Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Yemen Drone Strike and US Evacuation: Signs of Drone War Intensification?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Yemen Drone Strike and US Evacuation: Signs of Drone War Intensification?

Article excerpt

The travel warning the State Department issued Tuesday calling on all Americans in the Gulf state of Yemen, including non-essential US government personnel, to leave the country immediately, reflects intercepted Al Qaeda communications urging terrorist actions against Western interests in the country.

But the evacuation of the Americans, including diplomats, may also suggest that the US is planning to intensify the sustained drone war it has been carrying out against Al Qaeda militants in Yemen.

It also reaffirms the view of White House and State Department officials that the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is now the terrorist organization's most active and dangerous arm.

The travel warning was issued in Washington as the US carried out a drone strike targeting a vehicle traveling north of the capital of Sana'a and reportedly carrying four Al Qaeda militants, all of whom were killed. Tuesday's strike was at least the fourth in the last two weeks - part of an intensification of the US drone war in Yemen over the past 18 months.

The British government on Tuesday also ordered a drawdown of its diplomatic presence in Yemen.

The Yemeni government lamented the US and British actions in a statement Tuesday afternoon, asserting that "The evacuation of embassy staff serves the interests of the extremists and undermines the exceptional cooperation between Yemen and the international alliance against terrorism."

As if to rebut recent reports of US concerns that Yemen is letting down its guard against Al Qaeda, the statement said Yemen has "taken all necessary precautions" to ensure the security of foreign missions in Sana'a and went on, "Yemen remains strongly committed to the global effort to counter the threats of Al Qaeda and its affiliates."

The latest US strike followed several others that were carried out just as Yemen's recently elected president, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, was about to meet last Thursday with President Obama at the White House. Those strikes also reportedly killed a number of militants - but it is not clear that any of the most recent strikes killed any of AQAP's top leaders or most-wanted fighters.

Yemeni officials said one senior AQAP militant, Saleh Jouti, was killed in Tuesday's attack, according to the Associated Press, and AQAP confirmed on a website that a July missile strike killed its No. …

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