News / Middle East

US Steps Up Anti-Terrorism Efforts in Yemen

US Predator drone (file photo)
US Predator drone (file photo)
Gary Thomas

The Central Intelligence Agency is said to be stepping up its counter-terrorism efforts in Yemen.  Several print and broadcast news outlets say the CIA will be increasing the use of armed drone aircraft against terrorist targets in Yemen.  Officials are concerned al-Qaida is seeking to exploit the uncertainty created by the country's political turmoil.

According to the reports, the CIA is planning to step up its campaign against the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula through the use of armed unmanned drone aircraft and by building a new base at an undisclosed location in the Persian Gulf region to carry it out.

Street protests, political infighting, and increased violence have gripped Yemen, creating uncertainty.  U.S. officials have in recent months voiced increased concern about the growing muscle of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, especially amid the current political turmoil.  

CIA officials will not comment on the reports.  But outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta, who President Obama tapped to become secretary of defense, said at his Senate confirmation hearing the situation in Yemen has not deterred counter-terrorism efforts there.

"Our approach has been to develop operations in each of these areas that will contain al-Qaida and go after them so that they have no place to escape," said Panetta. "So that we are doing that in Yemen.  It is obviously a dangerous and uncertain situation, but we continue to work with elements there to try to develop counter-terrorism.  We are working with JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] as well in their operations."

Former senior CIA intelligence analyst Emile Nakhleh says al-Qaida and the United States are both stepping up their efforts in Yemen.

"Perhaps the agency [CIA] might act faster as radicals and AQAP elements - that is, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula - try to take advantage of this uncertainty," said Nakhleh. "In other words, there is uncertainty, and there is more activism on the part of counter-terrorism."

U.S. strikes in Yemen are not new.  The U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command has been coordinating with the CIA for previous attacks, usually by manned aircraft or cruise missiles, in consultation with Yemeni authorities.  

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has portrayed himself as a bulwark against al-Qaida, and the United States has funneled millions of dollars in counter-terrorism aid to Yemen.  In a secret U.S. embassy cable from January 2010 published by the organization WikiLeaks, President Saleh is reported as having said to U.S. General David Petraeus, “We will continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours."

But the strikes were halted about one year ago after some attacks were found to have caused civilian casualties.  And now President Saleh is under siege.  After resisting repeated calls for him to step down, he was wounded recently in an attack at his palace and is in Saudi Arabia undergoing treatment and recovery.  His return to Yemen is uncertain.  

Nakhleh says the new, heightened CIA role may be because the agency is perceived as being more nimble than the Defense Department.

"They do not have to go through all kinds of bureaucratic decision-making," he said. "They can react much more quickly, it seems to me, than the huge operation under DOD.   And they have much more precise surgical targeting system and operations.  If they get information about a certain nasty guy, I think that they can address that information and act on it much more quickly than a larger bureaucracy."

The editor of the Long War Journal, Bill Roggio, says the new Yemen drone program appears to be quite similar to the one targeting al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s tribal regions along the Afghan border.

"Ideally you would have cooperation from the government," said Roggio. "But the use of Predators [drones] really is to me an indication of how bad things are in a country when a country can not or will not police its own terrorism problem and is basically outsourcing it to the United States for various reasons, whether it be for money or whether to maintain influence or all of the above.  But regardless, it puts the United States in a really bad position because of the political blowback from locals that inevitably occurs because of these strikes."

Analysts say there is also concern U.S.-Yemeni military and intelligence relationships may be disrupted or severed in the ongoing turmoil, further unsettling counter-terrorism operations in Yemen.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid