The Al Qaeda offshoot known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has in recent months exploited the violence and social unrest convulsing Yemen, taking over towns in the south of the country. In response, Obama authorized broadening the use of unmanned drone strikes against militants, including the controversial decision to assassinate the radical Al Qaeda cleric and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.
Drone warfare received the quiet endorsement of now-deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who told U.S. General David Petraeus that we'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours, according to a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks. But with Saleh forced aside, the White House is moving to forge a partnership with Yemen's new government at a politically precarious moment.
According to the Times, the counterterrorism strategy will involve using drone strikes and elite Special Operations units to pursue al Qaeda while also equipping and training Yemeni security forces. That approach mirrors a move to a new model of warfare, embraced by the Obama administration, that puts more emphasis on deploying small, nimble units and advising other countries' security forces.
The United States has increased its security aid to Yemen from $30.1 million last year to $53.8 million this year. Officials are wary of that money propping up factionalism in the armed forces, and some Yemenis have cautioned that much of the military hierarchy loyal to Saleh remains intact.
After the past year, the Yemeni people now are thinking that America is helping them, and the American role is respected, Ali al-Mamari, a Yemeni member of Parliament who quit the ruling party amid a violent crackdown on protesters, told the Times. If the Americans continue to support the son and nephews of Saleh in the same way, the stance of the Yemeni people will change toward America.