A number of reports have emerged today suggesting that the United States has deployed a number of Predator drones to Yemen in the hopes of launching attacks across the country, as they have in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
US surveillance drones have been particularly active in southern Yemen recently, but unlike the Predator drones these were purely used to provide intelligence to Yemeni government forces. The new drones come with a checkered history, and well over a thousand dead in Pakistan, largely civilians. They also come with major concerns from the Saleh government that if the US starts launching the same sort of indiscriminate attacks it will do serious damage to the government’s credibility.
Which perhaps explains why the CIA has yet to start launching Hellfire missile attacks across the provinces of Yemen in which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are believed to be based. Officials say the lack of attacks are a function of a lack of decent intelligence on exactly where to hit.
Which is a recurring problem, particularly in southern Yemen, where AQAP isn’t even the biggest anti-government faction. The risks of killing innocent tribesmen in rural Yemen are huge, and relying on the Yemeni government for intelligence is exceedingly risky, as the government has more often than not launched attacks on ostensibly AQAP targets only to kill tribals or unrelated separatists.