General wants to step up pressure on al Qaeda in Yemen

On the heels of a bombing attack at Yemen’s defense ministry that left more than 50 dead, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East is calling for the U.S. to step up pressure against al Qaeda there.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Lloyd Austin said the United States was prepared to step up training assistance to the Yemeni government in its fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

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“We have to help our partners create capability of their own, so they can deny ungoverned spaces to elements like AQAP and not allow them to develop capability and export terror to other places,” Austin said.

AQAP, based in Yemen and considered the most dangerous of the al Qaeda affiliates, claimed responsibility for Thursday’s bombing and assault on the defense ministry.

The U.S. already has some advisers in Yemen, helping the forces of Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi battle militant groups.

Austin said Thursday’s attack could prompt additional cooperation between the United States and Yemen.

“The current administration has been very cooperative with us and we hope they could be even more so going forward,” Gen. Austin said.

The U.S. has undertaken a major drone campaign in Yemen against AQAP. In a Twitter message, AQAP said that it attacked the Yemeni defense ministry because it was involved with the drone strikes, according to the Journal