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US Yemen Anti-terror Strategy Debated

  • Pamela Dockins

The U.S. has stepped up its drone strikes in Yemen, according to officials in Yemen. The strikes come after Yemeni authorities said they foiled an al-Qaida plot targeting Western facilities in the south of the country and the U.S. shuttered many of its diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa. Analysts, however, have mixed views on whether the current U.S. policy in Yemen is working.

The U.S. has stepped up its drone strikes, targeting al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Yemeni officials said.

Over the last two weeks, drone attacks have killed at least two dozen militants, according to news reports.

But some analysts say drone strikes may actually do more harm than good, especially when they result in civilian casualties.

Danya Greenfield is a Middle East expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.

"It sets in place a dynamic where people that may have inadvertently been targeted are part of tribes and local communities that then feel that they need to seek vengeance."

Greenfield says hostility toward the United States creates a breeding ground for militants in Yemen.

The most recent terror threat also prompted the U.S. to order non-essential diplomats out of Yemen.

President Barack Obama said although he had to take Americans out of harm's way, the administration will not back down.

"The United States is never going to retreat from the world. We don't get terrorized," said Obama.

Thomas Lynch, at National Defense University, supports the current U.S. policy in Yemen.

"I think the United States has developed a fairly effective program for dealing with the AQAP problem in Yemen. I think we prefer to work side-by-side, as we did in the summer of 2012, with Yemeni security forces.”

Lynch says the recent uptick in U.S. drone strikes does not necessarily indicate a shift away from U.S. support for Yemen's counter-terror operations.

“I do think we are at a moment right now though, where the United States is trying to re-focus its efforts and trying to make sure that places and pockets of activity by al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula are put under pressure so we diminish their capacity in the country and in the region,” said Lynch.

But Greenfield says it is up to the Yemeni government to develop a long-term strategy for combatting al-Qaida and other Yemeni militants.

"That really has to do with having strong government institutions that actually provide economic opportunity, that provide necessary services for its population and to have a legitimate government in place that is responsive to the population and to what people need,” says Greenfield.

Although U.S. drone strikes may have weakened al-Qaida in Yemen, analysts say targeted assassinations will not be enough to cause the group's demise.

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