News / Middle East

Yemen's President Embraces US Drones

Abd-Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi accepts domestic political risks to fight al Qaida terrorists at home and rebuild a fractious nation

A Sana’a maker of traditional daggers displays loyalties to President Hadi (left) and to Saleh, Yemen’s ousted ex-president (AP)A Sana’a maker of traditional daggers displays loyalties to President Hadi (left) and to Saleh, Yemen’s ousted ex-president (AP)
x
A Sana’a maker of traditional daggers displays loyalties to President Hadi (left) and to Saleh, Yemen’s ousted ex-president (AP)
A Sana’a maker of traditional daggers displays loyalties to President Hadi (left) and to Saleh, Yemen’s ousted ex-president (AP)
David Arnold
Following the protests of Yemen’s Arab Spring, its Gulf neighbors brokered a deal to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 33 years in the presidential palace. Saleh was replaced in February by Abd-Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, his vice president of the past 13 years.
 
Mr. Hadi’s task is formidable. He needs to rebuild the central government, unite the nation's fractious tribes, lead a project to rewrite the constitution, hold new national elections and kick-start the country's economy. He’s been at it for eight months and he has about 16 months left to finish the job before holding a new national election.
 
Since Hadi took office in February, he has surprised many of his skeptics with a few bold security moves. Even so, he is still far from rescuing Yemen from political and economic failure.
                               
Whether or not he succeeds, Yemen can boast one distinction among its neighbors: it has gotten rid of its dictator through negotiations and avoided the months of the bloodshed experienced by Libya and Syria.
But what makes me optimistic is that it is one of the only countries in the world that has embarked on a negotiated solution to its problems 

Even in the best of times, Yemen has been a troubled nation, one with political and tribal divisions that is loosely held together by patronage. Its government has been known for nepotism and corruption and is threatened by secessionist movements and a forbidding terrain where terrorists have found safe havens.
 
“It’s very easy to be pessimistic about Yemen because it is a country beset by many problems,” says Leslie Campbell,  the Middle East and North Africa regional director for the National Democratic Institute.  “But what makes me optimistic is that it is one of the only countries in the world that has embarked on a negotiated solution to its problems.” 
 
Hadi moves to secure Yemen
 
And Hadi has addressed two major security issues. The first was to restructure the military and to remove Saleh’s eldest son, Ahmed, as commander of the Republican Guard and its special forces. The effort ended in a stalemate when Ahmed’s officers threatened a public protest.
 
“He (Hadi) had been fairly successful but he hasn’t taken the major step that everybody knows he has to take,” said Gregory Johnsen, a  Yemen expert at Princeton University and author of book, “The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia,” to be published soon.
 
Hadi also chose to partner with the United States to defeat Ansar al-Shariah, the Yemeni version of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and embraced the U.S. anti-terrorism effort that combined Yemeni ground assaults with U.S. Aerial drone attacks.

“With U.S. air support and missile strikes, they pushed al Qaida out,” Johnsen said.
 
The U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, told a VOA reporter recently “… Al Qaida was able to control territory, when they established what they called 'Islamic emirates' in some of the major population centers in the south and in Zinjibar and Jaar. 

"They seemed to be on the move,” Feierstein said. “The momentum was with them and it was very difficult for the government to push back.” But now, Feierstein said, al-Qaida remains a threat, but is no longer able to control territory in Yemen. 
 
Hadi’s domestic political risk
 
In his public enthusiasm for the U.S. military strikes, Hadi has taken responsibility for some of the more than 35 aerial assassination missions carried out by Predator and Reaper drones. Johnsen argues, however, that the drones may eventually present a risk for Hadi, Yemen and the U.S. government.

“… The drone strikes are dependent upon intelligence on the ground,” Johnsen said, “and that intelligence is far from perfect, which means that the drone strikes sometimes kill the wrong people. 
The drone strikes are dependent upon intelligence on the ground, and that intelligence is far from perfect, which means that the drone strikes sometimes kill the wrong people.

“This is a serious problem within Yemen,” Johnsen adds, “… the vast majority of the members of al Qaida are Yemenis themselves, which means that … unlike, say, al Qaida in Afghanistan, where they were Arabs within a non-Arab country. Here you have Yemeni members of al-Qaida within Yemen itself.”
 
Leslie Campbell of the National Democratic Institute agrees.
 
“Yemenis have mixed opinions about the strikes against the terrorists,” Campbell said. “Most (Yemenis) say,'We don’t want the extremists here.' They complain about the drone strikes, but that they are not always accurate. An increase in these types of assassinations could cause a big backlash.”
 
The National Dialogue mandate
 
Experts agree that Hadi needs to strengthen the central government and get Yemen’s rival tribes to agree some form of governing consensus. But there is disagreement about how successful Hadi has been in this effort.
 
Open conflict among Yemen's political factions and rival tribes may be on the wane, but Johnsen says the country still is a fragmented society.
 
“What I saw when I was just in Yemen is that Yemen has essentially become a country of factions,” Johnsen said. “Hadi just doesn’t have the power to bring them all back into the Sana’a orbit.”
 
Even if all Hadi's plans are successful, Yemen’s future remains uncertain as it faces 2014 national elections mandated by the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative.
 
Even out of office, former president Saleh remains a major force in the country. There are rumors that Saleh's son, Ahmed, could be a candidate to run for office.

Campbell and Johnsen worry about that and blame the GCC for the clause in the initiative that offered Saleh  – and by extension, family members – immunity from prosecution for their possible roles in the deaths of a large number of the Arab Spring demonstrators in 2011.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs