WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- American military officials want $1.2 billion committed to fight al-Qaida in Yemen, which could be more dangerous than Afghanistan, an official said.
The U.S. Central Command would provide Yemen with $1.2 billion in military equipment and training over the next six years, but opponents argue al-Qaida numbers there are small and fear U.S.-supplied weapons could be used against political enemies of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, The New York Times reported Thursday.
"Yemen is the most dangerous place," Rep. Jane Harman, a senior California Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee who visited Yemen in March, said in the report. "We're much more likely to be attacked in the U.S. by someone inspired by, or trained by, people in Yemen than anything that comes out of Afghanistan."
But some senior State Department officials in Washington, along with Stephen A. Seche, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, oppose such large military spending and buildup.
Seche said al-Qaida has only about 600 dedicated members in Yemen, where U.S. military spending jumped from $5 million in 2006 to about $155 million for 2010, the newspaper said.
State Department officials propose a scaled-back plan providing Yemen with transport helicopters, allowing them to operate from remote bases and deploy quickly against al-Qaida cells.