Engaging Yemen’s Maritime ForcesStrait of Bab el-Mandeb squeezes between Yemen and Africa (specifically, Djibouti and Eritrea). It is a prime area for piracy or waterborne terrorist attacks. Through this narrow, critical waterway pass 80,000 tons of shipping daily. Additionally, Yemen’s southeastern coast is a gateway for smuggled goods originating from Pakistan’s Makran coast, trade that often finances al Qaeda operations in Yemen and other parts of the region.
Yemen faces other internal challenges, including rebels in the north and secessionists in the south, a growing population, and dwindling reserves of oil and water. According to the CIA World Factbook, it is the poorest country in the Middle East, with an annual gross domestic product per capita of $2,600.
The country is ill-equipped to handle these challenges alone. Engaging Yemen’s security forces is a priority for nations concerned with maintaining stability in this strategically important location. The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower stresses the need to work with partner nations to protect sea lines of communication and commerce.