WASHINGTON — The Pentagon plans to resume programs that would pay for military training and equipment in Yemen, nearly a year after halting aid to the key counterterrorism partner because of escalating internal chaos.
While no agreements have been cemented, U.S. defense officials said as much as $75 million in military assistance could begin to flow this year. The officials said the Pentagon and State Department are putting together a letter to send to Congress to request restarted the aid.
The plan is in line with the Obama administration’s intention to provide significant security and civilian aid to Yemen in 2012-13 as long as the Middle Eastern country makes progress toward a new government and the money is kept from insurgents.
One senior military official said discussions have begun over how best the United States can help Yemen, which is putting a new U.S.-backed government in place. The official said it may be difficult to relaunch the counterterrorism training that was suspended about a year ago because Yemeni forces are engaged in battle with the al-Qaida-linked insurgency based in the country.
Instead, the training program could shift to focus less on fighting tactics and more on how to plan combat operations and strategize against the enemy.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because no final decisions have been made.
Widespread protests, coupled with pressure from the U.S., led to the ouster of longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh. U.S. leaders have said they believe that new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, will be a good partner to the U.S.
The renewed effort comes as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula also is experiencing its own transition. While often described as the chief terrorist threat for strikes inside the U.S., the group hasn’t surfaced as a main source in any domestic threats for more than a year.
The killing in a U.S. drone strike last fall in Yemen of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born radical militant cleric, has set back the group’s efforts outside Yemen. Al-Awlaki was linked to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting U.S. and Western interests.
“What we don’t necessarily know is are they going to be focusing much more on Yemen, or is it a short-term thing, to be able to build up time and capacity to be able to strike at a far enemy,” said Frank Cilluffo, director of a homeland security studies program at George Washington University.