Yemen offered US ‘open door’ to attack Al Qaida: WikiLeaks

Saturday, December 4, 2010

LONDON - Yemen secretly offered US troops unrestricted access to its territory to attack Al Qaida hideouts in the country, the US diplomatic cables leaked by whistleblower Wikileaks has revealed.

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh told Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, John Brennan, in September 2009: “I have given you an open door on terrorism. so I am not responsible”, the Guardian reported citing a secret dispatch sent to Washington.

The cables exposed America’s covert military involvement in the Arab world’s poorest nation amid concern in Washington that it has become the haven for Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The outfit has carried out a series of attacks on western targets, including the failed airline cargo bomb plot in October and the attempt to bring down a US passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day last year.

While Saleh’s government publicly insists its own forces are responsible for counter-terrorism operations, the cables reveal how the president struck a secret deal to allow the US to carry out cruise missile attacks on AQAP hideouts.

The first strike in December last year, which killed dozens of civilians along with wanted jihadis, was presented by Saleh as Yemen’s own work, supported by US intelligence.

But a cable dated Dec 21 from Ambassador Stephen Seche recorded that “Yemen insisted it must ‘maintain the status quo’ regarding the official denial of US involvement. Saleh wanted operations to continue ‘non-stop until we eradicate this disease’.”

A second attack took place Dec 24. A few days later, in a meeting with General David Petraeus, then head of US Central Command, Saleh admitted lying to his population about the strikes.

“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told Petraeus Jan 2.

The secret dispatches also disclose how Yemen repeatedly failed to implement anti-terror training for airport officials, allowed cargo to pass through x-ray machines unchecked and refused to co-operate over American suspicions about the movement of students through Islamic institutions.

The cables also revealed that the US saw Yemen’s ability to fight Al Qaida on the ground as weak despite the country’s emergence as the next most important front in the fight against the group.

Filed under: Terrorism

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