Defense Secretary: Yemen Gov’t Collapse ‘A Real Problem’

By Evan Harris

Mar 27, 2011 8:43am

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed worry in an interview on “This Week” about Yemen, after that middle eastern country’s long-time President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said he was willing to step down. Saleh was in talks Saturday to leave office after 32 years, according to The Associated Press. Widespread protests in Yemen have sapped Saleh’s political support in recent days.

“Secretary Gates, you said this week we have not done any post-Saleh planning,” Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper said. “How dangerous is a post-Saleh world — a post-Saleh Yemen to the United States?” he asked.

“Well,” Secretary Gates replied, “I think it is a real concern because the most active and, at this point, perhaps the most aggressive branch of al Qaeda — al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula — operates out of Yemen.

“And we have had a lot of counterterrorism cooperation from President Saleh and Yemeni Security Services,” he said.

“So if that government collapses or is replaced by one that is dramatically more weak, then I think we’ll face some additional challenges out of Yemen.  There’s no question about it.  It’s a real problem,” Gates told Tapper.

In response to violence in Yemen last week, President Obama released a statement saying, in part, “I strongly condemn the violence that has taken place in Yemen today and call on President Saleh to adhere to his public pledge to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those responsible for today’s violence must be held accountable.”

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