The first known US drone strike approved by Obama in Yemen was in Ma’jalah, Abyan, on 17 December 2009, killing 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children, and 14 militants ــ alleged Al Qaeda members ــ only one of which was confirmed to be connected to Al Qaeda. A Yemeni investigative journalist remains in prison until today for "un-covering" this story.
A policy shift, approved in April 2012, allowed the C.I.A. and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command to strike militants in Yemen who may be plotting attacks against the United States, without necessarily knowing their identities. Thus, both the the CIA and Pentagon have been carrying drone strikes in Yemen and have separate kill lists of unconfirmed "suspects". According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism 116 drone strikes have been carried out in in Yemen since May 2011, of those attacks only 39 were confirmed by officials to be carried out by the United States. Hence, hundreds of deaths by drone strikes are unaddressed, unacknowledged and unaccounted for and many of those killed were not confirmed to be actual militants.
This year alone there have been more than 200 deaths from the strikes in Yemen. Last week a misdirected U.S drone strike killed 13 civilians, including 3 women (one of them reportedly a 10 year old girl) causing widespread anger among Yemenis as have many other strikes before. Yemenis have protested against the strikes and so have activists on twitter who launched a #NoDrones campaign in May 2012 to express their anger towards the strikes and to demand the U.S administration to halt them. They have renewed their campaign against U.S drone strikes using the same hashtag #NoDrones.
Yemenis hold both the U.S administration and Yemeni government accountable for the loss of the civilian lives, a.k.a "collateral damage" and the killings of "suspected" militants without any proof or fair trials. Both are partners in these unlawful attacks, the former for justifying and executing the strikes and the latter for allowing them to do so.
This is what Obama said defending drone strikes:
- Change the primary face of the U.S government in Yemen to alter the perception that U.S interest and attention are solely dominated by counterterrorism and security issues.
- Reevaluate the strategy of drone strikes with the recognition that it is generating significant anti-American sentiment.
- Work with Friends of Yemen to provide humanitarian aid for the more than 10 million Yemenis going hungry daily.
- Increase economic and governance aid to support democratic institution-building, so that it represents a greater proportion of overall assistance compared with military assistance
- Support the restructuring of Yemeni security towards a unified command hierarchy under Yemeni civilian leadership.
And this is what Yemenis had to say: - “Dear Obama, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda,” a Yemeni lawyer warned on Twitter.
- “I will join even Satan if I have to in order to get revenge for my wounded 7 year old son,” said one angered father from Jaar who preferred to remain anonymous.
- "Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen," said Ibrahim Mothana, a democracy activist.
- Salim al-Barakani, a businessman who's two brothers — one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman — were killed in a U.S. strike in March said "these attacks are making people say, ‘We believe now that al-Qaeda is on the right side.’ ”
- Mohammed al-Ahmadi, legal coordinator for Karama, a local human rights group said “every time the American attacks increase, they increase the rage of the Yemeni people, especially in al-Qaeda-controlled areas.”
- “There is more hostility against America because the attacks have not stopped al-Qaeda, but rather they have expanded, and the tribes feel this is a violation of the country’s sovereignty,” said Anssaf Ali Mayo, Aden head of Yemen's al-Islah Islamist party.
- "This is seen from the fact that US strikes are seen as an invasion, an occupation and a breach of sovereignty," said a citizen journalist.
- Local activist Nasr Abdullah told CNN, ‘I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined the lines of al Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake. This part of Yemen takes revenge very seriously.’
- Listen to what Yemenis said in this HuffPostLive video. More had been said by Yemenis and others in this storify, and this too. And this is what Pakistanis had to say about the U.S drone strikes:
A USAID official boasted about the U.S being the largest provider of humanitarian aid, in the last Yemen donor conference held in Riyadh. Yet, what Yemen needs most besides aid is for the drone strikes to end. There is nothing human in the use of drone strikes to "fight terrorism" in Yemen. U.S drone strikes continue to destabilize the country further, instill fear in the civilans who can be possible targets, breeds resentment towards the U.S, and increases militants in Yemen and thus terror. In fact al- Qaeda has been growing in numbers since the U.S strikes intensified in Yemen, they were estimated to be 300 members in 2009 and despite the ongoing drone strikes and constant reported killings of al- Qaeda militants and "suspected' militants, they are now reported to be more than 700, i.e more than double the initial figure. This clearly indicates, as many experts have stressed, that the U.S counter terrorism policy in Yemen needs to be seriously examined and consequently re-evaluated.
In summary : "U.S drones have not only resulted in death and destruction, but have also been counter productive to the counter-terrorism efforts, because with each casualty, militants groups gain more members."
Related links: Interactive Map: America's War in Yemen Drone Death in Yemen of an American Teenager : (Birth Certificate) Families of Americans Killed by Drones to File Suite : (The Complaint) In Yemen. U.S. Airstrikes breed anger and sympathy for al-Qaeda How Drones Help Al Qaeda US War on Yemen: Invisible Casualties US War on Yemen: The View From the Ground 29 Death in 8 Days as U.S Puts Drones On Over Drive The Failed US Policy in Yemen Dodging the drones: How militants responded to the covert US campaign It is uncertain whether America's drones have their intended effect A new analysis finds five ways drones strikes in Yemen are hurting American interests Video: How Drone Strike Help Al Qaeda Drone strikes threatens 50 years of International Law, says UN rapporteur Obama's 'kill list': Short term CT efforts undermine U.S Long-term goals Obama's Drone Surge in Yemen Ignored at Home