WASHINGTON — As the United States spearheads the attack against Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s military assets, key former officials said an even bigger threat to U.S. national security comes from Yemen, a country that hosts many militants and is now enmeshed in a civil uprising that is threatening to unseat U.S.-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh (see GSN, Feb. 10).
(Mar. 28) - Protesters on Tuesday chant slogans during a demonstration calling for an end to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule. Unrest in Yemen could threaten U.S. efforts to fight extremism in the country, key former officials said (Ahmad Gharabli/Getty Images).
Saleh has been a crucial American ally in combating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that chief U.S. counterterrorism analyst Michael Leiter recently called the “most significant risk to the U.S. homeland” and the most poised to successfully attack American cities (see GSN, Dec. 21, 2010). Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and government officials said the current instability in Yemen appears likely to threaten already strained U.S. counterterrorism efforts and could provide new opportunities for AQAP to launch attacks.
“From a security standpoint, our interest in what happens in Yemen is much more significant than our interest in Libya,” Chertoff told National Journal. “In Libya it’s a humanitarian issue — there’s some security issue, but really, Yemen is a critical issue.”
Saleh’s three-decade rule appears to be hanging by a thread, as reports late on Thursday suggested that Saleh could resign “within days,” which would, albeit belatedly, meet protesters’ demands that he step down immediately.
Facing a public outcry, Saleh already promised that he would not seek another term in 2013. With the recent violence, he had reportedly been trying to time his Read more…