WASHINGTON (Jan. 1, 2010) – The U.S. Central Command chief put the Al-Qaida threat in Yemen in perspective during a news conference in Baghdad Friday.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus praised the Yemeni government for taking on the al-Qaida threat in the country.
“The Yemeni president and parliament take this threat very seriously,” he said. “And that is of enormous significance, especially in a country facing such challenges.”
Al-Qaida has moved into the area, because they have sustained defeats in other areas, he said. Al-Qaida had operated in Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis cracked down on the group and forced them out.
Petraeus said Al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia is largely defeated and its presence in the Gulf states is largely reduced. Al-Qaida in Iraq has been significantly diminished. “Yes, it can still carry out horrific attacks as we have seen in Baghdad … but (it is) very significantly reduced,” he said.
Even in Pakistan there has been progress with about a dozen al-Qaida leaders killed and the rest under pressure.
“Al-Qaida is always on the lookout for places where they might put down roots,” Petraeus said. “Some years ago … we could see the development of cells of al-Qaida in Yemen. This past year, this was recognized by al-Qaida’s senior leadership by designating al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.”
But dating to 2008, the United States has been working with the Yemeni government and their security forces to counter the al-Qaida threat, he said. The effort grew in 2009 with Yemini special forces and armed forces taking significant actions.
Petraeus called the U.S. security assistance to Yemen, “very robust” and said the almost $70 million in security funds going to Yemen will almost double in fiscal 2010. He noted there has been sharing of information and intelligence between the United States and Yemen.