Thursday, January 28, 2010

Washington Post: Americans deeply involved in Yemen

Demonstration in South-Yemen on December 25 against an American bombardment which killed 30 people the preceding day. The raid was aimed at Anwar al-Aulaqi, a presumed leader of Al-Qaeda, who was not hit. The protesters claim that only civilians were killed.

The Washington Post yesterday published disturbing details about how deep the involvement of secret and not so secret American miklitary already is in operations in Yemen:  

U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people, among them six of 15 top leaders of a regional al-Qaeda affiliate, according to senior administration officials.
 The operations, approved by President Obama and begun six weeks ago, involve several dozen troops from the U.S. military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), whose main mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. The American advisers do not take part in raids in Yemen, but help plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and munitions. Highly sensitive intelligence is being shared with the Yemeni forces, including electronic and video surveillance, as well as three-dimensional terrain maps and detailed analysis of the al-Qaeda network.(...)
As part of the operations, Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC, military officials said.In a newly built joint operations center, the American advisers are acting as intermediaries between the Yemeni forces and hundreds of U.S. military and intelligence officers working in Washington, Virginia and Tampa and at Fort Meade, Md., to collect, analyze and route intelligence.
The combined efforts have resulted in more than two dozen ground raids and airstrikes. Military and intelligence officials suspect there are several hundred members of AQAP, a group that has historical links to the main al-Qaeda organization but that is thought to operate independently.  (...)
Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called "High Value Targets" and "High Value Individuals," whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi's name has now been added.
Intelligence officials say the New Mexico-born imam also has been linked to the Army psychiatrist who is accused of killing 12 soldiers and a civilian at Fort Hood, Tex., although his communications with Maj. Nidal M. Hasan were largely academic in nature. Authorities say that Aulaqi is the most important native, English-speaking al-Qaeda figure and that he was in contact with the Nigerian accused of attempting to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubaker al-Qirbi said in Washington last week that his government's present goal is to persuade Aulaqi to surrender so he can face local criminal charges stemming from his contacts with the Fort Hood suspect. Aulaqi is being tracked by the country's security forces, the minister added, and is now thought to be in the southern province of Shabwa.(..)
What is so disturbing about it, is that the US seems to be selecting its targets in a highly arbitrary way, to say the least, as raids on December 19th and December 24th both led to demonstrations and public protests from local people who claimed that most of the dead, if not all of them, had been civilians (and in one case it was suggested that it concerned  a family with whom a local offcial wanted to settle a score). Another reasons - even more disturbing - is that the US in this way puts its weight behind a regime that is severely mismanaging several conflicts in the country  and for all we know might even be falling apart. Apart from that
In combating al-Huthi rebels in the north and disaffected populations in the south, Sana'a has violated many international human rights standards, for instance by placing civilians in the line of fire, denying relief to tens of thousands of displaced persons and harassing or shutting down independent newspapers. Some Yemenis and Yemen-watchers are concerned that framing the country's problems in terms of terrorist threats and the risks of state failure amount to a rationale for bolstering a police state. I hope the US doesn't provide assistance to create a more effective military dictatorship.”
 according to Sheila Carapico, Yemen-specialist and professor at the universities of Richmond and the American University in Cairo.  Yet, at a conference in London, held at teh invuiatation of British prime minister Gordon Brown, Yemen got a pledge of support from the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia and 20 other countries.According to The Guardian: 
The London meeting promised to support Yemeni counter-terrorist capabilities, enhance aviation and border security, and strengthen coastguard operations. Yemen pledged in return to pursue reforms and initiate discussions with the IMF. An existing 10-point plan includes scrapping fuel subsidies and public sector jobs.
"We look to Yemen to enact reforms to improve the lot of its people and reduce the influence of groups like al-Qaida," said Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state. "If conflict and violence go unaddressed they will undermine the political reform and reconciliation that are essential to Yemen's progress."
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said: "Yemen faces a crisis that could have implications for the people of Yemen and the whole region."
Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, Yemen's foreign minister, said: "We want to implement our national reform programme, combat terrorism and create an environment that will help us find political solutions through dialogue." Saudi Arabia, seen by the US and Britain as the key to support of its southern neighbour, agreed to host a follow-up conference next month to look at "the barriers to effective aid" – diplomatic code for the Sana'a government's shortcomings in terms of capacity, corruption and lack of transparency.
 What really should have been done is exerting pressure on president Saleh and his government to put an end to his fight with the Houthis in the north, invite a commission of independent (foreign) observers to investigate the grievances of the south, let him mend his ties with the most important tribes in the country and prepare either a national reconcilaition conference or new elections under adequate international supervision.

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