November 24, 2011 in Nation/World

Yemen president helped fight al-Qaida


In this image broadcast by Yemen State TV, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signs a document agreeing to step down after 33 years.
(Full-size photo)

 Yemeni President President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been an ally of Washington in battling al-Qaida, allowing an expanded role of U.S. military and intelligence inside the country, including airstrikes by drones. In September, one of those strikes killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric who was a top recruiter for Yemen’s al-Qaida wing.

 On Wednesday, Saleh agreed to a deal requiring him to give up power within 30 days.

 It is not clear if his successor will be as compliant to U.S. interests. Yemen is run by tribes, heavily influenced by conservative Islam and largely anti-American. U.S. and Saudi officials worry that Yemen’s continued chaos will allow al-Qaida a greater foothold at the crossroads of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

 The Obama administration welcomed the deal, while cautioning that much more needed to be done before a new government is installed and the crisis ended.

 “We’re under no illusions,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “Yemen still faces significant challenges.”

Los Angeles Times

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