U.S. drone attacks in Yemen cause political strain

U.S. drone attacks, which have often killed civilians in the past, are resented by Yemenis, even the many who abhor al Qaeda.

U.S. drone attacks in Yemen cause political strain

 World Bulletin/News Desk

As Yemen struggles to shake off ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh's legacy, the United States has intensified drone strikes, some Yemeni officials fear this may only fuel instability.

Saleh's former deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who replaced him as president under an internationally-backed, but still shaky, political transition deal, faces a tough time.

U.S. drone attacks, which have often killed civilians in the past, are resented by Yemenis, even the many who abhor al Qaeda.

Some Yemeni officials fret that more U.S. missile strikes will backfire, increasing hostility to a central government that risks being seen as a tool of Washington.

A senior Defence Ministry official, who asked not to be named, said the government feared what he called a "free-for-all" drone programme like the one in Pakistan and had insisted on "tough limitations" to ensure that joint U.S.-Yemeni efforts remain firmly in the hands of the Yemeni authorities.

"The Yemeni armed forces remain the sole determinant of all military operations within its borders. We have the final word on all proposed air strikes, regardless of U.S. intelligence. No strikes will take place without our prior consent," he said.

Yemenis still recall a 2009 U.S. cruise missile attack that killed dozens of people, including 14 women and 21 children.

Yemeni generals argue that a properly equipped and well-trained standing army, not more aerial bombardments by foreigners, represents the best way of uprooting the rebels.

Yemeni officials and Western diplomats agree that restructuring the armed forces, one objective of the transition deal.

But reforming the military cuts to the heart of a tense standoff between relatives of Saleh still in senior military and security positions and opponents determined to oust them.

The United States has not openly endorsed the wholesale removal of Saleh relatives, some of whom command elite units funded by Washington for years, prompting some Yemeni suspicions that it still sees them as allies in its fight with al Qaeda.

"Anti-American sentiment is on the rise. Not just in the villages which are being bombarded, but across the entire country, in the cities, in the universities too," said Abdullah al-Faqih, politics professor at Sanaa University.

"People feel as though their country's sovereignty is being violated, that their new president's government is nothing but a board of directors governed by the Americans."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Mayıs 2012, 11:45

Muhammed Öylek

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