Foreign Policy Experts Urge President Obama to Rethink Yemen Policy

In a letter to President Barack Obama, a distinguished group of former diplomats, analysts, and journalists call on the president and his national security team to move beyond the current counterterrorism approach and embrace a long-term strategy that prioritizes helping the Yemeni government address the very factors that allow extremist ideology to spread: the absence of basic social services, a worsening food shortage, and chronic unemployment.



Former US ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine, former director of policy planning for the US Department of State Anne-Marie Slaughter, and David Kramer of Freedom House, among others call on the Obama administration to revisit its policy toward Yemen, and outline the following policy recommendations:

  • Leverage the US government’s close relationship with President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi of Yemen to strongly encourage his government meet the reform benchmarks to which he has committed and address human rights violations
  • Support the National Dialogue in ways that empower independent voices—not only political party elites—and include more extensive outreach to Southerners and Yemenis outside of Sanaa and other urban areas
  • Work within the Friends of Yemen group to ensure that the generous pledges committed to Yemen are delivered and that the government of Yemen has the capacity and resources it needs to implement projects
  • Implement a more robust public diplomacy strategy to demonstrate that US interests in Yemen are not limited to counterterrorism and security issue
  • Reevaluate reliance on drone strikes with the recognition that this approach generates significant anti-American sentiment and could strengthen the appeal of extremist groups
  • Ensure that security restructuring achieves a unified command structure under civilian leadership and that US military assistance does not perpetuate the same mistakes made during former President Saleh’s tenure
  • Increase economic assistance and draw upon regional funds to support Yemen, in addition to a bilateral assistance package

The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and the Project on Middle East Democracy lead the Yemen Policy Initiative, which calls on the Obama administration to reevaluate US policy in Yemen and to prioritize long-term investments in political, economic, and human development in order to promote stability in Yemen and protect US security interests. Last June, the initiative sent a letter to the president with the support of twenty-seven foreign policy experts, which yielded significant media attention and prompted a response from John Brennan in a public address.