By Jim Kouri
U.S. police and military trainers and advisors have returned to Yemen and are training that nation’s security forces, Defense Department officials announced on Monday.
President Barack Obama’s administration had ordered the training mission in Yemen to be suspended due to the political turmoil in that nation. The United States recently began reintroducing a small number of trainers into the country, Navy Captain John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, said.
Kirby, speaking to reporters during a press briefing, noted that U.S. advisors had been working for years with the Yemeni government, police agencies, and military forces to combat increasingly powerful al-Qaeda threat throughout the Muslim nation.
“That threat doesn’t just threaten the Yemeni people but also Americans,” Captain Kirby said.
“There was a suspension of some of that activity in Yemen for a while due to the political instability in that country,” the spokesman said. “We are now beginning to resume more of that routine military-to-military cooperation.”
Just this week, the American people were told about how CIA agents thwarted an attempt by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to a statement released on Monday. What surprised many counterterrorism experts was the sophistication of the upgrade of the so-called underwear bomb.
Pentagon officials will not discuss operations in Yemen, Kirby said. “And I’m certainly not going to provide specific details on the numbers of individuals that we have there,” he said.
The Somali group known as al-Shabaab has provided weapons, fighters and training with explosives over the last few months to the Yemen-based al-Qaeda branch that has been battling with the Yemeni police and army forces in Abyan since May 2011, according to officials such as Congressman Pete King (R-NY).
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The country’s interior ministry reported earlier this month that al-Shabaab had sent 300 armed men to fight alongside the Yemen-based al-Qaeda wing known locally as Partisans of Sharia ( Islamic law) in Abyan province. The group is also known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Al-Qaeda militants, who took advantage of the conflicts in the country, have seized several towns in Abyan and Shabwa provinces after severe fighting with government troops backed by U.S. drones, according to the Law Enforcement Examiner’s police adviser source.
In January 2009, al-Qaeda affiliates in Saudi Arabia and Yemen officially merged and formed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as reported in the Examiner.