A Yemen Post editorial entitled Keep Calm and Carry On suggests a Plan Columbia type approach to the twin issues of CT and economic development. In the end, Plan Columbia had a mixed outcome even in the limited terms of cocoa production, but I understand the editorial’s perspective of combining both development and security in a single product.
Its been my longstanding view view that the development of effective governance and security is a ground up proposition in Yemen due to the nature of its society, infrastructure and traditions. An apolitical National Guard type organization in each governorate where male and female residents are focused on locally defined civil infrastructure projects in their own neighborhoods would boost economic development, national identity and security.
Yemeni institutions, where they exist, have been hyper-political. The functioning of schools, unions, ministries, medical clinics etc are tainted by political conflicts that don’t belong there and have nothing to do with the purpose at hand. The culture of hyper-politicalization encourages and permits corruption as its reward. It is for that reason that I recently suggested a moratorium on the activities of Saleh’s GPC party and other long established parties. A political breather would also give new parties a chance to form and compete. (In 2007, I suggested the GPC be disbanded altogether as a way to jumpstart the economy.)
However the largest obstacle to lasting political and economic development in Yemen is the Obama administration’s goal of recreating a balance of power among long warring factions that includes the US’s familiar partners- the Saleh mafia. The National Dialog can harden social divisions instead of overcoming them, and recreate the prior political stalemate, by reintroducing the culture of hyper-politicization. The representatives at the National Dialog are there to represent the Yemeni people, not specific groups, tribes, political parties or religious affiliations.
One issue the National Dialog members are going to discuss is electoral reform. And we all remember that the JMP and GPC were unable to agree again on the reforms that were agreed upon immediately following the 2006 presidential election. That political deadlock lead to the postponement of the 2009 Parliamentary elections and no progress was made in the years leading up to the revolution. These are the same deadlocked groupings the US insisted, demanded, lead the way following the Yemen revolution of 2011. Its even the same GPC dominated parliament sitting now that has thwarted reforms since it was dubiously elected in 2003.
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.