Sanaa: Yemen said on Wednesday that it had signed a military cooperation deal with the United States although the US embassy would confirm only that talks had been held on joint counterterrorism efforts.
Yemen’s official Saba news agency said that the cooperation agreement was signed during talks in the capital Sanaa on Tuesday between the two countries’ militaries.
The news agency also quoted Brigadier General Jeffrey Smith, the commander of the US 5th Signal Command, as renewing Washington’s support for Yemen’s unity, security and stability.
But US embassy spokeswoman Debrah Smith declined to comment on whether any agreement had been signed.
She did confirm that talks involving Smith had taken place and said they focused on counterterrorism efforts against groups operating in Yemen.
Yemen is Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s ancestral homeland and has been a major focus of the jihadist network’s activities.
In October 2000, Al-Qaeda militants attacked the destroyer USS Cole off the southern port of Aden, killing 17 US sailors.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Washington made Yemen a major focus of its operations against Al-Qaeda.
It set up a counterterrorism base across the Bab al-Mandab strait in Djibouti and in November 2002 carried out a Predator drone strike against six suspected Al-Qaeda militants east of the Yemeni capital.
In late September, the director of the US National Counterterrorism Centre Michael Leiter told a Senate hearing that Yemen continued to be a major concern.
“We have witnessed the re-emergence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with Yemen as a key battleground and potential regional base of operations from which Al-Qaeda can plan attacks, train recruits, and facilitate the movement of operatives,” Leiter said.
On October 4, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral William McRaven, met Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to discuss cooperation against Al-Qaeda, a US embassy statement said.
In a September 6 letter to Saleh, US President Barack Obama hailed the counterterrorism partenrship between the two countries and said Yemen’s security was vital for that of the United States, Saba reported.