Adm. Mullen: Yemen Becoming Al-Qaida Central

By Stew Magnuson
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said Yemen is rapidly becoming al-Qaida’s center of gravity.
“While [al-Qaida] leadership still resides on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan … the federate group that is in Yemen is an incredibly dangerous group that has taken full advantage of the chaos,” he said June 29 at a press conference announcing this year’s Failed States Index.
The index, produced by the Fund for Peace, is an annual ranking of 177 nations based on their stability. Yemen was ranked as the 13th least stable country. Somalia ranked first for the fourth consecutive year with Chad, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti rounding out the top five.
Mullen’s remarks came one day before the Washington Post reported that the U.S. military had carried out its first air strikes using unmanned aerial vehicles in Somalia. The newspaper has also reported stepped up strikes in Yemen against al-Qaida targets in regions not controlled by the weakened central government.
Mullen said creating military-to-military relations with such countries is a key to creating stability. The goal is not to create a “military machine,” but to build trust, he said. In dangerous parts of the world where the United States has national interests, building that trust is vital, he said.
President Obama has told the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he wants to see a non-military presence in Yemen to ensure long-term stability in the region, Mullen said.
The United States cut off military-to-military relations with Pakistan in 1990 for 12 years because of their development of nuclear weapons, Mullen noted. “We’re digging ourselves out of a hole of complete mistrust [with Pakistan],” he added. Pakistan ranked 12th in the survey.
The military-to-military relationship between the United States and Egypt influenced the Egyptian military’s choice to restrain from killing citizens during the recent revolution, Mullen said. Egypt is ranked 45 on the list.
The Failed States Index did not predict the Arab Spring, but rising tensions in the region could be seen, said J. J. Messner, senior associate at the Fund for Peace. Scores are based on 12 equally weighted factors that examine the social, economic and political pressures within a country.
Somalia has maintained a relatively constant score in the index. This year, it rose by a fraction, but a wide gap remains between it and second-place Chad, Messner said.
Somalia “is still beset by widespread lawlessness, ineffective government, terrorism, insurgency, crime, abysmal development and the well-publicized problem of piracy along its shores,” Messner said.
Iraq, ranked ninth, and Afghanistan, ranked seventh, are in top 10 failing states list because they have been through huge crises, Messner said. “Iraq has oil resources to pull itself out. Afghanistan does not have resources, but we’re not trying to move them to the middle of the pack. It doesn’t have to be moved up a lot, just above expectations of the Afghan people,” he said.
— Reporting by Fumiko Hedlund

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Policy, International

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