In an interview with reporters in Washington, DC this weekend, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen made public admission that he gives personal consent to each and every US drone strike that takes place in his country.
“Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president,” Hadi said in an interview with reporters and editors from The Washington Post. He praised the program and the capability of drone aircraft generally, adding, “The drone technologically is more advanced than the human brain.”
Though his predecessor, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down from power after 33 years earlier this year, was coy about US involvement in the airstrikes targeting Al-Qaeda members inside Yemen—often claiming that his military forces alone were responsible—Hadi shows no such reservations about discussing US assistance.
Foreign Policy's Ty McCormick, also reporting on Hadi's remarks, adds:
Hadi praised the "high precision that's been provided by the drones," adding that they leave "zero margin of error if you know exactly what target you're aiming at." He further acknowledged that drone strikes form an essential component of the campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) because of the Yemeni Air Force's inability to carry out night operations with its aging fleet of Soviet-made MiG-21s. "It's highly unlikely," he said, that these aircraft "would be successful."
Hadi's public endorsement of the U.S. drone program, which has expanded exponentially under President Obama, represents a shift from his predecessor's policy of denying U.S. involvement. According to a 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable, for instance, President Ali Abdullah Saleh told Gen. David Petraeus, "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours."
Hadi also accused Iran of seeking a foothold in his country by creating a "climate of chaos and violence."
Yemen, which is in the midst of a delicate GCC-led transition following the ouster of longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, faces a conflict with Houthi militants in the north, a stubborn separatist movement in the south, and a growing Al Qaeda presence in the country's tribal hinterlands. Much of the country's infrastructure -- including schools, roads, and hospitals -- has been destroyed in the fighting and thousands of citizens have been displaced.
At the same time, Yemen is grappling with critical water and energy shortages, a burgeoning youth population, and the second highest unemployment rate in the Arab world.
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