qadhi said, adding that if the US troops arrived in Yemen, they will do great favor for Al-Qaeda, which will use this to carry out more violent actions under the pretext of kicking out the "troops of the foreigners."

The concerns that Yemen is becoming a hub for the Al Qaeda increased at the American agencies, particularly after the latest failed bomb Christmas Day attack on Lagos-to-Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight, attempted by the 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Abdulmutallab reportedly obtained explosives from an Al Qaeda contact in Yemen, and attempted to ignite explosives on the US airline before he was subdued by quick-acting passengers.

He had spent a year in Yemen previously, from 2004-5, and came back in August 2009 to stay until December. He had visas from America and other "friendly countries" in his passport, said the Yemeni government on Tuesday.

Yemen had not been informed he had been banned from Britain and was later put on an American watch list. "We didn't get any notice from the Americans to put this man on a list," the information minister, Hassan Al-Lawzi, said. "America should have told Yemen about this man, as they have of others."

Consequently, the cabinet decided to tighten visa conditions for students, saying that in future they would have to be cleared by the interior ministry.

Moreover, the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing on the Delta Airlines plane

The group said it was avenging what it described as U.S. attacks against its leaders and operatives in Yemen during the recent attacks in Shabwa and Abyan governorates.

Following the failed attempt to blow up the plane, on which at least 300 passengers were broad, the US president Obama, has vowed to go after those behind the attempted bombing.

US lawmakers have even gone to the extent of saying that Yemen could be the next Afghanistan. Senator Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that the United States had a "growing presence" in Yemen, which includes Special Operations, Green Berets and intelligence. He further quoted a US government official as telling him that "Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war." Said the senator who visited Yemen in August.

Arlen Specter from the democratic party, who was on the same program, said an attack against targets in Yemen should be "something we should consider."

They were describing Yemen as an emerging hot bed of terrorist threats and calling for pre-emptive action against the country, if necessary.

"(The wife is always the last to know)" commented the Yemeni parliamentarian Al-Qadhi, on the role of the Yemeni parliament to accept or refuse the US presence in Yemen.

"The parliament becomes the weakest institute in Yemen, and has been marginalized, and uninvolved, particularly in security issues. We don't know what is going on in Sada'a, northern Yemen, we don't know what is going on southern Yemen," he added.

The parliament had demanded an explanation from the government following the news of civilians deaths during the military operations against Al-Qaeda last week.

"We regret the casualties incurred during these operations, however responsibility lies with the terrorists who brought their families to a training camp which is a military objective" said the Yemeni defense ministry in its report to the parliament, last week.

The report gave details of the operations that were carried out by Yemeni authorities in three regions: Arhab, Abyan and Sana'a on December 17. The camps' trainees would-be suicide bombers to attack the British embassy, international schools, according to details of the report. These threats prompted Yemeni police to act forcefully against Al-Qaeda, killing 34 and arresting 21 others. Meanwhile, the Yemeni defense ministry said a Thursday pre-dawn strike killed at least 30 other Al-Qaeda militants in Shabwa governorate in southern Yemen. The report was coy about the role of the U.S in these operations.

However, local sources said that about 40 civilians were killed during the air strikes in Abyan, which made many human rights activists and parliamentarians protest against what they called "unfair governmental behavior." They demanded the state to establish a legal investigative committee consisting of members of the parliament and activists.

Angered by the recent military action against them, Al-Qaeda has vowed publicly to strike back against the US and the Yemeni government, after the government killed and arrested dozens of its operatives.

'The war in Yemen is between Al-Qaeda and the US and not between Al-Qaeda and the Yemeni army,' said a man, who was unmasked with a bodyguard, standing among tribesmen who were protesting against the air strike.

American Media quoted American military officials that U.S. has provided intelligence and 'firepower' for the recent stricks against Al-Qaeda in Yemen. However Yemen's foreign minister, Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, confirmed that the airstrikes were carried out by the Yemeni military alone. He did not deny the Yemeni military cooperation with the United States and Saudi Arabia, which included information provided by the United States - 'the most important element' in the successful strike on Qaeda members.

In his recent interview with BBC radio Al-Qirbi said that Yemen had the will and ability to deal with Al-Qaeda, but was undermined by a lack of support.

Appealing for more help from the United States and Europe, Al-Qirbi, described the current level of assistance as 'inadequate' and said his country needed more training for counter-terrorism units, and more military equipment, particularly helicopters.

U.S. counter-terrorism official said that the threat posed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the civil war between the government and the rebels northern Yemen and lawlessness in southern Yemen, have made Yemen an ideal base for al Qaeda, which has largely been pushed out of Afghanistan and has come under increasing military pressure to leave Pakistan's tribal areas.

The United States has increased the amount of military equipment, intelligence and training it provides to Yemeni forces to root out suspected al Qaeda hide-outs.

'The Pentagon's main publicly disclosed counter-terrorism assistance program for Yemen has grown from just $4.6 million in fiscal 2006 to $67 million in fiscal 2009', said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman , adding that the money was used to provide training, as well as equipment like radios, helicopter spare parts, trucks and patrol boats.

The Yemen port of Aden was the site of the audacious bombing of the American destroyer Cole in October 2000 by Qaeda militants, which killed 17 U.S. soldiers.