WASHINGTON — The United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against the Al-Qaeda terror network in Yemen, The New York Times reported.


Citing an unnamed former top CIA official, the newspaper said that a year ago the Central Intelligence Agency sent many field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country.

At the same time, some of the most secretive special operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics, the report said.

The Pentagon will be spending more than 70 million dollars over the next 18 months, and using teams of special forces, to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces, more than doubling previous military aid levels, the paper noted.

The country has long been a refuge for jihadists, in part because Yemen?s government welcomed returning Islamist fighters who had fought in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the report pointed out.

But Al-Qaeda militants have made much more focused efforts to build a base in Yemen in recent years, drawing recruits from throughout the region and mounting more frequent attacks on foreign embassies and other targets, according to The Times.

The White House is seeking to nurture enduring ties with the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and prod him to combat the local Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the paper said.

FULL NEW YORK TIMES STORY AT THIS LINK