Details emerge on US counterterrorism support for Yemen

The weapons and equipment were financed under Section 1207 funding, a congressionally mandated stream of federal money overseen by DOD and the State Department dedicated to support counterterror operations around the world. 

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The $75 million support package for Yemen that Pentagon officials are seeking Capitol Hill approval for was appropriated in the fiscal 2012 defense spending bill. 

Senate Armed Services Committee lawmakers in the Senate requested another $75 million for counterterror support in Yemen from 1207 accounts in their $631 billion version of the FY '13 defense bill. 

Members of the committee approved the legislation in May. The full Senate has yet to call the bill to the floor for a vote. 

DOD is required to notify the four congressional defense committees, along with members of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees, on any counterterror support package financed under Section 1207 before moving ahead with the plan. 

Lawmakers were notified of the most recent counterterror support package for Yemen in June. 

The roster of weapons, equipment and overall support for Yemen's ongoing campaign to root out al Qaeda cells in the southern part of the country could be seen by some as an escalation of U.S. involvement. 

However, DOD spokesman Lt. Col Jim Gregory told The Hill on Monday the recent support package sent to Capitol Hill is part of the department's long-term strategy to help quell terror groups in Yemen. 

"We are constantly evaluating the needs and requirements of the Yemeni military and are looking for ways to help Yemen develop a professional and capable force over the long run," Gregory said. 

Of the $75 million going to Yemen's counterterrorism forces, $29 million has been set aside for night vision goggles and high-end communications equipment, according to DOD's notification letter sent to Capitol Hill. 

Yemeni forces will also receive four small Raven unmanned aerial surveillance drones from the Pentagon, to the tune of $4.7 million, as well as 56 up-armored Humvee combat trucks at a cost of $8.6 million. 

DOD has also set aside $15.1 million to supply Yemeni troops with heavy machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, assault rifles, mortars and ammunition, according to the letter. 

Pentagon officials are also footing the $1.5 million bill to build two new "expeditionary bases" in Aden and al-Anad for Yemeni forces. DOD will also spend just under $300,000 to refurbish the country's main counterterrorism base in Aden, according to the department's notification letter. 

"Through the provision of this assistance, the Government of Yemen will be able to grow and enhance its primary CT force and base elements of that force outside of Sana'a and closer to critical areas of operation," according to Gregory. 

In May, news broke that U.S. special operations forces were are already on the ground in Yemen, coordinating airstrikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) targets in southern Yemen. 

A 20-man force of U.S. special operations troops have provided satellite imagery, drone video, eavesdropping systems and other technical means to point out suspected al Qaeda targets, according to recent news reports. 

At the time, DOD spokesman George Little said the U.S. special forces units on the ground in Yemen were part of a U.S. mission strictly focused on advising and assisting Yemeni forces. 

"That is [part] of our shared commitment to thwart AQAP and its attempts to attack not just Yemenis, but Americans," Little said. "Our focus is ... on train, advise and assist and on deepening our counterterrorism operations with Yemen. We are committed to that." 

U.S. officials, however, claim that America's counterterrorism mission in Yemen will grow in size and scope over the coming years, according to news reports. 

— Updated at 12:41 p.m. to include comments from DOD spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory