U.S. drone war in Yemen continues to heat up with 29 alleged militants killed in 8 days
By End the Lie
The joint drone program in Yemen being conducted by both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) continues to increase in intensity with a shocking 29 alleged militants slaughtered in the last 8 days alone.
To make matters even worse, the number of dead so far this year alone is nearing the 200 mark, according to the Long War Journal, with the 29 individuals killed in a mere four strikes.
Part of the covert drone war in Yemen being waged by the U.S. includes the practice of so-called “signature strikes.” This practice involves the CIA bombing people who supposedly display the “signature” of terrorist activity. In other words, if they think you look like a terrorist from a drone overhead, they just might fire a missile in your direction without even knowing who you are.
While the Long War Journal statistics claim that there have only been 35 civilian deaths in 2012, I find this number somewhat dubious since as The New York Times recently reported, the United States “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.”
Therefore, so long as you are male and not a child and unfortunate enough to happen to be in a strike zone, you can be considered a combatant and thus excluded from the civilian casualty report. This practice obviously results in a number of civilian casualties which does not reflect the reality of the situation.
The latest attack occurred on September 5, 2012 and occurred in the Hadramout province in eastern Yemen. The number of casualties differs between reports with Reuters originally reporting five suspected militants killed with three managing to escape with injuries (though they later updated the number to six) and the Long War Journal reporting six killed.
The precise target of the strike, which was hit by eight missiles, has not been disclosed, although Reuters did report it was a house in which alleged fighters were hiding “in the Wadi al-Ain area of Hadramout province,” according to what a witness told Reuters.
Once again, the details get unclear when Reuters reports that their witness told them, “Eight people managed to escape.” Meanwhile, CNN cites unnamed Yemeni security officials who told them, “At least three militants are believed to have fled the area.”
Hakim Almasmari also reported for CNN that those who were killed “were mostly new al Qaeda members who were seeking to recruit more fighters from within the province,” according to an unnamed security official.
An even more brutal strike occurred on September 2, 2012 – with Reuters indicating that it was a Yemeni airstrike and others indicating it was an American drone – when 10 (or 13 according to Long War Journal) civilians were killed, including a 10-year-old girl, according to Reuters.
AFP reported that the strike involved a pair of missiles being fired at a vehicle which was thought to be carrying a local leader of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). However, one of the missiles hit a minibus nearby, killing the aforementioned little girl and her mother among other civilians.
“You want us to stay quiet while our wives and brothers are being killed for no reason. This attack is the real terrorism,” one of the residents of Rada’a in al-Baitha province, where the strike occurred, told CNN.
Few realize that this is actually just one part of a multifaceted U.S. campaign in Yemen. According to Danger Room, “American warplanes, based in neighboring Djibouti, are also flying missions over the country.”
Furthermore, the U.S. has already committed to spending a whopping $112 million on military gear for the Yemeni armed forces including night vision goggles and boats for commando raids among other gear and training.
According to John Brennan, the man who is now serving as what some call a “death czar” in the Obama administration, over twice that number will be put towards funding “nation-building” projects.
All this massive spending (which we obviously can’t afford) is being done supposedly because AQAP is the “most active operational franchise” of al Qaeda, at least according to Brennan.
Unfortunately, I think history shows that this plan will end up backfiring seeing as the public sentiment is quickly turning against us thanks in part to the practice of signature strikes.
“[T]he recent shift to ‘signature’ strikes in Yemen and the growing risk of civilian casualties is swiftly undermining our credibility with many ordinary Yemenis,” remarked Christopher Swift, a researcher with the University of Virginia.
One member of the Yemeni coalition government expressed a similar sentiment to The Washington Post earlier this year in saying, “There is a psychological acceptance of al-Qaida because of the U.S. strikes.” Similar statements were made by many ranging from Yemeni officials to tribal leaders to the relatives of victims to human rights activists.
This is a considerably more complex issue than many might think since, as Danger Room points out, “this is a conflict with as many as five sides, which would present a strategic challenge even if American policy makers were intimately familiar with Yemen. They are not.”
Gregory Johnsen, an expert on the region at Princeton University, quite aptly summed up the complex and evolving issue in writing, “This is not going to end well.”
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