Drones in Yemen: Are We On Target?

Frank Cilluffo and I followed up with our latest article discussing the debate over the use of drones as a counterterrorism tool and their place in Yemen’s current conflict.  The article is available at the Homeland Security Policy Institute and is entitled “Drones in Yemen: Is the U.S. on Target?“.  Frank and I provide the latest installment in what I believe has been a particularly productive debate over the past month on the use of drones as a counterterrorism tool in Yemen.  The PBS special on AQAP in Yemen sparked our latest installment and this piece attempts to revisit our advocating for drone strikes one year ago.  I look forward to anyone’s thoughts on the article and this critical debate.  I assume @gregorydjohnsen and @jeremyscahill will provide some valuable commentary and contrasting perspective in the coming days as they have been invaluable to the debate.

Here’s a short summary of the article and for those that read this blog, I’m sure you won’t be surprised by my stance.  And for those that believe me a drone hawk, you can see me be a bit of a dove on in this recent article discussing the AQ threat to the homeland.

Today, HSPI released an Issue Brief entitled “Drones In Yemen: Is the U.S. on Target?” by Clinton Watts, HSPI Senior Fellow, and Senior Analyst with the Navanti Group; and HSPI Director Frank Cilluffo. Building on their past work on Yemen and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Watts and Cilluffo revisit the use of drones in Yemen, offering context to ongoing debates about U.S. counterterrorism strategy as well as recommendations regarding the way forward. The authors review what drones and Special Operations Forces (SOF) have accomplished over the past year, explore why AQAP has continued to thrive, and explain what critics of drones misunderstand about operations in Yemen. Watts and Cilluffo go on to urge continued improvement of intelligence to better the accuracy of drone strikes, and argue in favor of greater transparency and accountability in drone operations. The authors recognize that “drones alone cannot entirely defeat AQAP,” and call for the development of “a larger, long-run strategy…for pursuing U.S. counterterrorism objectives in Yemen.”

Here’s the link to the full pdf article.


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