Saudi Arabia has pledged $3.25 billion in aid to Yemen, which is trying to push back a powerful al Qaeda insurgency.
“To ensure Yemen’s security and stability, the kingdom will provide $3.25 billion to support development projects there which will be agreed upon with the Yemeni side,” Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said at the opening of the Friends of Yemen meeting on Wednesday.
Taking advantage of the political instability following the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in November, al Qaeda militants laid claim to large swaths of land in the southeast, posing a threat to the rest of the nation, as well as to Yemen's northern neighbor. Insurgents have already captured a number of towns in the southeast corner of Yemen, setting up a home base along highway check- points to control movement in and out of the area.
Yemen's new president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, has mobilized the army and conscripted a number of local militias to combat the threat, and the United States has joined the fight against al Qaeda, sending out regular drone strikes against military targets.
According to the Kuwait Times, Saudi Arabia is trying to fend off radical groups Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its affiliate Ansar al-Sharia, which have made their presence felt as far north as the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, where 96 soldiers were killed after a suicide attack on Monday. Clashes between separatist clans and the government in the north of Yemen have the Saudis concerned as well.
“I assert one more time our support to Yemen to back all the phases of the political initiative to help achieve security, stability and prosperity in facing the threats of extremism and terrorism,” Faisal said at the meeting.
“The Yemeni government is exerting courageous efforts, but without the help of its brothers and friends, Yemen will not be able to solve the crises it is facing.
Saudi Arabia, which is hosting the Friends of Yemen meeting, is hoping to eventually raise a total of $10 million in aid for Yemen. In the short term, the Saudi Planning and International Cooperation Minister believes that Yemen needs an additional $2.17 billion to stabilize the country, and $5.8 billion by 2014 to build a national infrastructure and to grow the economy, according to Reuters.
Yemen is also suffering from a hunger crisis; 10 million people -- 44 percent of the population -- are malnourished and five million need emergency aid; indeed, some of Saudi Arabia's $3.25 billion will go toward food programs.