In early September, Yemeni officials sought to bury stories about a US drone strike killing 14 civilians in an attack on a highway by insisting they were actually their own warplanes that launched the attack. Eventually, the truth came out.
It wasn’t the first time Yemen sought to cover for the US in a massacre, and it likely won’t be the last. But while the US has avoided blame in the international media, at least sometimes, there is little doubt in the minds of drone victims that the attacks are US policy.
So when survivors of the drone attack and their family members start looking for revenge, they don’t have to spend much time figuring out who they want to target. The Hadi government, installed and backed by the US, cheers the air strikes and tries to cover up the ciivlian toll, so they are no help for the locals, who instead are throwing their lot in with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as seemingly the only group opposed to the strikes.
Abdul Rahman Berman of Yemen’s National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms warns that the drone policy is a losing proposition, noting that “if the Americans kill 10, al-Qaeda will recruit 100.” A similar failure has played out in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and it is a lesson entirely ignored, with US officials seemingly buying their own false claims of drone policy success.