Half a year has passed since Yemen’s tumultuous political transition and, after withholding $112 million in aid for counterterrorism equipment and training, the Pentagon now is set to transfer it. The risks and benefits haven’t changed, though, since the Defense Department first established a relationship with the country’s counterterrorism force.
Yemen, like many other countries, has organized this force within the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), a civilian agency usually outside the scope of US military assistance. Congress authorized the Pentagon (see §1205) to step beyond that boundary in 2011 and provide $75 million in assistance to the counterterrorism unit, and it then extended the program in 2012 as part of the Global Security Contingency Fund (see §1207). This appears to be a workaround for perceived shortcomings of the State Department, where this authority traditionally would reside, but it comes with longer-term risks to civil-military institutions, as BFAD pointed out at the time.
Indeed, as our own Gordon Adams wrote in the larger context of our A New Way Forward report:
There is, moreover, a growing need for a clear understanding of the place of security assistance programs in overall US global engagement, and a need to organize the many overlapping authorities and programs, and to clarify the institutional relationship between the two principal departments involved in security assistance.
Gordon’s insights ring especially true in this case. The Pentagon’s relationship with Yemen’s MOI aims to provide immediate benefits, but still out there are important institutional issues about how best to manage our security assistance programs.