WASHINGTON | The Yemeni government deserves praise for taking on the al-Qaida threat in that country, a Defense Department official said here this week.The Yemeni government took full credit for strikes against al-Qaida hide-outs and training sites Dec. 19. U.S. officials have been concerned that al-Qaida has been increasing in Yemen.“The fact of the matter is that Yemeni officials and government ought to be commended for taking on the al-Qaida threat that exists in their country,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. “Yemen has a growing al-Qaida threat and the government has taken the important steps to address it.”The Yemeni government said the strikes were a success, but there has not been an accounting of casualties in the strikes.The Defense Department has worked with Yemen to train their forces. The United States spent roughly $67 million to train Yemeni troops in counterterrorism operations, Defense Department officials said.Meanwhile, there haven’t been “any substantial increases in our training with Yemen over the past few months,” Whitman said.U.S. training with Yemen runs throughout the year and includes land, air and maritime scenarios. These exercises generally are small-scale events that last a couple of weeks at a time. The number of trainers involved fluctuates depending on the training, Whitman said, noting the exercises do not run back to back.Defense relations between Yemen and the United States are good. Yemeni servicemembers participate in the International Military Education and Training program and the United States has transferred military equipment and spare parts to the country.In fiscal 2006, U.S. Foreign Military Financing for Yemen was $8.42 million, International Military Education and Training was $924,000, and Non-Proliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs was about $1.4 million.—-Jim Garamonedefpro.com