Bipartisan Policy Center Urges U.S. to Take Holistic Approach to Counter Extremism in Yemen


BPC Releases Paper on Yemen’s Security Risks during Panel Discussion on Fragile States

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) called on the U.S. government to look beyond its counterterrorism support for Yemen and adopt a holistic approach to the fragile country. Since at least the 1990s, multiple terrorist actions against U.S. interests have emanated from Yemen.

The latest was an attempted attack on a U.S. jetliner on Christmas Day 2009. In response, the BPC held a timely panel discussion with leading policy experts and released a paper entitled, “Fragility and Extremism in Yemen,” which analyzes Yemen’s security risks and why it is a fragile state. Both the paper and panel discussion are part of the BPC’s National Security Initiative’s (NSI) Stabilizing Fragile States Project. NSI will release a final report this spring.

According to the BPC’s analysis, the answer is not for the U.S. to increase its aid to Yemen’s milita

ry. “Additional military aid and security assistance alone will be insufficient in solving Yemen’s terrorism problem,” said BPC Foreign Policy Director Michael Makovsky. “Until Yemen develops proper governance capacity and fosters improved state legitimacy by addressing underlying social, economic and political weaknesses, it will remain a threat to international security.

Leading today’s discussion were Project Co-Chairs Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, former Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs under President George W. Bush, and retired Admiral Gregory “Grog” Johnson, BPC Senior Military Fellow and former Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Joint Force Command in Naples. They were joined by Thomas Krajeski, Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen and Senior Vice President, National Defense University; Dr. Michael Doran, former Director of the National Security Council and a member of NSI’s Stabilizing Fragile States Project; and Les Campbell, Middle East Director for the National Democratic Institute.

“Security is a vital issue in Yemen. But only a holistic approach will promote real and lasting progress in that country,” stated Admiral Johnson. “It will take a well-organized, wide-ranging approach to prevent Yemen from becoming the next Afghanistan.”

NSI’s paper explains why Yemen is one of the world’s most fragile states. It faces multiple, overlapping threats to its internal security and sovereignty: an ongoing tribal revolt in the north, a resurgent secessionist movement in the south, and growing al-Qaeda presence throughout its territory. Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the internal weaknesses of the current regime, expanding operations in Yemen and insinuating itself into the northern and southern conflicts. As these security issues have grown, and as government security forces face multiple pressures, the government is running out of money. Endemic poverty, unemployment, lack of basic resources such as food and water, and corrupt and poorly trained security forces undermine the government’s authority.

“We want to dispel the myth that Yemen’s problem is merely a lack of security capacity, equipment, and material,” emphasized Ambassador Dobriansky. “Russia has provided the country with weapons. The U.S. and other countries have provided military and counter-terrorism assistance. But this aid has had limited success in disrupting terrorist activities or in bringing stability to the country. The biggest threat to security is the current regime’s fragility.”

The paper also points out that 97 percent of Yemeni households cannot cover the daily costs of food, and 43 percent live below the poverty line. Unemployment hovers around 35 percent. The country’s diminishing capacity for oil production and oil revenues is compounded by looming drastic water shortages. Rural citizens, especially, have learned that they cannot rely on central or local government for sufficient goods and services—nor for enforcing the rule of law.  To read the newly released paper, “Fragility and Extremism in Yemen,” in its entirety, click here.

“International discussions on Yemen inevitably emphasize security and development aid to the government. Both are needed, but neither will solve the problem without a continued focus on good governance,” said Les Campbell of the National Democratic Institute.

Ambassador Krajeski, who served in Yemen from 2004 to 2007, ended the discussion on a more positive note by echoing the sentiment of the other panelists, “Iraq is not the next Vietnam, Afghanistan is not the next Iraq, and Yemen is not the next Afghanistan. Let’s not hurry to predict Yemen’s demise.”

According to the BPC, Yemen provides an excellent case study for some of the complex issues facing fragile states and their allies. In the spring, NSI’s Securing Fragile State project will publish policy recommendations to help the U.S. prevent marginal states such as Yemen from becoming fragile or failed.

Read more:

About NSI’s Stabilizing Fragile States Project:

The Project assesses U.S. capacity to address the myriad threats posed by fragile states. BPC believes that preventing, rather than reacting to, these threats is the most prudent strategy for U.S. national security. While military force is sometimes necessary, this project seeks to identify preventive approaches that are less costly and more effective at neutralizing national security threats emanating from failing states.

About the Bipartisan Policy Center:

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Baker, Daschle, Dole, and Mitchell formed the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to develop and promote solutions that can attract the public support and political momentum to achieve real progress. The BPC acts as an incubator for policy efforts that engage top political figures, advocates, academics, and business leaders in the art of principled compromise. For more information please visit our website:

SOURCE Bipartisan Policy Center

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