US has “keen interest” in working with Yemen to fight extremists
US Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan meets with Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi
May 14th, 2012
04:15 PM ET

US has “keen interest” in working with Yemen to fight extremists

By Pam Benson

Obama administration officials were tight-lipped about the weekend visit of counterterrorism advisor John Brennan to Yemen this past weekend.

The visit came just days after revelations of a CIA and Saudi mole who foiled a plot hatched by al Qaeda in Yemen to blow up a U.S.-bound airplane.  As Brennan arrived in the capital city of Sanaa, government troops clashed with terrorist fighters in the south, killing two dozen from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. On Saturday, a pair of U.S. drone strikes killed 11 suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen's Mareb province.

In a briefing with reporters on Air Force One, White House spokesman Jay Carney didn’t have any specifics on John Brennan’s visit to Yemen other than to say he "met with a variety of officials from the Yemeni government, and reiterated our firm support to Yemen, both political, economic and military support."

"We obviously have a keen interest in working with the Yemeni government in the fight against extremism there, and that was certainly part of the discussion. But the relationship is broader than that," Carney said Monday.

An Obama administration official said the U.S. is constantly trying to assess what Yemen needs to aid its fight against the terror network which U.S. intelligence believes is the most active al Qaeda outfit plotting attacks against the U.S. and Americans.

"We are constantly evaluating the needs and requirements of the Yemeni military and are looking for ways to help Yemen develop a professional and capable force over the long run," the official said. "We are also examining options to provide training and assistance to Yemeni law enforcement and security forces to strengthen (the) rule of law and empower the criminal justice system to combat al Qaeda."

The official would speak only on the condition of anonymity and would not discuss specific details of the meeting with Yemen's president.

The meeting between Brennan and President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi focused on efforts to eradicate al Qaeda and build a "modern civil state," according to a statement from the Yemeni Embassy in Washington.

A Yemeni official described the meeting as "more like a big morale support and to ensure the Saleh's behave." Members of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's family and some loyalists still run a lot of the Yemeni security apparatus.

Brennan also met with members of the Yemeni military to discuss training, equipment assistance and sharing of information.

"The U.S. military suspended training activities in Yemen last year due to political instability. However, given the election of a new President and Yemen's critical security needs, we are resuming our suspended military assistance to assist components of the Yemeni military that are actively engaged in the fight against al Qaeda," the U.S. official told Security Clearance. "The resumption of assistance to Yemen includes equipment and limited training.  As part of our long-standing commitment to guard against potential human rights abuses, we continuously monitor our assistance to ensure it serves its intended purpose."

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • AQAP • CIA • drones • Military • Yemen
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