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US Policy in Yemen Short-Sighted and Dangerous, say Experts

Obama's drone campaign in Yemen is making matters worse, not better

Common Dreams staff

A makeshift tent in a slum area in Raida, some 40 miles northwest of the Yemeni capital Sana'a. Yemen needs humanitarian assistance, not drone strikes, say experts. (Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS)

A panel discussion organized by the National Council on US-Arab Relations on Tuesday  gathered experts to discuss the US-Yemen relationship. The message from experts, according to reporting by Inter Press Service, was that current US policy is not only short-sighted, but extremely dangerous.

A singular focus on defeating Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was not only counter-productive, experts contend, but also another war in which victory will likely be impossible to claim.  Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, and suffering from severe drought, a food crisis, and internal conflict should be the focus of development aid and conflict resolution, was the argument, not a destination for further destabilizing military campaigns.

IPS writes that the US "security-focused approach to Yemen has been epitomized by the Obama administration’s ratcheting-up of drone strikes in Yemen over the past four months," but noted that many participating in the discussion argue that such strikes were simply making matters worse in Yemen.

“If you look at certain barometers, it seems that [the United States] is losing," said Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen scholar at Princeton University. "The more it tries, the more it is sucked deeper into this quicksand.” 

Johnsen was also a signator to an open letter (pdf) by policy analysts and Middle East experts sent to Obama on Monday urging the his administration to “Reevaluate (the) strategy of drone strikes with the recognition that this approach is generating significant anti-American sentiment and could strengthen the appeal of extremist groups.”

The IPS report notes that on Monday, a US drone reportedly killed three AQAP members near the southern port of Aden and constituted the 24th drone assault (according to the Long War Journal) in Yemen this year.

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