CNAS on Yemen
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
The Center for a New American Security has just put out a new report written by Andrew Exum and Richard Fontaine entitled: "On the Knife's Edge: Yemen's Instability and the Threat to American Interests."
I had an opportunity to read an early draft of the report and thought then, as I do now, that it makes a number of important contributions.
One of the most important of such is on page 3:
"Given the threat posed not just be terrorism in Yemen, but also by the potential for nationwide instability, U.S. policy should move toward a broader and more sustainable relationship with a strong focus on development. Such a relationship would include a counterterrorism component, but would not be defined by counterterrorism alone. American officials should make clear, both publicly and privately, that the United States seeks an enduring relationship with the people of Yemen. In so doing, they should note that the United States does not merely view Yemen as a counterterrorism problem, but rather as a country with which it seeks a multifacted and enduring relationship that includes economic development, improved government and domestic stability."
I can't stress enough how important such a change would be. It is one of a handful of basic steps that I have identified, which have to be taken as starting points in order to improve stability and security in Yemen.
There are many other fine points made in the short policy brief, although I am a bit concerned with the recommendation to strength the Coast Guard, particularly as this is a unit that is already seen as much too close to the US and as such can be marginalized within Yemen's security establishment. Further overtures to the Coast Guard without strengthening other existing branches will engender a great deal of animosity among other commanders which is counter-productive for US goals in the country. (This, however, as another post later today will point out is not without its own concerns.)