An interesting and terribly written/headlined piece from Greg Miller:
Yemen’s [President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi] said Saturday that he personally approves every U.S. drone strike in his country and described the remotely piloted aircraft as a technical marvel that has helped reverse al-Qaeda’s gains.
Does he attend Terror Tuesday in person? Or does he Webex from here:
[He] also provided new details about the monitoring of counterterrorism missions from a joint operations center in Yemen that he said is staffed by military and intelligence personnel from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Hadi’s comments mark the first time he has publicly acknowledged his direct role in a campaign of strikes by U.S. drones and conventional aircraft […]
“Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president,”* Hadi said in an interview with reporters and editors from The Washington Post in his hotel suite in the District. Praising the accuracy of the remotely operated aircraft, he added, “The drone technologically is more advanced than the human brain.”
* This is a strange construction, and the only quote about “approval” from Hadi in the whole piece. Is the Post saying this is his approval? Was he talking about himself in the third person? Or is he talking about President Obama? Or is the headline of this piece simply awful?
Hadi’s enthusiasm helps to explain how, since taking office in February after a popular revolt ended President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule, he has come to be regarded by Obama administration officials as one of the United States’ staunchest counterterrorism allies.
In a sign of Hadi’s standing, he was greeted by President Obama during meetings at the United Nations in New York last week and has met with a parade of top administration officials in Washington, including Vice President Biden, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The pace of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen has surged in the past year […]
The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA have carried out 33 airstrikes in Yemen this year, compared with 10 in 2011, according to the Long War Journal Web site, which tracks drone attacks.
Resulting in nearly 200 deaths this year, with a particularly gruesome string of 29 dead in 8 days just three weeks ago.
In the interview, Hadi alluded to civilian casualties and errant strikes earlier in the campaign, which began in December 2009, but he said that the United States and Yemen have taken “multiple measures to avoid mistakes of the past.”
Such as this step, which resulted in the deaths of 10-15 civilians just three weeks ago.
He also described a joint operations facility near Sanaa, the capital, that serves as an intelligence nerve center for operations against AQAP, as the terrorist group’s Yemeni affiliate is known. “You go to the operations center and see operations taking place step by step,” Hadi said.
AQAP exploited political chaos in Yemen in the past year, seizing territory in southern provinces and control of several cities, including Jaar and Zinjibar. Hadi said that the Yemeni military’s recovery of that southern territory marks “the beginning of the total defeat of al-Qaeda on the Peninsula” and that foreign AQAP fighters have fled to other countries including Mali and Mauritania.
Hadi emphasized that the toll in Yemen goes beyond the country’s casualties in its fight against al-Qaeda. He said the country has seen dozens of oil exploration companies abandon projects in Yemen and that tourism has evaporated, exacerbating the country’s economic problems.
U.S. Special Operations drones patrol Yemen from a base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa. The CIA aircraft are flown from a separate facility on the Arabian Peninsula whose location has not been publicly disclosed.
Keep in mind that Yemeni officials, including Presidents, often offer statements of support or cover for the undeclared US war in Yemen. As Chris Woods of TBIJ noted recently:
There is a long history of senior Yemeni officials lying to protect Barack Obama’s secret war on terror. When US cruise missiles decimated a tented village in December 2009, at least 41 civilians were butchered alongside a dozen alleged militants, as a parliamentary report later concluded. As we now know, thanks to WikiLeaks, the US and Yemen sought to cover up the US role in that attack. ‘We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,’ President Saleh informed US Central Command (Centcom)’s General Petraeus.