The United States is "outsourcing" its war against Al Qaeda in Yemen to Saudi Arabia, it has been reported. The Times sensationally claims that Saudi Arabia has joined the US in prosecuting a clandestine aerial war against the terrorist organisation. The newspaper, which discloses that up to 228 people were killed last year by covert attacks in Yemen, quotes a US intelligence official as saying: "Some of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions".
The Times reports that there were five drone attacks in southern Yemen in the last ten days, the last attack killing "at least three suspected Al Qaeda militants" southeast of the capital, Sanaa, "where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has established the world's most active terrorist network". The covert aerial war, which is reported to be personally overseen by US President Obama, is now regarded in Washington as a "new model for US intervention abroad", the newspaper reports, adding that the legal issues arising from the arrest of enemy combatants has become so onerous , the Pentagon has "recast its orders". "There is no kill or capture any more. It's kill or kill," the newspaper quotes a US official saying.
The disclosure that US drone strikes in Yemen have been bolstered by Saudi fighter jets will raise fresh questions about the legality of America's expanding programme of targeted killings, The Times continues, adding that last year, for the first time, covert US air strikes in Yemen surpassed the number carried out in Pakistan, surging from just 8 attacks in 2011 to 53 in 2012, while in Pakistan the number fell from 72 to 46. As the US withdraws its troops from the increasingly domestically unpopular war theatre of Afghanistan, Yemen has come under concerted and unprecedented attack as the West attempts to subdue AQAP, "regarded by the United States as the most dangerous offshoot of Al Qaeda. The group has been responsible for three failed attacks on America in the past four years", The Times reports. And, increasingly, the US drone attacks are just part of an ongoing air assault targeting Islamist militants in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is launching its own strikes against AQAP in Yemen. It quotes Bruce Riedel, an ex-CIA officer and expert on US security: "We outsource this problem [of AQAP] to the Saudis, make it their problem. It is their problem." This strategy now appears to be regarded as "the template for future undeclared US wars", The Times comments
Yemen's President, Abd-Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, who was elected unopposed last year has endorsed the US drone programme. But he has made no comment on drone attacks by Saudi Arabia, Yemen's neighbouring country. Last year, when Adnan al-Qadhi, a Yemeni army officer, was killed by a night strike on his car nine miles from Sanaa, his brother asked:"If Adnan was guilty of any crime, then arrest him, put him on trial". But Riedel told The Times, "We have a problem. What are we going to do with a captured enemy combatant? Where are we going to put him? We cannot turn them over to the Yemenis for the same reason we can't turn the Guantánamo prisoners over to the Yemenis."
Capturing Al Qaeda militants is no longer an option. It is, as the unnamed US official said, kill or be killed.