The Washington Post recently ran an op-ed
by Danya Greenfield of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Harrir Center for the Middle East, and David Kramer president of Freedom House. The article argues that drone strikes in Yemen are counter-productive in that the strikes create more enemies than they eliminate.
The two authors
note that :
“Thirty-one foreign policy experts and former diplomats — including us — sent a letter to President Obama last week that said the administration’s expansive use of unmanned drones in Yemen is proving counterproductive to U.S. security objectives: As faulty intelligence leads to collateral damage, extremist groups ultimately win more support.”
The US-supported President of Yemen has been very supportive of the US campaign in Yemen. The US also helped Yemeni forces last year dislodge Islamic radicals from territory they had occupied during the protest and unrest prior to the final transfer of power to then vice-president Hadi from former president Saleh. The US drone campaign is aimed primarily at members of Al-Qeada in the Arabian Peninsula, although it seems customary to link any other radical Islamic group with Al Qaida.
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal also has spoken out against over reliance on drone strikes, and Gen. James Cartwright, former vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff also noted that among the unintended consequences of drone strikes was the hostility it generates in areas targeted, resulting in more extremism. After a drone strike last September
that killed 13 civilians a local Yemeni activist told CNN:
“I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined the lines of al Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake. This part of Yemen takes revenge very seriously.”
A former top adviser
to former president Saleh, Sultan al-Barkani, said:
“The drone strikes have not helped either the United States or Yemen. Yemen is paying a heavy price, losing its sons. But the Americans are not paying the same price.”
While there may be somewhat more pressure on the Obama administration to alter its drone policy, well over half
of Americans support drone strikes, so there is no real political incentive to change. While it seems that responsibility for drone attacks may in time be shifted to the Defense Department this may not change the secrecy involved nor even the policies. The Obama administration did however suffer a setback on the secrecy front when the ACLU won a court case
that will not allow the CIA to continue to claim its can "neither confirm nor deny" the existence of the program.
The Obama administration has also been found guilty of technically violating Pakistani sovereignty by conducting drone strikes without the express consent of Pakistan authorities. In fact, the Pakistani parliament has passed motions several times demanding the drone attacks stop but to no avail.
Wikileaks cables show that in the past there was a tacit agreement to the attacks with Pakistani authorities. Ben Emmerson of the UN is leading an investigation into drone strikes in several countries to determine if they are in compliance with international law and human rights. Somehow, I doubt whether these new critiques will move the Obama administration to change its drone policy which is constantly praised for its precision and success.
Much of the criticism and objections to the strikes has only to do with targeting US citizens and there is special concern for the possibility of an attack on a US citizen on US soil.