Wikileaks disclose Yemeni President Saleh offered US 'open door' to attack al-Qaida

Written by: Abdul Nisar
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Washington, Dec 4 (ANI): Secret cables released by the whistleblower website 'WikiLeaks' have revealed that the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, had secretly offered US forces unrestricted access to his territory to conduct unilateral strikes against al-Qaida terrorist targets.

The Guardian quoted Saleh as telling US President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, John Brennan, in September 2009: "I have given you an open door on terrorism. So I am not responsible."

However in reality, despite the offer of an "open door", Yemen had restricted access for US forces in order to avoid playing into the hands of Saleh's domestic critics.

The cables expose for the first time the true scale of America's covert military involvement in the Arab world's poorest nation amid deep concern in Washington that it has become a haven for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), the paper said.

While Saleh's government publicly insists that its own forces are responsible for counter-terrorism operations, the cables detail how the President struck a secret deal to allow the US to carry out cruise missile attacks on Aqap targets.

The first strike in December last year, which killed dozens of civilians along with wanted jihadis, was presented by Saleh as Yemen's own work, supported by US intelligence.

However a cable dated 21 December from Ambassador Stephen Seche says that "Yemen insisted it must 'maintain the status quo' regarding the official denial of US involvement. Saleh also reportedly wanted operations to continue 'non-stop until we eradicate this disease.'" A second attack took place on 24 December, the paper quoted the report, as saying.

A few days later, in a meeting with General David Petraeus, then head of US central command, Saleh admitted lying to his country about the strikes.

"We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours," Saleh told Petraeus on January 2. That prompted the deputy prime minister, Rashad al-Alimi, who was also at the meeting, to joke he had just "lied" by telling parliament the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa that (the al-Qaida strongholds) were American-made but deployed by Yemen, the report added. (ANI)

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