The Obama administration has ordered a dramatic increase in the number of drone strikes against targets within southern Yemen, with several launched per week.
Unlike the CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, the attacks in Yemen are being carried out by the military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and each requires explicit approval from President Obama himself.
Of course the CIA is also keen to start launching a massive number of drone strikes of their own in Yemen, with the organization working hard to expand secret airfields in the region from which to launch the strikes.
In comments at Harvard Law School, Obama aide John Brennan defended the legality of the strikes, insisting that attacks were never going to be restricted to “hot battlefields like Afghanistan” and adding “we reserve the right to take unilateral action if or when other governments are unwilling or unable.” Antiwar
FACTS & FIGURES
The CIA now operates Predator and Reaper unmanned aircraft, armed with Hellfire missiles, over at least five countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. CNAS.org
The Yemen program is modeled on the agency's covert program in Pakistan where it is seen as a violation of sovereignty that costs civilian lives. WSJ
Since December 2009, U.S. strikes in Yemen have been carried out by the U.S. military with intelligence support from CIA. WSJ
The CIA program also affords the U.S. greater operational secrecy, and because CIA drones use smaller warheads than most manned military aircraft, U.S. officials hope they will minimize any anti-American backlash in Yemen. WSJ
U.S Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich has strongly criticized the drone strikes by the United States in Pakistan and elsewhere, terming these as "summary executions" and "extra-judicial killings." APP