In December 2013, the United States drone campaign in Yemen came under intense scrutiny when a drone meant for an al-Qaeda operative accidentally hit a wedding party, killing 15 civilians. In the month since that strike, there have been three more U.S. drone strikes in Yemen. In this most recent strike, another civilian was accidentally killed while walking through a village.
After the initial strike, the U.S. launched an internal investigation into how this mistake happened. The strike came a few months after U.S. President Barack Obama vowed to decrease the number of drone strikes and hold the program accountable to minimize the loss of civilian life. The U.S. has also faced increasing international criticism over its drone campaigns in countries across the Middle East.
Yemen’s Parliament issued a statement calling for an end to U.S. drone strikes within Yemen borders. The vote was nearly unanimous and issued a ‘strong warning’ to the U.S. Government and Yemen President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A Yemeni government official was quoted saying, “The Yemeni public is angered by the drone strikes…the people’s representatives reflected on the tone of the streets.” Not only is the public outspoken against drone strikes, human rights groups on the ground have issued similar statements denouncing the action taken by the U.S.
Yemen and the US carry out some of these attacks as a joint program because the Yemeni military does not have the capability to reach some remote areas. The program is dedicated to combatting al-Qaeda, which has a strong presence in rural parts of the country.
It is estimated over 50 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Yemen. Human Rights Watch in Yemen has said the drone strikes may be backfiring with the Yemeni public, especially in rural areas that see the most activity. They even go as far as to say drone strikes have help al-Qaeda turn formerly peaceful tribes who have been affected directly. With public opinion increasingly turning against the Yemen government working with the US drone campaign, the politically unstable country will continue to see major problems.
– Colleen Eckvahl
Sources: CNN, Long War Journal
Photo: Wall Street Journal