Pentagon Resumes Arms Aid to Yemen for Counter-Terrorism

The Pentagon is resuming the supply of counter-terrorism weapons, ammunition, radios, aircraft and commando raiding craft to Yemen after a year’s interruption because of the nation’s instability.

The renewed aid totals about $112 million, according to Pentagon data. The equipment is being purchased under so-called Section 1206 funding, which lets the Pentagon spend on counter-terrorism training and equipment for allies.

The equipment “will help build the capacity of Yemen’s military forces to conduct counter-terrorism operations” and enhance their survivability and “tactical proficiency,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrote congressional defense committees July 5 in a letter obtained today by Bloomberg News.

“Yemen’s special forces’ and other forces’ inability to project” beyond the capital of Sana’a “allows al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to destabilize the region and both indirectly and directly harm U.S. interests,” Panetta said.

Yemen, bordering Saudi Arabia, Oman and the mouth of the Red Sea at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is struggling to recover from protests that weakened the central government’s authority and forced Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the country for more than three decades, to cede power last year. Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi was elected president in February.

Yemen has received the most Section 1206 funds, getting $252.6 million through the middle of fiscal 2010, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. Pakistan was second.

Al-Qaeda Affiliate

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operates in Yemen and is “the most active and dangerous affiliate” of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, the Obama administration said in a June 15 report to Congress.

The U.S. military has been “working closely with the Yemeni government to operationally dismantle and ultimately eliminate the terrorist threat posed” by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the report. The Central Intelligence Agency also has been launching drone strikes on terrorist targets in Yemen.

John Brennan, the White House adviser on counter-terrorism, visited Yemen in May to underscore U.S. support for operations against al-Qaeda and other insurgents.

Of the $112 million in renewed aid, $75 million is for training, night- vision goggles, small Raven drones made by Aerovironment Inc., radios and vehicles. An additional $23.4 million is for “fixed-wing aircraft,” while $14 million is for a “special operations force enhancement program.”

Aircraft, Pistols

The planned aid includes: two additional CASA CN-235 short-takeoff and landing turbo-prop aircraft for special operations; 50 Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles used by U.S. commandos; 200 M-4 carbines and AN/PEQ-15 advanced target laser aiming devices; 200 9mm Glock pistols and more than 1 million rounds of 9mm, 7.62 mm, 5.56mm and .50 caliber ammunition. The money also will buy 50 Harris Corp. vehicle radios and 50 GPS devices.

For naval operations, the Pentagon wants to provide Yemen with five Zodiac rubber raiding craft and two Rigid Hull Inflatable boats used by U.S. Navy SEALs.

All the items will be on contract by September 30 with deliveries to “commence as soon as possible” to be completed within 18 months, the Pentagon letter said.

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