WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan visited Yemen Monday and discussed cooperation in the fight against Al-Qaeda, the White House said.
Brennan met President Ali Abdullah Saleh and delivered a letter from Obama expressing US support for a "unified, stable, democratic and prosperous Yemen," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.
"President Saleh and Mr Brennan discussed cooperation against the continuing threat of Al-Qaeda, and Mr Brennan conveyed the United States' condolences to the Yemeni people for the loss of Yemeni security officers and citizens killed in recent Al-Qaeda attacks," Hammer said.
The United States has become increasingly concerned about the threat posed by extremism in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, including the activities of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Late last year, the group was suspected of training and arming a young Nigerian man who allegedly tried to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day as it came in to land in Detroit.
In his letter, Obama told Saleh that Washington was committed to helping Yemen achieve a future that builds on the "extraordinary talents" of its people and the "richness of its history."
"Yemen possesses a deeply rooted culture, and is widely admired around the world for its ancient traditions, beautiful countryside, and hospitable people," Obama wrote.
"I am convinced that the people of Yemen can do more than overcome the threats that they face -- they can build a future of greater peace and opportunity for their children."
Hammer said Brennan also discussed US economic and humanitarian support for Yemen, which increased to over 110 million dollars in the last year.
"Mr Brennan also reiterated the United States? support for a comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue, the upcoming parliamentary elections, the protection of human rights, and continued compliance by all sides to the ceasefire in the north of Yemen."
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed a series of recent attacks on security forces in Yemen, a US-based group that monitors Islamist websites reported.
The jihadist network's local affiliate put out three statements saying it was behind the violence, which killed 11 soldiers and a civilian, the SITE Intelligence Group said.
US military commanders have proposed spending 1.2 billion dollars over five years on Yemen's security forces, reflecting growing fears over Al-Qaeda's presence in the region, The Wall Street Journal reported this month.
US Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East, has called for the major investment despite persistent corruption concerns, with some officials questioning if the Yemeni government could manage such an infusion of funds, according to the paper.
A Pentagon spokesman said no final decision had been taken on military aid for Yemen for the 2012 federal budget, and that officials from the State and Defense departments were discussing the issue.
"It's premature to predict the precise nature or amount of assistance that might come out of this process," spokesman Bryan Whitman told AFP, without confirming the reported proposal.
With Washington increasingly worried over the growing strength of Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen, most of the funds called for by Central Command would go towards military equipment and training, The Wall Street Journal said.
Some US diplomats, however, are wary of pouring too much money into military assistance without also building up civilian development aid that is designed to undermine public backing for Islamist militants, the paper said.
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