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Come And Get It: Now It's Yemen's Turn For Still More American Aid
US looks at bolstering funding for Yemeni military
WASHINGTON - US commanders have proposed spending up to 1.2 billion dollars over five years on Yemen's security forces, reflecting US worries about Al-Qaeda's presence in the region, officials said Thursday.
US Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East, has called for the major investment despite persistent concerns about corruption in Yemen.
The Pentagon said no final decision had been taken yet on Central Command's proposal for the 2012 federal budget, and that officials from the State and Defense departments were discussing aid for Yemen.
"It's premature to predict the precise nature or amount of assistance that might come out of this process," spokesman Bryan Whitman told AFP.
But he told reporters Al-Qaeda's network in Yemen "poses a serious and growing terrorist threat to Yemeni, US and regional interests."
US authorities blamed a plot to blow up a US-bound airliner on Christmas Day last year on the Yemen-based branch, known as Al-Qaeda on the Arabian peninsula.
The proposed funding increase was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said most of the funds called for by US Central Command would go towards military equipment and training for Yemeni forces.
Some US diplomats, however, are wary of pouring too much money into military assistance without also building up civilian development aid, designed to undermine public backing for Islamist militants, the paper said.
Whitman said the US government had adopted a "holistic approach" to Yemen and that security aid was coupled with civilian assistance to help the country with "political and economic and social challenges."
He added "the US is also providing significant development and humanitarian assistance" to Yemen.
US military assistance has expanded dramatically in recent years, Whitman said, with 155 million dollars for the 2010 fiscal year.
The aid has included military helicopters, patrol boats, trucks and training, while American special forces also work with Yemeni forces to target Al-Qaeda leaders.
The United States is increasingly concerned about the threat posed by Al-Qaeda in Yemen and is moving to ramp up pressure on the militants, a counter-terrorism official said last week.
US officials are reportedly considering stepping up drone bombing raids against Al-Qaeda figures in Yemen, a tactic widely used against militants in Pakistan.