U.S. Faulted For Not Doing Enough In Yemen As Yemen's president lies in a Saudi hospital, U.S. officials are expressing fears that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula could take advantage of a power vacuum. But analysts say a singular focus on security at the expense of a diplomatic solution and civilian policy could undermine long-term U.S. interests.
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U.S. Faulted For Not Doing Enough In Yemen

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U.S. Faulted For Not Doing Enough In Yemen

U.S. Faulted For Not Doing Enough In Yemen

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Eric Westervelt has more.

ERIC WESTERVELT: Here's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, speaking recently on PBS's "The Charlie Rose Show."

MONTAGNE: They have a very clever, difficult al-Qaida cell there. It's well led. They seek international terror; seek and support executing the kind of operations that have been stopped. So Yemen is a great worry and...

WESTERVELT: The Yemen crisis has prompted the CIA and U.S. Special Forces to accelerate plans to build a secret, remote base in the Persian Gulf region to strike at terror cells in Yemen with unmanned Predator drones. But some wonder whether the U.S. is too focused on security alone in Yemen.

P: We have a Saudi policy and we have an al-Qaida policy. We don't really have a Yemen policy. I would like to see us working the civilian side, as well as the military and the CIA side.

WESTERVELT: That's Yemen expert Sheila Carapico, who currently teaches at American University in Cairo. She worries the U.S.'s focus on terror threats plays into the hands of the discredited President Saleh, and may undermine long-term U.S. interests in the country.

P: Most Yemenis have no patience with al-Qaida or with the jihadist fringe. But there is a way of wielding too much American force, which can create a sympathy where none existed before. And we certainly haven't lifted a finger to kind of further a diplomatic negotiated outcome.

WESTERVELT: Professor Mark Katz, at George Mason University, says a good start would be a forceful U.S. call for new free and fair elections in Yemen.

P: We're not doing anything like this. They don't seem to have any, you know, any contact or any plan as to who to work with, or even suggesting a plan for a transition.

WESTERVELT: Mark Katz argues the U.S. has to do more to help solve Yemen's larger political problems, or risk continuing to play into the Saleh family's tired argument about security.

P: You need me or else al-Qaida will be powerful. Whereas the truth is, in order to weaken al-Qaida we need to move on from Saleh to someone who'd be more acceptable to the Yemeni population.

WESTERVELT: Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Cairo.

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