WASHINGTON — At first, the news from Yemen
on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against
terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives
for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.
But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy
governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been
trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s
president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.
The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era
air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military,
according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al
Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.
The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war
against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the
deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan,
to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife —
the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence
operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams,
paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase
The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s
drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda
operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya.
The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle
terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French
strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private
contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs
in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.
While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama,
who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion
of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the
United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast
with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust
debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began
without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.
Read the entire article at The New York Times.