by Robert Sharp and Marwan Noman
Some are concerned by violence in Yemen, others by the economy. Attacks allegedly by former President Saleh loyalists at the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense, plus unproven assassination attempts, highlight fragmentation of the military and the resistance of old regime supporters to change. These attacks and arrests need to be placed into context as articulated by political analyst Abdul Ghani Al-Iryani who said: "In the tradition of tribal Yemen, a shooting war is a form of negotiation." Sana'a is the fastest-growing world capital, but is running out of oil. Also, by 2017 estimates project Yemen will run out of economically viable water supplies. The youth bulge will double the population within 50 years and with 50% of people living on less than 2 dollars a day, 50% unemployed, 70%
under 35 years of age and OXFAM reporting that 44% of Yemeni are starving, the key problem in Yemen is not security, but the economy in terms of unemployment and starvation.
Economic support is promised. At the Friends of Yemen meeting in Riyadh on 23 May 2012 Saudi Arabia pledged $3.25 billion. The UK followed suit by a pledge of $300 million. Kuwait offered $30 million, the International
Monetary Fund extended $100 million and the Arab Monetary Fund offered another $100 million. The UAE has already offered 500 million UAE Dirham in emergency humanitarian food grants. U.S. figures for this year are the largest for Yemen in recent history at $337 million. On 4 September 2012 Friends of Yemen met again in Riyadh and pledges total $6.4 Billion. This is a further strong signal from the international community that they stand by Yemen. Further pledges are expected by September 27th, 2012 when President Hadi will address the United Nations General Assembly and the joint meetings of Friends of Yemen and the Donors Consultative Group. Pledges are generous but disbursements only amount to about 50%.
U.S. support has majored on a lead role in combating Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The counterterrorism campaign for Yemen is a success notwithstanding earlier concerns about the use of drones. Yemen is not failing, nor is President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi. Believe it or not, new Yemen under President Hadi is making relatively steady progress.
President Hadi should be congratulated for what he and his team have achieved thus far. Maybe it is now time for Yemen to step forward in direct support of the people and to begin earnest economic and humanitarian action. Combining Yemen's problems and looking to solutions, there is much that can be done for Yemen. It is time to consider a Plan Colombia type approach for Yemen.
We advise President Hadi to review Plan Colombia and its utility for Yemen. People need jobs and urgent humanitarian assistance. President Hadi understands that the youth of Yemen are ripe for AQAP radicalization because of historic, geographic, economic, social and political grievances. The Plan Colombia model that worked to counter drugs could be utilized for Yemen to counterterrorism through economic and humanitarian development. President Hadi could empower a Presidential Task Force. He could utilize Saudi Arabian and other country donations of funds through the support and coordination of the GCC forward office in Sana'a or through a newly created GCC secretariat for that specific purpose.
Like Plan Colombia, Plan Yemen would train and equip more counterterrorism forces including helicopters and intelligence. Plan Yemen would rely almost exclusively on Yemeni manpower, thus generating employment and finding useful pursuits for the masses without work. It would also offer closer coordination with regional GCC countries in whose interest it is to see a stable and democratic Yemen emerge from the current transition. Working district to district through focused programs in the security and governance domains, including vital humanitarian and economic assistance, Yemen could re-generate provinces sequentially delivering tangible projects in support of a people-centric counterterrorism outcome.
Not only would Plan Yemen utilize donor pledges and existing Yemeni human capital, it would support U.S. counterterrorism aims and also enable a Yemeni Army with a severely damaged reputation to re-build its social
contract with the people. Yemeni soldiers and new government employed civilians working to improve heat, light and electric supplies and sanitation concurrent with delivering water and food to malnourished countrymen is how Plan Yemen would look on the ground.
Yemen is at a crossroads. Former regime elements and Al-Qaeda are threatening Yemen's new democracy. Only the robustness of the Yemeni people, and their extraordinary patience, will prevent complete collapse. Plan Yemen could combine generous international funding with U.S. aims for counterterrorism and at the same time utilize Yemen's currently unemployed people to deliver much needed economic and humanitarian support. Yemen needs action on the ground right now. Plan Yemen could mobilize the people and make a real difference.