|03SANAA1975||2003-08-11 13:36:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Sanaa|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 001975
1. This is an action request. See paragraph 10.
2. (c) Summary: Commander of the U.S. Combined Joint Task
Force for the Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), General Maston
Robeson, met with the Yemeni Ministries of Defense, Foreign
Affairs and Interior on August 4 to discuss American and
Yemeni policy objectives in the Horn of Africa (HOA). The
ministers' comments largely focused on maritime security, the
need to promote stability in Somalia and counter-terrorism
cooperation, and were consistent with press reports of a ROYG
campaign to increase cooperation in the Horn of Africa and
the formation of a Yemen-Ethiopia-Sudan tripartite (reftel).
Yemeni officials, concerned that terrorists are taking
advantage of the transit routes used by the many immigrants
landing on Yemen's unguarded coasts, are working with the
U.S. to establish a fully functioning Coast Guard and to
increase border security. They anticipate regional
cooperation will help increase domestic stability in HOA
countries which will result in decreased migrant flows and
stem some of the flow of terrorism. End summary.
Increased Border Security Required to Staunch
3. (c) On August 4, General Robeson met with Minister of
Defense Abdullah Ali Aliawa, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Abubaker Abdullah al-Qirbi, and Minister of Interior Rashad
Mohammad Al-Alimi to discuss Yemen's role in increasing HOA
cooperation in the fight against terror. All three ministers
conveyed similar messages. With vast coastlines and porous
borders with Saudi and Oman, border security remains an area
of ROYG concern. Since the resolution of border demarcation
issues with Saudi Arabia, ROYG has turned its attention to
maritime security along the southern and western coasts.
There is specific concern about the Gulf of Aden and the "Bab
al-Mandeb" Straits. Chief of Staff Gassimi, who attended
Robeson's meeting with the Defense Minister, believes the
same vessels taking advantage of Yemen's unguarded coasts to
smuggle people, goods, and possibly weapons, may be involved
in the "bi-directional flow of terror across the Red Sea."
4. (c) The ROYG is working with the U.S. to establish a fully
functional Coast Guard by 2006, and holds monthly security
meetings between the Ministries of Interior, Transportation,
and other security officials to study ways to improve border
security. However, Minister of Defense Alaiwa said, "ROYG
lacks the tools necessary to do more" including a radar
system. Robeson asked all three ministries if ROYG would be
interested in "Safe Skies", a program designed to create
region-wide radar coverage by increasing the level of radar
technology at HOA airports. FM Qirbi and Minister Alaiwa
agreed to consider the program and requested additional
information. The Minister of Interior deferred to Ministry
5. (c) The Defense Minister also told Robeson that Yemen has
good relations with Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia, but relations
between Yemen and Eritrea remain strained (due in part to the
dispute over the Hanish Islands), and that there is no
central government in Somalia with whom the ROYG can work.
He noted that Yemen is making overtures to increase economic,
political, and security cooperation among HOA countries
through the recent creation of a tripartite (Yemen, Ethiopia,
and Sudan) commission and an invitation to other countries in
the region with similar "principles and objectives" to join
its efforts (reftel). The ROYG is considering expanding the
multilateral partnership to include Kenya, Tanzania, and/or
Djibouti. (Comment: This "open" invitation has been met with
skepticism by Eritrean officials in Sana'a, who maintain that
the sole purpose of the tripartite is to ensure Eritrea's
isolation. End comment.)
6. (c) Foreign Minister Qirbi called on General Robeson and
the U.S. to facilitate greater regional cooperation to bring
stability and security to HOA, thereby stanching the
continuous flow of migrants to Yemen. Robeson noted that the
U.S. is already conducting training in Yemen, Eritrea, and
Djibouti to provide local forces with the necessary skills to
improve maritime security, and training in Sudan is scheduled
to start soon. He suggested that a regional exercise would
be useful in promoting Yemen's efforts to increase maritime
Local Conflict Contributes to Regional Instability -
7. (c) To succeed in the war on terror, Minister Qirbi
believes the U.S. must do more to solve regional conflicts --
there is no government in Somalia, the Sudanese government is
overwhelmed, and Ethiopia and Eritrea are still dealing with
a border issue. Qirbi said strong central governments need
to be established, and domestic issues must be dealt with
impartially and politically in order to achieve a
8. (c) According the ministers, the ROYG,s goal in Somalia
is to reduce external influences on internal Somali issues
(for example, interference from Ethiopia and Eritrea) and to
promote the establishment of a strong central government.
Chief of Staff Gassimi expressed interest in the U.S.
position on Somalia, asking which side the U.S. will
recognize, and alluded to a failed ROYG attempt at mediation.
Undeterred by previous difficulties, the Minister of
Interior said Yemen is preparing to send ROYG officials to
Somalia in the near future as there are currently no Yemeni
officials on the ground.
9. (c) The ministers were also united in their view that a
lack of counter-terrorism cooperation makes HOA an attractive
target for terrorists interested in exploiting its unguarded
transit routes. General Robeson was told in his meetings
that President Saleh has raised this issue with Ethiopia,
Djibouti and Kenya but, with the exception of the new
tripartite venture, there is currently no multilateral
initiative to address the issue.
10. (c) Comment: ROYG officials responded well to Robeson's
preliminary proposals for areas of future U.S.-Yemen
cooperation and U.S.-HOA cooperation that might include
Yemen. They spoke about Yemen's approach to HOA and the
reasons more regional cooperation is necessary with
unexpected candor, and provided unusually detailed responses
to General Robeson's questions. The Yemen-Ethiopia-Sudan
tripartite is evidence of HOA multilateralism at work and may
prove the basis for a regional security initiative capable of
deterring terrorist operations. Having said this, the effort
is still in its infancy and the details of how such a
consortium might operate and its effectiveness are untested.
Post will continue to engage with the host government and HOA
representatives in Yemen to seek opportunities to influence
the process in such a way that it promotes U.S. interests in
regional stability. Post also welcomes additional guidance
and information from the Department or CENTCOM on U.S.
programs in the HOA that could be expanded to include Yemen,
specifically the "Safe Ships" initiative. End comment.
11. (u) Minimize considered.