In Shadow of Syria Strike: August US Drone Strikes in Yemen highest in 16 Months (Searle)

Jack Searle writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

One strike in Pakistan ends 34-day stretch without an attack.

Yemen sees more strikes in a month than any time since March 2012.


A terror alert centred on Yemen gripped the US in August leading to six confirmed drone strikes. The US closed 21 diplomatic missions in the Middle East and east Africa in a move that one counter-terrorism expert called ‘crazy pants‘.

August saw the highest number of confirmed drone strikes since March 2012 when the Sanaa-based government, with considerable US air support, drove al Qaeda out of its southern and central provinces.

Of the 22-43 people killed, three were said to be senior militants. Alleged commanders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Saleh al Tays al Waeli and Saleh Ali Guti (aka Saleh Jouti) reportedly died on August 6, while Qaid Ahmad Nasser al Dhahab, described as AQAP’s ‘spiritual leader’ was killed in a night-time precision attack that was likely to be a drone strike on August 30.

Six civilians were reportedly killed, three children among them: two were adolescents, Hussain, 16, and Hassan, 17. The name and age of the third child is not known.

The unusual intensity of the drone strikes appears to support reports suggesting that restrictive new targeting rules, introduced at the time of President Obama’s major speech on drones in May, were relaxed in the face of the ‘elevated threat‘. A senior US official told the New York Times the list of people who could be targeted was increased: ‘Before, we couldn’t necessarily go after a driver for the organization; it’d have to be an operations director. Now that driver becomes fair game because he’s providing direct support to the plot.’

The exact details of the plot – believed to be the work of AQAP – are unknown. However President Hadi told Yemeni police cadets that it involved two huge car bombs, one intended for an oil terminal and the other a target in the capital.

Yemen: August 2013 actions
Confirmed US drone strikes: 6
Further reported/possible US strike events: 2
Total reported killed in US operations: 22-43
Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 6


A Bureau investigation appears to confirm the CIA briefly revived its controversial tactic of deliberately targeting rescuers. The Bureau first exposed these so-called ‘double-tap‘ strikes in February 2012. The new study focussed mainly on strikes around a single village in early summer of 2012, aimed at one of the last remaining senior al Qaeda figures, Yahya al Libi.

US Secretary of State John Kerry started the month with a visit to Islamabad in which he said drone strikes in Pakistan would end ‘very, very soon’. This statement was quickly taken back by the Department of State. A spokesman said: ‘In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises.’

On August 31 CIA drones killed four alleged militants from the Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan. Locals said they were foreigners affiliated with militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. It was the only strike in the month.

The lull in strikes this month in Pakistan came as an international security alert centred on Yemen led to a reported shift in focus from Pakistan’s tribal areas to the Middle East. Yemeni officials claimed a Pakistani bomb-maker had been killed in the sudden surge of Yemen strikes after crossing into the country.

Also in August, the Pakistan government said there had been a tacit understanding between Washington and Islamabad over drone strikes, not a written agreement – although it did not say when the understanding had started, or whether it was still in place. This came in response to questions in the National Assembly. The Pakistan government also came under pressure in the Punjab assembly, which adopted a resolution condemning drone strikes.

August 2013 actions

Pakistan: Total CIA strikes in August: 1
Total killed in strikes in August: 3-4, of whom 0 were reportedly civilians

Mirrored from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

8 Responses

  1. The drone strikes in Yemen seem to be nothing about an ‘elevated threat,‘ or at least not in the conventional sense, as in an Imminent threat against Western target, or foreign nationals/embassies. But, more so about preserving the Arab dictatorships and protecting the oil pipelines. While the 10 years of drone attacks in Waziristan, seems have little more affect, than creating more terrorists, than it kills. I’m assuming the Trans-Afghan pipeline is planned to pass through Waziristan instead of Jammu and Kashmir, which would explain why the keep on tirelessly droning the region.

    • What’s the oil interest in Somalia, then?

      You know, nations do use military force for reasons other than oil. You don’t even have to agree with those reasons to acknowledge this.

    • “While the 10 years of drone attacks in Waziristan, seems have little more affect, than creating more terrorists, than it kills.”

      Clearly wrong. The strikes in Waziristan have had the positive effect they were intended to have. They have reduced the terrorist leadership and operatives considerably. That’s why Al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations shifted their main operations to Yemen, where we now target them successfully.

      • People who castigate others with claims that they make broad assertions without benefit of any authoritative support other than such a bare “authoritative” or maybe authoritarian assertion ought to consider their own conduct. Got some cites for all that? Or just personal judgment?

        • Some of us actually read about and follow events in Pakistan and Yemen. Over the past year the US has shifted its main drone targeting from the FATA to Yemen because that is where the AQAP leadership and operatives are. The terrorists have been vastly diminished in the FATA due to the drone program. That has nothing to do with “personal judgment.”

        • No cites, then, to support the Authoritative Assertion?

          And I’ve read a lot of stuff, too, over the years, that purports to justify all kinds of crap that our rulers and military leaders have put out that would, if you bought into it, “make a case” for all kinds of idiocy. “Light at the end of the tunnel” being only one tiny example. And of course if one succeeds in limiting the frame of the argument to “where are the minuscule set of Big Bad Quada-men at at the moment,” to justify the legalistically questionable justificationalism, from the Company, or whoever runs it all these days, and get everyone arguing about that, and not recalling and accounting for and talking about trillions of dollars disappearing down MIIC rat and snake holes, and the futility of the whole apparatus in delivering “victory” or even “security”, or having an honest “mission” or even taxpayers’ Return On Investment (sic), while Creeps are peering down and up and around and at and into every freaking thing we ordinary schleps do or say or think while paying for all this, and what about the future of the species, if you can manage that, well, there you are! “Success!”

          So glad you are comfortable that “the terrorists” have been “vastly diminished.” When do we get to stand down, sir? The troops are tired, the nation is drained, and for some reason, blowing all those people up and playing the Game the way “we” do just makes MORE of what we call “terrorists…”

          I would have to agree that there is a dearth of “personal judgment,” on the Predator/Reaper/PRISMorwhatever side… link to

          For more fun, there’s this: link to

  2. When John Kerry mouths off and has to walk it back, it tends to be a situation of accidentally speaking a truth, rather than making something up.

    I wonder what’s behind his statement that the Pakistan strikes will be coming to an end shortly?

  3. Have we citizens all gotten to the apparently usual and inevitable point yet that the “droning” noise in the background has become such a usual and inevitable part of the way “we” do bidness that nobody notices, nobody cares, hardly anybody pays any attention any more?

    Settled comfortably in our myths, happy with the gentle fog of war…

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