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tv   U.S. House of Representatives  CSPAN  September 9, 2010 12:10pm-1:00pm EDT

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ñqvñ÷÷÷xxxxxxxxz >> it will not be a surprise to anyone in this room that yemen has become a more visible challenge to the united states in the last year. that is in large part thanks to its status as a weekly government country, one in which al qaeda is seeming to gain some momentum. the one response to this has been increased attention to yemen from the media, where we have seen all kinds of speculation about the future of yemen, including the possibility that yemen is poised to become the next afghanistan, a failed state. we have also seen an increased
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response from the u.s. government, which has made counter-terrorism one of the pits of its engagement with yemen and one of the central elements of its overall policy with yemen more broadly. whether counter-terrorism should be the pivot of u.s. policy in yemen and if it is, what kind of counter-terrorism policy is most appropriate? the country faces an extraordinary range of challenges and where by all accounts -- by many accounts, the number of al qaeda in the country remained relatively low art very important questions for u.s. policy-makers. the reason why the yemen working
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group at the u.s. institute of peace, which i direct, decided to focus our session this morning on the question of counter-terrorism in u.s. policy in yemen and as a component of u.s. policy more broadly toward yemen. i can literally think of no one more qualified to address the subject of counter-terrorism in yemen that our speaker today, ambassador daniel benjamin, the state department's coordinator for counter-terrorism. counter-terrorism is a subject ambassador benjamin has focused on for much of the past 20 decades in a variety of different -- not 20 decades -- 20 years. [laughter] two decades. you are very well preserved. as a journalist, he has written two books on the subject.
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he has held a variety of senior positions related to counter- terrorism both in and out of government. as a member of the staff of the national security council, as a foreign-policy speech writer and adviser to president clinton, as director of counter-terrorism in the office of transnational threats, so this is a specialist on counter-terrorism i think without peer in washington and in the u.s. government. we are delighted to have him here to comment on where counter-terrorism fits in u.s. policy toward yemen. i am especially pleased to have ambassador benjamin here because among his many impressive accomplishments is his tenure as a former u.s. senior fellow -- he spent 2000 here as a jennings randolph fellow and we're pleased to welcome our alumni
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backed, especially after they have made good, so please, welcome ambassador benjamin. ambassador benjamin. >> thank you very much, steve for that kind introduction. and for clearly designates me as the ct specialist. however, i'll return to my regular age, if youdon't mind. anyway, it's a great pressure to be at usip. always a pleasure to be in this room. i want to thank you and the institute yemen working group for the invitation. i'm delighted to see colleagues that woud have every built as muchto contribute, ambassador rbara who is one of my predecessors as well as ambassador in yemen, and there are many other people here who
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i'm sure could say such as much of value. let me say that it's also a particular pleasure to be at the institute because of the role it played in my career. which you mentioned. it gave me a home after i left the nfc at the end of 1999. that was a critical opportunity for me to work through some the ideas that i was developing about why al qaeda and its brand of terror was distinctive from what we have seen before. it really was an extraordinarily valuable experience for which i will always be grateful. i also want to say that working where i do now, i see your new building quite frequently. it's extraordinarily beautiful. we very much look forward to having you in the neighborhood and having even more convenient conversations like this. i hope you'll be kind enough to invite me to redo the speech
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there. i'm sure many of you do the recent "washington post" story claiming that government officials now rank al qaeda in the arabia peninsula and specifically in yemen the most urgent threator security. we have no such ranking and such statements are low value to highlight a threat. yemen terrorism is a major security. but the al qaeda corps in pakistan remains a dangerous terrorist organization who's targeting of the united states continu despite the pressure that the group is under in the federally administered tribal areas. as we've seen over the last year though. i thi it's also important to note that the terrorist threat continues to evolve in ways that make the geographic focs less and less important. so we need to put away the ranking tables and turn our
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attention specifically to the danger and the nature of the threat. let me also make clear what many of you and certnly ambassador barbara knows, very, very well. yemen isn't a new security concern. al qaeda has had a presence in in the 1990's, a series of major conspiracies were based in yemen, most of them in saudi arabia, following the attack on the cold.
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there were significant blows dealt to al qaeda in yemen through military operations and the arrest of key leaders. what is important today is december 25th conspiracy demonstrated that at least one al qaeda filly of has developed the capability to launch strikes against the united states in the homeland. the gravity of the threat was clear to the obama administration from day one and it has been locust on that from the outset. the administration initiative full-scale review of every yemen policy. that review led to a new hole of government approach that aims to coordinate our counterterrorism efforts as well as non-counter- terrorism efforts with those of other international actors. the new strategy seeks to address the root causes of instability and improve
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governance. central to this approach is building the capacity of the government of yemen to exercise authority and deliver services to its people. civilian and military officials, including john brennan, assistant secretary -- former sen come commander, david petraeus -- we have continued to engage with a broader range -- broader array of yemenis from the government and civil society. we recently hosted a group of officials for two weeks and i can tell you an unprecedented
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number of senior representatives from numerous u.s. agencies met with the group while they were here. i actually met with them twice. just last week and met with representatives from a yemeni human rights organization. we are working on the security issues. we would be negligent in our responsibility to the american public if or not. however, we are putting a significant effort and resources into helping yemenis achieve a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous and yemen. our other bilateral and multilateral players are as well and we're working on ways to improve these efforts. they're real and they should be recognized.
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the future of yemen is tied to its neighbors and others in the global community. i already mentioned the ambition to strike the united states at home. within the gulf, they have shown themselves to be a formidable threat to yemen itself with many recent attacks on security services throughout the country. it continues to target saudi arabia, including the attempted attack against the assistant minister of interior and counter-terrorism chief. while terrorism knows no borders, we must be mindful of the regional dimension of the threat, including its ties with somalia. the large reputation of somalia that enforces the ties between the states and the vast majority of these relations are not related to terrorism but are
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rather an arab -- an area of refugees from somalia fleeing political strife. there are connections across the gulf of aden and they are concerned. yes, somalia has a different kind of organization from al qaeda in yemen and it is much more focused on a somalia- centered agenda while al qaeda pursues a more classical al qaeda course of terrorism. we see stability between these groups and is gives greater urgency to our work again sees group and to try to support moderation and peace in somalia. these security operations may over time weaken the enemies
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leadership and deny it the time and space it needs to organize, plant and train for operations. at the same time, countering violent extremism over long-term must involve the bellman of credible institutions that can deliver real economic and social progress. that is why our strategy is twofold. to assist the government to not only confront the immediate security concern but mitigate the economic and governance issues the country faces. the logic is as we work with the yemeni government to dismantle al qaeda on the arabian peninsula, we will assist the yemen -- the many people to build more durable and response of institutions. our goal is to build a more capable yemeni government to meet the good of its people, a
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good in itself but also key in reducing violent extremism. . the added states has made rebuilding an important part of our policy. the government and its u.s. -- at its international partners are helping the yemeni -- the united states is not doing this alone. the international community has been active and the efforts are part of a partnership to enhance security and enhance governance. we are working with all of the partners to coordinate foreign assistance and make sure has an impact on the ground. through the friends of the unprocessed, the united states is in gauge with international partners, including regional states and we're working with the government of yemen to address an altitude of problem. friends of yemen has provided an
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environment for international coordination increate working groups on the economy and governments as well as justice and rule of law issues. the friends of yemen are helping to support a national dialogue and parliamentary elections in 2011. plans for new courts and an increase in judicial process in areas, prepared the radicalization action plans and a push for coordination improvement in border security. the friends of yemen will hold a meeting later this month on the margins of the un general assembly. we are encouraged by the progress to date and expect further international coordination in this area. the stability of yemen is essential as well to the bar -- to the broader gloat -- the broader gulf region and security. delegitimizing al qaeda on the arabian peninsula is important to break the cycle of radicalization. they take advantage of various insecurity worsened by internal
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conflicts and competition byte non state actors. . the myriad social and political problems in the context of under governed spaces means they are serving as incubators for extremism. the only way to address the problem of terrorism in yemen is from a comprehensive and long- term perspective. we are working to help strengthen yemen's capacity to provide basic service and could government. yemen is grappling with a severe poverty. it is the poorest country in the arab world. its per-capita income of $930 ranks at 166 out of 174 countries. its oil production is steadily decreasing. water resources are fast being depleted. with over half of the people living in poverty and the population having grown from 8.4 million in 1982 and estimated
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23.8 million today, economic conditions threaten to worsen and further tax the government already limited capacity. moreover, corruption is all too prevalent in various sectors and further impedes the ability of the government to provide essential services. therefore, the united states is providing developed assistance to help governments and meet pressing social and economic challenges. usaid has started to development initiatives, a responsive government project and the community livelihood's program. in looking to tackle the areas most in need and most vulnerable to extremism, u.s. assistance includes political and fiscal reforms, reducing corruption and implementing civil service reform, and economic diversification to generate employment. in addition, the middle east partnership coalition is working with yemeni civil society to empower them to build a more peaceful and prosperous future.
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let me provide you with some numbers. baseline u.s. assistance to yemen increase from $17.2 million in fiscal year 2008 to $40.3 million in 2009 and will be around $67.5 million in 2010. the president has requested approximately $106.6 million in assistance for 2011. these numbers do not include -- let me emphasize, do not include counter-terrorism assistance of $67 million in fiscal year 2009 and $150.5 million in 2010. nor did they include humanitarian assistance. on july 24th, the president announced an increase to humanitarian assistance to yemen of $29.6 million, raising the total to $42.5 million for this fiscal year.
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this assistance will provide food, water, sanitation, shelter and health care for over 324,000 individuals displaced by the conflict in northern yemen as well as refugees in southern yemen. the united states urges other donors to support international agencies working to meet these urgent humanitarian needs as the indicted nations humanitarian response plan remains woefully underfunded. we are -- united nations humanitarian response plan remains woefully underfunded. as soon as aqap announced its formation, we began gathering a consensus by designating aqap under the un security council resolution 1267. after designating the group's foreign terrorist organization and its senior leaders as designated terrorist, the united nations announced the
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designation of aqap as well as its leaders and -- as well as its leaders on the consolidated list. this move requires all un members states to implement assets -- a travel ban and arms embargo against these entities. with these designations, the u.s. and international community can curb the financial networks and the freedom of movement of known terrorists. this designation has made clear the leaders' role as an operator in the terrorist group. we should make no mistake about him -- this is not just an ideologue, but somebody who has been personally involved in planning terrorist operations against americans, against u.s. interests, and against the homeland. he paired the man for the attempted detonation of the ball
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above -- a bomb aboard the northwest airlines flight on december 25th of last year. he was designated as the treasury department before being added to the 1267 consolidated list of individuals and individuals associated with al qaeda or the taliban. it is important to assess how people are radicalized to turn the tide against violent extremism. some of our aid programs will up to address the underlying conditions are at risk populations. reducing corruption, a building which it institutions, increasing economic opportunity with our assistance will also reduce the appeal of terror. we will continue to build positive people to people engagement with the people of
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yemen through educational and cultural exchanges, programs that have had a multiplier effect as participants returned to yemen and convey to friends and family the realities of american culture and society and dispel damaging and persistent stereotypes. these initiatives contribute to the long-term health of our bilateral relationship and help to allay some upset -- l.a.'s suspicion and misunderstanding. we know the tasks are daunting and that is why we're looking for new partners from yemeni civil society to work with us as we deepen our engagement with yemen in this regard. in addition to such initiatives, we are committed to supporting internal peace within yemen and support international efforts to achieve that goal. a cease-fire is currently emplaced in the conflict centered in northwestern yemen between the central government and the rebels.
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just two weeks ago, rebel leaders and government officials met to further discuss implementation of the ceasefire agreement they reached in february. the u.s. continues to encourage the yemeni government to move forward toward a lasting peace as well as allowing for the provision of humanitarian and development assistance there. in the south of yemen, a growing protest movement has led to riots and sporadic outbreaks of violence fueled by a longstanding political grievances. the u.s. continues to urge political dialogue and peaceful settlement of grievances to address the many concerns of southern yemenis. the u.s. calls for a comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue between all opposition groups and the ruling party. such a dialogue needs to be undertaken in good faith and with a smile parties to address legitimate grievances, facilitate successful
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parliamentary elections in 2011, and increased stability in yemen. as strategy recognizes yet has always had the political will or focused attention to address this problem, we are working hard with international problems to address the security and other challenges. we are encouraged because the money government has shown more resolve than ever before to confront aqap on domestic non- security issues. the united states commands yemen on its counter-terrorism operations of we are continuing to push for support of initiatives and economic development issues. let me reiterate, our approach to the problem in terrorism must be comprehensive and state. must take into account a wide range of political, cultural and socio-economic factors. ultimately, the goal of the united states and international
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efforts is a stable, secure and effectively govern the yemen. we know this is a long-term challenge. we have taken some steps since the said minister she came into office and we have taken some steps toward curtailing the threat. as the government of yemen and grows more transparent and responsive to the requirements of its citizens, the seeds of extremism and violence will find less fertile ground and a more positive dynamic will begin to prevail. thank you for listening and i look forward to your questions. [applause] >> thank you very much. both for the thorough overview of u.s. policy but for the throw range of problems europe -- range of problems yemen has. we welcome questions from those
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who are hearing or viewing the event on the web. we understand the u.s. embassy in yemen has assembled a number of people to hear what the ambassador had to say. we may find some questions coming from yemen. one quick question to get things started -- you mentioned we have requested support from the government of yemen to deal with issues of governance that seemed to be contributing to conditions of alienation and conflict within the country. could be more specific, beyond national dialogue which you referred to and is important, about what we have asked from the government of yemen, in particular how they have responded in a concrete way as you feel able to do so. >> this is an important part of
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the discussion and the u.s. interlocutors raise this at every juncture. we know that governesses at the very heart of the country's problems, but also the problems of radicalization in many different contexts, especially where we find bent under government space. let me leave this by saying these are government to government discussions. the yemenis have welcomed usaid's program. we have found many positive and willing and committing -- committed it interlocutors because we're using lots of different partners on the ground. the middle east partnership
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initiative is active in this space. we are hopeful over the long term that these many different seeds will bear real fruit. i don't know of those captured in my remarks enough, but for a number of years in this decade, our engagement was quite real. we know where we are starting from on this and related issues. it is important to keep that historical context online as we go forward. >> we have microphones on the side, and if you could identify yourself. >> i see that you focus aqap on,
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but have left out reports on iran and the reports on training people in the north. >> we have seen the reports and as i and others have said on numerous occasions, we are unable to confirm them. we've not seen these borne out. >> can you give your assessment yemeni prisons in the event that u.s. would transfer detainee's from guantanamo to yemen. the trust and to keep detainees from guantanamo detained. >> we have had some well-known jailbreaks and have contributed to the problem of aqap in the
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region. the administration has suspended the return of the guantanamo detainees to yemen, except in cases with that courts have ruled on habeas corpus petitions. it is an issue we are concerned about. we are talking to yemen about it and it has been brought up a context of the friends of yemen that we understand this is an area where improvements clearly need to be made and in which in a very serious way u.s. security is affected. we are looking at now and we are returning anymore detainee's at this time. >> you mentioned you are looking for several partners in a civil society to aid in these efforts trade i was wondering if you could speak to how that search
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is going as well as to the potential role civil society actors in the u.s. and around the world could play. specifically, if you would consider including yemen in the economic and power strategic region project. >> it is the wise man who knows when he is out of his leg. i'm going to refer you to my colleagues at usaid. whenever i am speaking to yemenis, confronted with the need number of new non- governmental organizations i have not done up before. i know they're working and getting to know these different organizations and i know that my colleagues seem to be optimistic about the opportunities for working in yemen. as a counterterrorism coordinator, i cannot give you the day to day on which organizations are looking helpful and which are not. >> i'm from the american civil
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liberties union. we're very concerned about the target date killing program. i wonder if you could comment on a targeted killing program. we have been very concerned about the government's refusal up to this point about disclosing legal justification of the -- [unintelligible] >> as you know, the aclu has brought suit on this issue and we are currently in court on this matter. i learned a long time ago not to comment on ongoing litigation. for a number of good bureaucratic and legal reasons. going to refer you to my colleague, the legal adviser. let me just say that, underscoring what i said before,
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this is not just an ideologue, he is an active terrorist. the united states is committed to preventing harm from been done to its citizens by those who would commit acts of violence against us. >> i am the deputy assistant administrator for usaid, but the numbers i have, i appreciate your run through the budget, our numbers are more less the same. the important point is for that usaid figures, we have gone from about $11 million to $12 million, 84 $92 million which reflects the community livelihood program as well as a very serious monitoring and evaluation effort we're taking to try to understand what works.
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i wanted and i you see the continuing tower -- counter- terrorism threats we're set to face in the near future with the longer term requirements that these kinds of projects have. it is not possible as you know to build a community and create good governments and increase livelihood's in the immediacy of the terrorism threat, but rather these are two-year, five-year, 10-year programs that require extensive development. >> what may refer you to the earlier gentleman wants to talk about non-governmental organizations in yemen that we partner with. you raise an important question that goes to the heart of what we're trying to do and how closely interwoven these different averts have to be. development is not going to
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proceed if there is no security. if there -- if it cannot get developmental -- if we cannot get development projects going, we have abandoned the field to extremists and they will find ample pickings if that is the case. that has been the president's approach throughout. he has passed us repeatedly to keep working and keep finding more ways in which we can address a grave economic situation in yemen. there is no walking away from it. we note the demographic bolts yemen has experienced, its decline in economic output, especially in the hydrocarbon sector, the water table, all of
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these things are very serious indicators of a very troubled future and we have seen a leveling off in many muslim- majority countries of birth rates. in yemen, the story is quite dramatic. the projections 20 or 30 years down the line requite striking. we do need to work together as one government. we are working to improve the connection, our development areas are addressing radicalization. a around the world, development communities are recognizing how that really does fall within their am debt and have government organizations are going to fall within their particular problem areas and work on them.
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>> we have a couple of questions from both the website and the overflow room. let me pass on a couple of them to you now. a question from bloomberg -- when did you conclude he is an active planner and not just an ideologue? is this a recent judgment? >> that's a good question and i would have to go back through my own papers to find out when we made this conclusion, but it was certainly clear in the aftermath of december 25th that he had played an integral role in the planning and execution of the attempted bombing of flight 253.
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we did have the designation this summer, so my guess is somewhere in that time. i cannot rule out the possibility -- we do he was a problematic individual last year. his presence on the web and elsewhere has been widely attested to. it came to light in fort hood case. israel has been well attested to, the question is when he was decided to be in one category and at the other. i would have to place of earlier this year but i cannot place it with certainty. >> another question focuses on difference -- different definition of counter-terrorism. yet talked about how it is connected to a wide range of economic and social political
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concerns. how widely accepted is the definition of counter-terrorism within government agencies? where are the fault lines and how are different visions being addressed in the interagency process? >> we did talk all day about up. there is a wide agreement across all agencies as john brennan put in his speech -- you have to look at the upstream factors. we as a government faced an interesting dilemma because we don't want to follow to the trap of saying everything we do is counter-terrorism because that's not productive. leading want everyone
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gauge with to think they are a target. we support a strong and capable unified yemeni state answering to the needs of its people because that is a good in its own right. but we also recognize there are many things we do at have benefits in countering radicalization, in countering violent extremist organizations. to a certain extent, these question becomes what do you label counter-terrorism, what do you label counter-terrorism? labelling exercises can be scholastic and counterproductive. you have to have the right focus and we recognize it is more than kinetic, it is more than law enforcement, is more than border security, it is also getting these very complex
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situations in places like yemen, somalia, and other areas that have real government problems and where the government may be limited, it is in addressing those broader issues. the "new york times." in the last administration, there were programs talking about reading a rehabilitation center in yemen, somewhat like what the saudis had done, putting the onus back on tribes and families. what has happened to that initiative in this administration? tatarstan the u.s. government has limitations only trying to push this through, but either working to the saudis are the friends of yemen, this seems like a constructive way of dealing with lower security detainees. >> thank you. we continue to have active
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discussions on what we can do in terms of rehabilitation in yemen. the model is a very attractive one. there are discussions going on within the friends of yemen and others on this matter, but one of the things to keep in sight of is there are aspects of the saudi model that are very much saudi-specific. to look at two of them, one is that the saudi model is very much configured to take advantage of the relationship between individuals, families and tribes. not all of yemen is as tribally oriented as saudi arabia, so that is one important difference. another critical difference is that yemen does not have the
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kind of resources to put into this effort that saudi arabia does. in fact, very few countries do. when we look at all of the different issues that need to be addressed in dealing with the terrorist threat, he have to prioritize as well. rehabilitation remains an important issue, but i do not know we would be able to get to that kind of rehabilitation facility, at least not a immediately. >> we have to questions from the overflow room relating to u.s. plans and its military role in yemen. one from john bennett of the " defense days per "he asks what are the odds of a one to 100 scale the u.s. troops will be needed in yemen, meeting thousands or hundreds of thousands? the related question as can you
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go into more detail about how u.s. military involvement will evolve over the long term in yemen? >> let me try to answer both of those are once. i think the president has been quite clear in ruling out that kind of military engagement in yemen if we're talking about major combat forces. i think he has been quite explicit about that and i do not see anybody contemplating that any time in the foreseeable future. we will continue to be actively engaged in trading yemeni forces to deal with the threats they face and getting them the equipment they need and the skills. that will be the key military effort.
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it goes on in a military channel, but there is an awful lot going on in terms of authority inlian the ministry of interior so they can also deal with the counter- terrorism missions. there is both a military and civilian side to it. >> 1 2100? [laughter] -- one ofto 100? >> on going to pass on that. >> during on the web site had to related questions. we can take these as the last of our questions unless there are others from the audience. i wouldn't courage to move to the microphones if you have them. the first is from a viewer from gassed and mennonite university who asks how the ec human possibility contributing to middle east stability?
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what are the linkages there? the second has to do with what capacity yemen seems to have in being a source for export of terrorists under the al qaeda brand more broadly and in particular into sensitive areas into africa across the corn? -- across the horn. >> obviously, it is quite important. i guess there to say that saudi arabia is deeply concerned and understandably so about the terrorist threat to itself and having suffered the trauma as of may 2003 and the attacks there has really been resolved to remove violent extremism from
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the arabian peninsula and has been a terrific partner to the united states in that context and has been a great partner in yemeni issues. anything that would affect security for a saudi arabia has a very significant -- is a matter of great significance to undo cares about the stability of the region. to the extent aqap can maintain a foothold in be a source of extremist ideology and also extremist operatives, it's a danger to the region. there are yemeni communities in many different areas in the gulf, across the water in djibouti, in any number of
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places. it will be a great concern. the -- there are yemeni diaspora as are all the world and when you find some of the culturally- savvy operators like people who were either american citizens or lived for quite a while in the united states and looked -- and who can broadcast that message in an idiomatic way and appeal in a way that al qaeda operatives who are working through translation could not, that is a big concern for us. there is no question that he has had an effect on radicalization in the english-speaking world that goes beyond what his predecessors had. it is a matter of great concern.
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to repeat what i said before, he is a terrorist operative. he is not just someone making use of the opportunities afforded by free-speech over the internet. he is a matter of great concern to the united states, but the ability to use yemen as a platform for radicalization, especially in an ever more globalized, connected, electronic world is something we are worried about. >> you referenced saudi arabia and the saudi stability as a principal consideration in thinking about connections between yemen and the region more broadly. you did not reference iran and yemen's repeated claims that yemen's repeated claims that


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