By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 8, 2010 - Yemen has posed a concern as a potential terrorist safe haven for some time, and the United States will continue to work with its government to prevent that from happening, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the Naval War College here today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the U.S. military has no plan to conduct combat operations in Yemen, nor does the Yemeni government want U.S. combat forces in the country.
Rather, he said, the U.S. military will help the Yemeni military with equipment and training. U.S. military officials have been concerned about the country long before the attempted bombing of an American passenger jet on Christmas propelled it into the news, the chairman added.
"It's been a concern of mine for a long time now because of what it represents, which is the potential for ... a safe haven for al-Qaida, as does Somalia and as do, quite frankly, some other parts of the world that are ungoverned territories or ungoverned parts of certain countries," he said.
The American military has provided training to the Yemeni armed forces, including to helping train the Yemeni coast guard to combat piracy. "We've been focused on Yemen for a significant period of time, and we'll continue to support them and help them," the chairman said.
Mullen said people ask him often if the United States is going to send troops to the nation. "The answer is we have no plans to do that, and we shouldn't forget this is a sovereign country," he said. "Sovereign countries get to vote on who comes in their country and who doesn't."
The United States has worked hard to understand the challenges in the country and to improve the military-to-military relationship between the countries, the chairman said. "We have worked hard to try to improve our relationships and training, education and warfighting support, if you will," he said. "And, yet, we still have a long way to go.
The effort in Yemen is not limited to the military, the chairman said; all aspects of U.S. governance are helping in the nation.
"There is international support that's required, there is support from our State Department, from our Treasury Department, from other institutions in America, as those institutions are represented in other countries as well," he said.
America recognizes the seriousness of the situation in Yemen and will continue to work with the Yemeni government, Mullen said.