Saturday, January 9, 2010

Yemen Is In The News A Lot

Since the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day (my earlier posts are here and here), there has been lots of coverage of Yemen. Umar Abdulmutallab had trained there, and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has taken credit for his effort.

I actually thought Yemen was on the east coast of Africa near Somalia. I am not impressed with my geographic knowledge on this.

403. For which other countries do I have a completely mistaken understanding of their location?

Prior to this event, Yemen was last on the US radar after the 2000 USS Cole bombing, which killed 19 US sailors and was the (then-unknown) precursor to the September 11 attacks.

An article by Mark Landler in today's New York Times emphasizes the small amount of US foreign assistance ( = nonmilitary aid) that goes to Yemen: only $63 million this year (as of 2008, it was only $20 million). Here are some other countries' amounts of aid, by comparison:
  • Afghanistan: $2.66 billion
  • Israel: $2.55 billion
  • Egypt: $1.55 billion
  • Pakistan: $1.44 billion
  • Mexico: $0.43 billion

Landler also reports that very few people in the US government know much about Yemen. John Brennan (Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser) is considered to be one of our leading experts on the country, yet he admitted last week that he was suprised that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had the capacity to attempt an actual attack.

404. In five years, will the full body scanners that have been much in the news this past week be the norm in US airports? In what other ways will security change in the next few years?

405. Does the CIA have people working in Yemen? How many State Department employees are there (the embassy was closed briefly after the attempted attack, but I think it's been re-opened now)?

406. Does Richard Clarke advise the Obama Administration either formally or informally?

The president of Yemen is Ali Abdullah Saleh. Landler's article says that Saleh is conflicted about how closely he wants to be allied with the US. This sounds like most leaders in the Middle East and South Asia (I'm thinking particularly of Hamid Karzai at the moment).

407. How long has Saleh been the president? What is their political system?

There is also an insurgency going on in Yemen, but I cannot tell whether it is considered an all-out civil war.

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