10 May ’14
In today’s modern world, the face of the enemy is changing. States are no longer the threat as was the case during the WWII or the Cold War. Today the threat is the terrorist, an unpredictable, transnational, and hard to pinpoint enemy. Today, it’s hard to talk about the War on Terror without mentioning the United States’ controversial drone program. Recently, a three day long operation in Yemen, killed a speculated 65 suspected members of al Qaeda.1 Although the total fatality count is unknown, it is speculated that 504 people have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen since 2002.4 Since 2009, drone strikes in Yemen have greatly increased and have been very successful in combating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), killing top AQAP members such as Anwar al-Awlaqi. However, drone strikes are also extremely damaging to Yemen and its citizens. Not only are there numerous civilian casualties but drone strikes also have a significant psychological impact. Yemenis are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and paranoia from the constant buzzing of drones flying overhead.4 Some mothers are even keeping their children home from school for fear al Qaeda members will approach them and the possibility that any contact with a member of al Qaeda will make them into a drone target.4
Currently, the U.S. does not release casualty figures for drone strikes since they are technically still covert operations. However, the new intelligence bill of 2014 included a provision that would require public declaration of civilian deaths caused by CIA drone strikes. This past week, the Senate dropped the provision, causing an uproar of criticism. Human rights activists demand change and more congressional oversight. On the other hand, it is very important to the Intelligence Community to “to protect against the disclosure of intelligence sources and methods or other classified information.”3 President Obama announced in May 2013 that he would reform drone policy so that “strikes only target high-level terrorist targets who can’t otherwise be captured, and when there is near certainty of no civilian casualties.”3 Although the number of drone attacks has decreased since this announcement, the recent massive drone strike in Yemen has lead to backlash by al Qaeda forces.
The United States has been working with Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and Yemeni armed forces in fighting AQAP. But now in response to U.S. drone strikes, a senior AQAP leader, Qassem al-Rimi, has vowed to attack anyone “acting as an intermediary with the Americans” and “any establishment, ministry, camp or barracks” involved in helping U.S. drones target terrorists.2 Some people believe that drone strikes are actually making terrorism worse and strengthening al Qaeda. The resentment towards the U.S. caused but the use of drones has only increased recruitment opportunities to al Qaeda in Yemen.5 While the U.S. government sees drones as being an efficient and precise way of getting a target, drones might not be able to solve the terrorism problem. Newly recruited terrorists quickly replace those killed in a drone strike. In order to solve the problem, we need to get to the roots of the problem that are breeding terrorism: “poverty, illiteracy, political marginalization and lack of opportunity for young people.”5