Magazine article The World Today

Q&a

Magazine article The World Today

Q&a

Article excerpt

Ibrahim Mothana, 24, is a Yemenipolitical activist and co-founder of the Watan Party

There have been two drone strikes in the past four days. What's going on?

It is easy to see the effect. After the first strike the road between Marib and Sana'a was closed. This was the retaliation of the tribes in Marib. We don't know if this amounts to an escalation of drone strikes, but it is clear this will end with the Talibanization of the tribal areas.

What do you mean?

A few years ago the US was speaking of a few hundred AI-Qaeda members in Yemen. According to John Brennan (the US counter-terrorism adviser), now it is thousands. It is important to understand where these people are coming from. We always hear about a senior militant killed here or there, and with him were 10 or 12 other militants. Who are they? In many of these cases they are either ordinary tribesmen or people who are not fully fledged Al-Qaeda members or do not pose any direct threat to the US. The tribes of those who are killed feel their dignity and sovereignty is being attacked. That's why we see an increasing number of Ansar al-Shari'a, which is a local franchise of Al-Qaeda.

So the victims are all small fry?

When the drone strike was introduced it was meant to kill the 'high-value target'. Sometimes you do have attacks on high-value targets, but those strikes are very few. Now they have the 'signature strike' (where targets are not identified by name, but by certain types of activity). This is what is causing the problem. We have witnessed some spectacular mistakes in past years, one of which was the assassination the deputy governor of Marib.

He was an ally of the US and the Yemeni government. How did that happen?

In Yemen we have a divided army and division among the tribes. Maybe someone provided false intelligence. The government in any case has an interest in continuing this war on terror. …

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