The "incubator of extremism" needs friends. That is how the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton characterised Yemen's woes in Washington last week. On Tuesday, she delivered the message personally.
Mrs Clinton's whistle-stop visit to Sana'a, the first by America's top diplomat in more than 20 years, stands in stark contrast to past US efforts. During the Bush administration, for instance, Yemen was little more than a bombing range for unmanned drones. Aid barely reached $20 million (Dh73.4million) annually.
The Obama administration appears intent on doing more for Yemen, particularly since a number of al Qa'eda attacks have been planned in the country. It also appears to understand the importance of the country to the region's stability. For that, the US should be lauded. But while Mrs Clinton's four-hour visit is a step in the right direction, it's only a start. From high illiteracy to unemployment, Yemen's obstacles have left many wondering when, not if, the country will fail. As Washington is now realising, turning the tide will be a long-term endeavour.
Cash will be critical to success. Last year the Obama administration sought to push assistance well over $200 million in military and nonmilitary aid. Yet this remains a pittance compared to the money the US allots to other regional allies. Yemen's share should be in proportion to its importance, its development needs, and the dangers it presents.
Washington must do more to balance its government reform agenda with realities on the ground. While it is right to push for political reform in Sana'a - as it did last month in calling for the inclusion of opposition parties in constitutional debate - at the end of the day, the president Ali Abdullah Saleh is the power broker best positioned to address Yemen's problems. Some will question Mr Saleh's motives in calling publicly for an increase in foreign aid. Allegations abound that his vows to confront militancy are less than genuine. The US should work to ensure that aid comes with verifiable benchmarks.
But America must not carry Yemen's burdens alone. Yemen's regional allies have a far more significant stake in Yemen's future, and should take Washington's cue by redoubling their own efforts. Containing Yemen's turbulence rather than addressing its roots, an approach its regional allies have favoured, clearly has limitations.
From water shortages, rapid population growth, radicalism and widespread drug addiction, Yemen's challenges are enormous. But as Mrs Clinton noted in her speech last week, the global community has a responsibility to "invest in places that are strategically critical but where we are not guaranteed success". Yemen is the clearest case of this challenge. "The odds are long," she added, "but the cost of doing nothing is potentially far greater."