Obama defends U.S. counter-terrorism strategy in Yemen

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 25, 2015 7:18 AM

By Roberta Rampton

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Sunday defended his administration's drone-based counter-terrorism strategy against al Qaeda militants in Yemen, saying the alternative would be to deploy U.S. troops, which was not sustainable.

"It is not neat and it is not simple, but it is the best option that we have," Obama told reporters at a news conference in New Delhi.

Four months ago, Obama hailed Yemen as a model for "successful" partnerships in the fight against Islamic militants. But last week, the country's U.S.-backed government collapsed, and Iran-backed Houthi rebels took over.

Some U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday the United States has halted some counter-terrorism operations against al Qaeda militants in Yemen following the takeover. However, other officials said the situation on the ground was fluid and described the halt as a temporary measure to assess chaotic conditions on the ground.

Obama said the United States has not suspended its counter-terrorism operations.

"We continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen and we will continue to maintain the pressure which we require to keep the American people safe," he said.

"What we have shown is that we can maintain the kind of pressure on these terrorist networks even in these kind of difficult environments," he said.

(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel, Roberta Rampton and Krishna Das)