Security Concerns Hampering Yemen’s Transition
Ongoing security concerns linked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Yemen’s branch of al-Qaeda, and other militant groups are hampering Yemen’s transitional government. Just today, reports surfaced that Saudi Arabia’s deputy consul, Abdullah al-Khalidi was kidnapped in south Yemen. Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict testified before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee that AQAP is a “serious threat” to U.S. security. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said Iran and al-Qaeda are exploiting political uncertainty in Yemen and the region as a whole to expand their influence. Feltman also urged Yemen to restructure its military and security institutions, and encouraged national dialogue between the political parties. Given the unrest, the State Department warned people against traveling to Yemen, and cautioned those already in Yemen to limit their travel within the country.
Meanwhile, John Brennan, President Barack Obama‘s assistant for homeland security and counter-terrorism, expressed concerns over former President Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s remaining presence in Yemen, worried that his “meddling” would interfere with the transition process. ”It is essential that all Yemeni political actors, especially those from the previous government, play a constructive role in the transition process,” he said. The National featured an editorial echoing these thoughts, saying, “Pressure on Mr Saleh to stop meddling is important for Yemen, but alone that will not ensure progress. The dominance of Mr Saleh’s party, and his family’s influence in key security posts, must also be scaled back.” Tom Finn profiles new President Abd Rabu Monsour Hadi in Foreign Policy, saying he is an improvement from Saleh, but doubtful of how well he will do in his new position. Finn writes, “At best, say observers, he will maintain the status quo more or less intact; at worst, he will prove too weak to prevent the country from splintering again.”