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|Ambassador-at-Large and CounterTerrorism Coordinator Daniel Benjamin|
Representatives from the State Department testifying on Capitol Hill today to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East Affairs stressed that development, governance and social issues are critical elements in limiting the expansion of AQAP, (al Qaeda Arab Peninsula) in Yemen. However, there is not a lot of support in Yemen to take on foreign development assistance.
Ambassador Sanderson told the committee that the State Department does have the tools they need today but as the Yemenis needs continue to grow further into the transition there will be a greater need for international and U.S. investment to tackle some of the more pressing developmental problems like clean water, agricultural inputs, and rehabilitation of roads.
Ambassador Sanderson told the committee there are reports that President wants to return to Sanad. For now day-to-day governance is in the hands of acting President Al-Hadi. Al-Hadi has been meeting with opposition, protesters and the military to try to come to an agreement to enhance the political outcome in Yemen. Acting president Al-Hadi also supports the GCC agreement, which would allow for a national unity government that would then make way for elections in sixty days.
Christa Capozzola, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance discussed how projects at the community level have been found to mitigate conflicts. “Simple repairs to irrigation that prevent conflict between communities over water access greatly improve the probability to positive outcomes.” Other community projects in Yemen include four different vocational training centers geared toward youth as well as youth leadership training. Capozzola continued by explaining to the committee how USAID has branded their aid throughout Yemen making it clear where they aid is coming from has been critical to the State Departments messaging campaign and an important element in building a positive public image of U.S. aid in Yemen. The State Department hopes efforts like these will avert what the U.S. has experienced in Pakistan, in terms of low public approval in spite of billions of dollars of aid sent to the country in the past decade.
Ambassador-at-Large Daniel Benjamin, and Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the State Department, told the committee that AQAP has seen what is happening in the southwest of Yemen as an opportunity and if they have access to the sea that will create other problems. “Poor governance is a key element in radicalization,” he said. “The view from the administration particularly from DOD is that the Yeminis are improving their capacities and are able to deal with threats within their borders.”
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