U.S. Does Not Intend to Send Troops to Yemen

The U.S. military does not intend to put ground troops in Yemen, a country where al Qaeda operatives have become an increasing threat, Gen. David Petraeus told CNN in an interview to be aired Sunday.

However, the United States plans to more than double its security assistance funding to Yemen, from $70 million to more than $150 million, Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa.

Petraeus, who recently returned from his visit to the Arab nation, said Yemen’s foreign minister was “quite clear that Yemen does not want to have American ground troops there. And that’s a good — good response for us to hear, certainly.”

Asked on whether there were plans to send troops there, he replied, “No, of course, we would always want a host nation to deal with a problem itself. We want to help. We’re providing assistance.”

The United States also will provide additional economic aid to Yemen, the heel of the Arabian Peninsula that has also become known for its large ungoverned spaces that provide an oasis to terrorist groups. In addition to U.S. funds, Saudi Arabia reportedly has allocated $2 billion and the United Arab Emirates about $600 million or $700 million, all to help the Yemen government fight terror and promote development within its borders, according to Petraeus.

After the botched Christmas Day attack on a U.S.-bound airliner, Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in retaliation for U.S. cruise missile strikes on its camps.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have acknowledged providing intelligence on al Qaeda targets to Yemeni authorities, but won’t say whether U.S. aircraft or ordnance played any role in the strikes.

“Again, we haven’t discussed the assistance that we have provided in Yemen, and I’m afraid I won’t here today,” he said.

The general said the United States has been concerned about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for several years, saying, “Without question, it has ramped up over the course of the last year or more in particular, with training camps and so forth there.”

Still, in comments made off camera, Petraeus said the group “isn’t industrial strength.”

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh has told the United States that Yemen rather handle al Qaeda on its own, and the United States plans to honor that, Petraeus said.

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