This month’s meetings in London on Afghanistan and Yemen will put the spotlight on how serious western countries, particularly those in Europe aside from the U.K., are about dealing with the threat of Al Qaeda as it continues to fester in weak states.
The U.K. government has now called a meeting on Yemen and the growing security concerns in the Arabian state to coincide with the previously planned meeting on Afghanistan. France and Germany have signaled that only after the Afghanistan meeting will they signal what additional force commitments, if any, they may make to the NATO operation there.
On the Yemen front, too, there is some uncertainty over what international commitments can be freed up to try to improve the security situation in that country. The U.S. has already said it is increasing its support to the Yemeni government, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the U.K.’s level of aid is also on the rise and should top £100 million still this year.
Just how embattled Yemen has been becomes clear if figures released by the government are accurate. Since 1992, Yemen has seen 65 terrorist attacks linked to Al Qaeda, the official Yemeni news agency, Saba, says. The U.S. and U.K., owing to security concerns, closed their embassies in Yemen.
That Yemen could become an increasingly central battleground appears to be a view shared not only by the U.S. and U.K. Somali Al Qaeda loyalists have indicated they are ready to sneak into Yemen to bolster the group’s efforts there.
The important questions to be addressed on January 28, when the two meetings will take place, are: who is willing to support Yemen, and with what? And will that support come at the expense of NATO operations in Afghanistan? The answers to those questions will be critical in shaping security operations throughout the year.