AMERICANS ON WAY TO HELP [Archives:2002/10/Front Page]
SANAA, (Reuters) – Yemen officials confirmed on Friday up to 100 U.S. military advisors are going to the Arab state to train Yemeni forces hunting remnants of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
“Up to 100 American military advisors and trainers are coming to Yemen. Besides training, they are going to advise our military and security forces,” a senior Yemeni government official told Reuters.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Friday that the White House had approved a mission to send hundreds of troops to train and advise Yemeni forces.
The Yemeni official did not say when the U.S. troops would arrive in Yemen.
The Yemen operation was disclosed as the United States also prepared to send Army special forces trainers to the former Soviet republic of Georgia to help train that country’s military in battling guerrillas near the Chechen border. The U.S. military also recently sent elite anti-terror trainers to the Philippines in the wake of Sept. 11 attacks on America.
In Washington, senior U.S. defense officials declined on Friday to give specifics of any package for Yemen, saying that talks were going on between the two countries on improved military-to-military ties in the war on terrorism.
“We agreed to work closely with them (Yemen) … so they can more effectively combat terrorism,” Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher urged reporters not to overreact and assume a new front had opened up in the U.S. war on terrorism “every time somebody in a uniform or a counterterrorism expert shows up in some country”.
He added, “We are fighting terrorism all over the world, just like we said we would.”
Seeking to boost Yemen’s ability to do counter-terrorism operations, “we’re talking to them about the training and equipment that we can help with,” Boucher said.
In December, Yemen launched a manhunt for two Yemenis and other suspected members of al Qaeda.
Washington has named bin Laden and al Qaeda as prime suspects in the September attacks on the United States. It also accuses bin Laden of planning the bombing of the U.S. warship Cole in the southern Yemeni port of Aden in 2000.
The newspaper quoted unnamed officials as saying the mission was approved after a month-long debate within the administration of President Bush about the size of the al Qaeda presence in Yemen.
U.S. soldiers will not be involved in combat missions in Yemen, officials said. Rather, the U.S. soldiers will “train with, assist and advise” troops from Yemen’s Republican Guard. The U.S. soldiers also will share intelligence with the Yemeni soldiers.
Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the chief of the U.S. Central Command, had said Washington was considering providing military aid and counter terrorism assistance to Yemen.
Two of the people Yemen is pursuing, Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal and Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, are suspected of involve
ment in the Cole bombing are believed to be under the protection of powerful tribal chiefs.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh Thursday urged the suspects to surrender and warned tribesmen against protecting them.