Aaron at al-Wasat posted another solid note reference the use of drones in Yemen. I just posted a response but I encourage all those interested in the drone debate to check his post. Aaron and Brian have both introduced some relevant information specific to Yemeni dynamics with respect to the use of drones. Here is my note to Aaron’s post (which I screwed up the quotes on at his blog):
Good post, I’ll add a few more points to the discussion.
As far as rates and comparison with Pakistan, the drone program began there as mostly surveillance and only expanded after other options to root out AQ failed. I echo the point on relationships, but you noted in your post that our current relationships with certain tribal leaders is already exacerbating the problem. So it would seem to me that every relationship we make will only further exacerbate the divide between AQAP and the U.S., further entrenching certain tribes on the AQAP side.
Lastly, I see the drone program as a way to avoid getting involved in Yemeni domestic conflicts. All other options require us funding and bolstering the Salih regime; but drones don’t necessarily reinforce the Salih regime. Drones require basing but spin off little additional funding that can be diverted to the regime for violent use against the Huthi. As long as we thoroughly evaluate the intelligence we are provided, the drone program appears to me to be the best way to get at AQAP without getting enmeshed in Huthi insurgency issues. I don’t know enough about Yemeni internal politics, but all other support to Yemen seems likely to get diverted to other fronts and issues we don’t want to be involved in.