Predator strike against al-Qaeda in Yemen
The strike on Abu `Ali al-Harithi and his companions near Marib was carried out by a Predator controlled from Langley because past attempts to use conventional forces in this regard had failed. Last December, the Yemeni government sent in its special forces to search for al-Harithi and others. The local tribesmen allied with him put up fierce resistance, killing 18 soldiers. Al-Harithi and his colleagues escaped in the confusion.
Although the government now has 80 tribal sheikhs working for it (“Sheikhs against Terrorism”) against al-Qaeda, the complexities of these clans and of local politics are such that I very much doubt that they can be trusted with information about a strike against someone like al-Harithi without it leaking. But if you don’t alert the sheikhs to an operation in Marib, you face the possibility of having to fight tribesmen guarding their turf. Moreover, al-Qaeda is trying to intimidate the sheikhs who are cooperating with the government. The leader of the Bakil had two of his mansions come under rocket fire last weekend.
The Yemeni government had the farm at which al-Harithi was staying under surveillance by agents on the ground, who tracked his movements in the Rub` al-Khali. They (perhaps in cooperation with US special forces personnel also on the ground) presumably called down the Predator strike on his vehicle. The Predator probably took off from Djibouti. They thus risked no Yemeni or US conventional forces, avoided possible further firefights with local tribesmen, and sent a very powerful message to the re-grouping al-Qaeda leadership that they cannot hide and could die at any moment.