The repercussions of drone strikes
Hadi began the year with a mountain to climb. The political transition sponsored by the
Sana'a remained physically divided between rival military factions aligned to the former president and to General
Many doubted that Hadi would be strong enough to see the process through. Yet he is gradually reshuffling -- not without resistance -- military commanders allied or related to the ex-president. The preparations for the national dialogue conference, though delayed, are also inching forwards. In June, the Yemeni army finally forced a retreat of Al-Qaeda affiliated militants occupying Zinjibar, provincial capital of Abyan, toppling the short-lived 'Islamic Emirate of Abyan'.
International concern in
After more than a decade of the 'war on terror', Al-Qaeda has found itself on the back foot in the
AQAP has mounted a handful of attacks on foreign targets, such as the
As the transition plan reaches its halfway point, it is clear that the US war against Al-Qaeda is casting a shadow over the process. The first targeted killing carried out by the US in
Journalists, analysts and human rights monitors are questioning the lack of transparency with which America's shadow war in
Critics argue that this 'missile surge' will create as many AQAP supporters as it kills. In an
Some advocates of the strategy acknowledge that it is a short-term solution, but argue that there is no evidence that drone strikes have led to significant levels of radicalization. There is consensus that the long-term solution is a stable, government in Sana'a and an economy able to support rural livelihoods. But for Western governments, eliminating short-term risk is the priority. If an attack such as the 2009
Nevertheless, as President Hadi climbs his political mountain, it is worth looking at how America's shadow war might be undermining the interim government. In
There are sporadic reports of protests against drone strikes, in particular in areas where civilians have been killed by mistake, such as in Hadramawt and al-Bayda provinces. Protesters have complained of Sana'a's lack of acknowledgement or compensation for deaths and injuries, as well as infringement of sovereignty. These can be costly mistakes. In
In another sign of growing discontent there has been a noticeable rise in support for the Houthi movement, the Zaydi Shi'i militants who have been engaged in an intermittent war with the Yemeni government since 2004. Their anti-American slogans are daubed on walls in the capital. Yet among the political elite in Sana'a there appears to be little appetite to challenge US counterterrorism policy. In the context of Saleh's legacy of disillusionment with political processes, this incapacity to respond to concerns about drone strikes may be undermining Yemenis' hopes for a government that represents their interests.
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(c) 2013 By Joel Brinkley, "Is the American Shadow War Helping Yemen?"