Washington — The United States is providing support for Yemen’s political transition, economic development and stability as part of the Obama administration’s commitment to “a Yemen that is more secure, peaceful and just,” a senior White House official says.
Speaking in Washington August 8, Assistant to President Obama for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan said the president understands that Yemen’s challenges are “grave and intertwined” as the country continues its transition from 33 years of rule by former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.
President Obama “has insisted that our policy emphasize governance and development as much as security, and focus on a clear goal: to facilitate a democratic transition while helping Yemen advance political, economic and security reforms so it can support its citizens and counter" al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Brennan said.
The United States is providing Yemen with more than $337 million in 2012, its largest amount ever. Brennan said more than half of the sum, $178 million, is supporting the political transition, humanitarian assistance and economic development.
The Obama administration is working with civil society groups and is helping to strengthen Yemen’s government institutions to become more responsive, effective and accountable to the Yemeni people, he said.
“We are partnering with ministries to expand essential services, improve efficiency, combat corruption and enhance transparency. We will support the reform of law enforcement and judicial institutions to strengthen the rule of law,” Brennan said.
The United States is the single largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Yemen. Nearly $110 million in aid is being used by international relief workers to provide food and food vouchers, improve sanitation and drinking water, and offer basic health services. Brennan said the U.S. Agency for International Development is providing more than $74 million for food security and nutrition programs, including those which target malnourished children.
Part of the $68 million in transition assistance and economic development is aimed at improving the delivery of basic services, including health, education and water, he said.
“We are helping Yemen address its staggering health gaps by renovating health clinics, providing medical equipment, training midwives and doctors in maternal and child health, and supporting community health education,” Brennan said.
Other development assistance is being used to help rebuild Yemen’s infrastructure and promote microfinance and small businesses.
“We are helping to introduce farmers to more productive techniques and provide youth with skills training, job placement and entrepreneurship programs,” Brennan said.
Brennan said he has been impressed with Yemen’s president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and his “willingness to make difficult decisions to move his country forward, even at great risk to himself.”
Hadi’s reorganization of Yemen’s military has caused once-powerful commanders, including family and supporters of the former regime, to be dismissed or reassigned, including Saleh’s son, as well as a leading Saleh rival. Brennan said Hadi has begun discussions to bring the military under unified, civilian control.
Violence “remains a tragic reality for many Yemenis,” Brennan said, and AQAP is al-Qaida’s most active affiliate and a shared security threat to Yemen and the United States.
“Yemen cannot succeed — politically, economically, socially — so long as the cancerous growth that is AQAP remains,” he said.
Brennan said all U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Yemen are conducted in concert with the Yemeni government and joint efforts have resulted in direct action against AQAP operatives and senior leaders.
“When direct action is taken, every effort is made to avoid civilian casualties,” he said. Areas freed from AQAP control are beginning their economic recovery.
Brennan related the comments of one Yemeni following AQAP’s departure as being like “seeing darkness being lifted from our lives after a year.”
He praised the “courage, determination and resilience of the Yemeni people,” who prevented the political crisis over Saleh’s rule from becoming an all-out civil war.
“It showed that Yemen’s future need not be determined by violence. The people of Yemen have a very long and hard road ahead of them. But they’ve shown that they are willing to make the journey, even with all the risks it entails,” Brennan said.