In Yemen a drone attack has killed three members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Saturday. The attack is suspected to have been a United States mission. This is plausible considering how vocal the U.S. has been recently about first having to stop drone patrols due to Abded Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s resignation from the Yemini presidential office and then announcing that they will continue them after some debate.
The drone attack is evidence that there will indeed be no cushion of time for AQAP in Yemen. This is important because it is believed that, given extra time without U.S. pressure, AQAP will plan attacks on Western targets. This group is responsible for the shooting that occurred in Paris on January 7 and it appears that the U.S. is remaining steadfast in its goal of preventing any further terror attacks of this kind.
The U.S. has conducted these stealth missions in Yemen for quite some time. After Hadi resigned, operations halted due to a lack of intelligence coming out of the area. Then on Monday, there was a bombing that killed two al Qaeda members and a sixth-grader. The killing of innocents has been one of the major criticisms of this program. However, it seems as though it is a risk the operation is willing to take.
The bombing on Saturday took place in a town called al Saeed in Shabwa. This area is in southern Yemen and not near Sanaa, the capital where Houthis are continuing to fight for control of the city. Residents of the town confirmed that the dead were al Qaeda. Residents of another town in the al Hada district informed the press of a drone that had crashed, but it is unknown whether these two incidents are related.
In addition to the al Qaeda killed by the drone attack in Yemen, the Houthi continue to try to control the capital city Sanaa. Recently protesters met in the capital to demonstrate against the takeover of the capital and the Houthis Shiite group opened fire on the protesters. Other provinces such as Ibb, Taiz and Bayda are experiencing protests as well and it has been reported that United Nations diplomat Jamal Benomar is a focus of these protests. He is being blamed for not controlling the chaos and violence.
In this atmosphere of chaos, many are calling for Hadi to return to office to help stop this downward spiral. Among his supporters is the U.S. as well as the Houthi rebels who hold the capital, Hadi has communicated that he has no intention of returning to his position. An official close to him relayed the message that he feels like if he went back he would be doing so with a “gun to his head.” The Houthis had a meeting in a sports stadium in Sanaa to tell people that they would like to make this transfer of power as peaceful as possible. This shows at least that they are working towards a peaceful solution.
The U.S. continues to target al Qaeda in Yemen with drone attacks, which appears to be necessary at this point as chaos continues in the divided nation. Yemen is in need of a strong leader who will unite its many parts but, as has been seen, this can be both an extremely difficult and an extremely dangerous task.
By Joel Wickwire