JANET NAPOLITANO OFFERS TO STOP ILLEGAL BORDER CROSSINGS—IN SAUDI ARABIA…
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Janet Napolitano offers to help put stop to illegal border crossings — in Saudi Arabia
ABU DHABI — The United States government, which has difficulty controlling its own borders, has agreed to help Saudi Arabia secure its dangerous border areas near Yemen.
"It is a very rough border, very difficult to protect from illegal crossings," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
In late May, Ms. Napolitano met Saudi leaders to discuss a range of security programs, including training, joint exercises, intelligence and arms sales. Officials said both the Americans and Saudis agreed that the Iranian-backed Shi’ite insurgency from Yemen was the leading threat to Riyad.
Officials said Riyad and Washington were expanding cooperation in protecting the kingdom’s borders from insurgents and smugglers. They said the biggest threat was the Shi’ite insurgency in neighboring Yemen, which shares a 1,600-kilometer border with Saudi Arabia. Officials acknowledged that thousands of Yemenis were infiltrating Saudi Arabia despite recent border security measures. They said many of the Yemeni infiltrators were smugglers.
"So many of our discussions were about how to protect a very tough, geological, topographical border from illegal crossings," Ms. Napolitano said during a visit to the Saudi kingdom on May 31.
Officials said Saudi Arabia and the United States were also expanding their intelligence exchange. They said the expansion began during the Yemeni Shi’ite war in southern Saudi Arabia in November 2009, which included the capture of two Saudi towns.
"We all share a concern about terrorist activity emanating from Yemen," Ms. Napolitano said. "Actions of the U.S. in Yemen are with the consent, cooperation of the government of Yemen."
Officials said the U.S. military was modernizing the Saudi Arabian National Guard as well as Interior Ministry security forces. They said Riyad has ordered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of air- and ground-based reconnaissance equipment to monitor the desert border with Yemen.
Another area of consultation has been the Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Officials said most of the AQAP leadership was comprised of Saudi nationals.
"The security coordination is very strong with Saudi Arabia," Ms. Napolitano said.