The Middle East Newsline has confirmed the U.S. Central Command, responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, has determined that al-Qaida poses a threat to the six Gulf Cooperation Council states as well as neighboring Iraq and Yemen. It says al-Qaida, flushed with success in Afghanistan, has sought to expand its presence throughout the Gulf region.
“We face, in this region, a number of inter-related threats and challenges from trans-national to state-centric, to those who blur the lines between the two,” Centcom chief Gen. David Petraeus said. “At the transnational level, violent extremism is, needless to say, the most pressing challenge. Al-Qaida and its affiliates pose the greatest such threat to many states in the region.”
In a conference in Manama, Centcom commanders reviewed threats to U.S. allies in the Gulf. The command envisioned an increasing al-Qaida threat amid the global economic crisis, particularly in Yemen.
“Such approaches involve significantly more than the application of just military or kinetic action,” Gen. Petraeus said. “In fact, they must do far more if they are to address not just the symptoms of current challenges, but also their underlying causes. The lack of sustainable economic development in certain parts of this region, for example, is not just a social or humanitarian issue. It is a serious security concern as well.”
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The three-day conference, which ended on Friday, also reviewed Centcom cooperation plans in the Gulf. Officials said a key partner would be the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
“We will continue to work with our partners in the region to respond to these challenges and help ensure peace and stability in the region,” Fifth Fleet commander Vice Adm. William Gortney said. “U.S. naval forces have operated in the region for six decades, and we’ll be here for many more to come.”
Anti-piracy operations would remain a key element in expanding U.S. military cooperation. They said the need to combat Somali-based piracy in the Arabian Sea and Red Sea would bring together most GCC states as well as Yemen.
“The complex threats that we face at sea require cooperative solutions,” Vice Adm. Gortney said.
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