JANUARY 04, 2011
While millions in U.S. military aid continue pouring into Yemen, the Middle Eastern haven for Islamic militants profits from Uncle Sam’s generosity by renting out servicemen and patrol boats to lucrative operations that provide security for commercial ships.As part of a regional counter terrorism effort, the Obama Administration has deluged Yemen with hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid in the last few years. In 2009 the U.S. gave Yemen $67 million and last year the figure more than doubled to $155 million. The money is supposed to help the impoverished country’s army fight Al Qaeda by providing essential equipment like helicopters, ground vehicles, night-vision goggles and transport aircraft.After all, the tribal nation on the edge of Saudi Arabia is a renowned terrorist training camp and home to an Al Qaeda offshoot that claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner last Christmas. It’s also the home of a radical Muslim cleric who inspired the Ft. Hood massacre in Texas and the Times Square bombing attempt in New York.It turns out that some of the military equipment furnished by the U.S. to protectYemen’s coastline against terrorists is being exploited by the country’s Coast Guardto support a private and quite profitable security business, according to a major newspaper report published this week. The operations, protecting commercial ships from pirates, involve high-ranking officials in Yemen’s Ministry of Interior as well as its Coast Guard Authority.A U.S. defense official quoted in the story says that agreements to provide the ships to the Yemeni Coast Guard include provisions stipulating that vessels donated by Washington won’t be used in private commercial missions. The official specifically said that the U.S.-provided ships aren’t intended to perform the sort of for-profit escort operations that they are being used in.The U.S. government has given 24 vessels to Yemen’s coast guard since 2003 and two large “coastal protection boats” are scheduled for delivery this year, according to the news report. Commercial ship companies pay $55,000 to have the heavily armored patrol vessels escort cargo with a team of up to nine armed guards.No official comment from the Obama Administration which has proposed increasing military aid to Yemen to $250 million in 2011, a move that would require congressional approval.
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