U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes
The Obama administration has intensified the American covert war in Yemen, exploiting a growing power vacuum in the country to strike at militant suspects with armed drones and fighter jets, according to American officials.
The acceleration of the American campaign in recent weeks comes amid a violent conflict in Yemen that has left the government in Sana, a United States ally, struggling to cling to power.
Yemeni troops that had been battling militants linked to Al Qaeda in the south have been pulled back to the capital, and American officials see the strikes as one of the few options to keep the militants from consolidating power.
We can see specific examples of U.S. involvement:
On Friday, American jets killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, a midlevel Qaeda operative, and several other militant suspects in a strike in southern Yemen. According to witnesses, four civilians were also killed in the airstrike. Weeks earlier, drone aircraft fired missiles aimed at Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric who the United States government has tried to kill for more than a year. Mr. Awlaki survived.
But Mr. Boucek and others warned of a backlash from the American airstrikes, which over the past two years have killed civilians and Yemeni government officials. The benefits of killing one or two Qaeda-linked militants, he said, could be entirely eroded if airstrikes kill civilians and lead dozens of others to jihad.
Edmund J. Hull, ambassador to Yemen from 2001 to 2004 and the author of “High-Value Target: Countering Al Qaeda in Yemen,” called airstrikes a “necessary tool” but said that the United States had to “avoid collateral casualties or we will turn the tribes against us.”
Can the U.S. afford to become involved in yet another conflict in the region?
That question appears to be moot at this point - the facts are simple: The U.S. is involved and the involvement seems to be increasing. At the same time, involvement in Libya is increasing. The situation in Afghanistan will clearly require more U.S. troops, just as deaths in Iraq have been increasing recently.
Sooner or later there will be a breaking point as decreased funding for the military is currently being discussed.
It appears that Yemen may be the new Libya, which was the new Afghanistan, which was the new Iraq.
How much thinner can the troops and funding be stretched?