As 2010 begins, wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan continue spinning out of control, and Yemen looks like a third front. Like Pakistan and Afghanistan, Yemen has a strong Al Qaeda presence and internal conflicts. According to the New York Times:
Yemen is also the Arab world’s poorest country, with a major water shortage and 70 percent of the gross domestic product coming from oil that is expected to run out in seven years, and it is also deeply corrupt.
According to BBC, U.S. aid to Yemen is increasing from already-high levels:
The US provided $67m (£41m) in training and support to Yemen last year; only Pakistan receives more, with about $112m, according to AP news agency.
Analysts say the US has also provided intelligence to Yemeni forces, which carried out raids last month that reportedly left dozens of militants dead.
The United States and United Kingdom closed their embassies in Yemen this weekend, on reports of terror threats. The threats came in the aftermath of the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt by a Nigerian passenger on a plane landing in Detroit, which has been tied to Al Qaeda in Yemen. The embassies closed a day after US General David Petraeus visited Yemen to pledge US support for its fight with al-Qaeda. (BBC)
Al Qaeda has been growing stronger in Yemen, in large part because of Yemen’s internal problems. Yemen has a rebellion in a northern province and a long-standing secessionist movement in a southern province. Al Qaeda in Yemn has also merged with Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia to form Al Qaeda in the Arabian penninsula. Recruits to Al Qaeda in Yemen come from Yemenis who fought in Iraq, from some who went to Saudi Arabia to work (like Osama bin Laden’s father), and from among the 200,000+ Somali refugees now living in Yemen. (NYT)
This weekend, a roadside bomb in Pakistan killed two and wounded four of six tribal leaders who were trying to organize an anti-Taliban movement. The new year was also marked by a volleyball tournament bombing that killed about a hundred people and also seemed to target anti-Taliban militia near South Waziristan. (AP, BBC) In another attack, Ghani-ur Rehman, a former North-West Frontier Province education minister, his driver and bodyguard were killed by a roadside bomb. (BBC) The weekend attacks came after last Monday’s bombing of a Shiite religious procession in Karachi, which killed 44. (Washington Post)
In Afghanistan, Parliament rejected all but five of 24 cabinet members nominated by President Hamid Karzai. NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported:
Well, certainly, I think this reflects a lot upon the relationship between President Karzai and parliament, which has been very difficult and has gotten worse as time has gone on. I mean, the people in parliament feel that Mr. Karzai plays too much to warlords, that he plays too much to the ethnic factor, in other words, to his ethnic Pashtun factor. And also, they felt that there was a reflection of bribery and corruption here in the nominees.
As the government struggles to gain some kind of control, it has turned to former mujahedeen fighters. Though the U.S. has said it would not provide arms to the mujahedeen, the Afghan government has done so. The New York Times reports:
During the resistance period the mujahedeen had forces in every village, General Daoud said. Still loyal to their parties and their local leaders, they represent an extensive network of potential fighters, informants and helpers throughout the country, he said….
The population has also mixed feelings about the return of the mujahedeen, who gained a reputation for committing atrocities during the civil war in the 1990s.
“The people were afraid of the commanders, but now they have a choice — they have to choose between the Taliban and the commanders,” said one villager, who asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals from the Taliban who have occupied his village.
And on Monday, the first U.S. military deaths in 2010 were recorded, with four U.S. service members killed in a roadside bombing. Another service member has died of non-combat causes in 2010.