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A big question at London conference: What to do about Yemen?

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The point of adding Yemen to the meeting, Prime Minister Brown said earlier this month, is to determine what the conflict-riven country on the Arabian Peninsula needs to combat terrorists, to seek pledges to train Yemeni security forces, and to better coordinate development aid.

The United States has already said it will double military and civilian assistance to Yemen – aid last year was less than $70 million, a far cry from the billions the US spends annually in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Obama also nixed sending US troops to Yemen, although he did not categorically rule out that option for the future.

A need to coordinate the West's response

The need to coordinate responses to the threat within Yemen is why the Afghanistan-Yemen meeting in London makes sense, some experts say. The US appears to be the main target of Yemen's Al Qaeda-affiliated groups: Suspects in both the Christmas Day airline incident and the Fort Hood shooting last November are alleged to have links to a radical cleric in Yemen. But other Western countries, too, have come under threat from Yemen's extremists.

"There's always a possibility [the Yemen discussion] could siphon off some political attention from Afghanistan, but there are some obvious similarities ... between Afghanistan and Yemen that are at the heart of what the people [at] this meeting are going to discuss," says James Dobbins of the RAND Corp.'s International Security and Defense Policy Center in Arlington, Va. "It makes sense to use the opportunity to address this new priority."

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