In a recent Washington Post article covering the drone war, White House counterterrorism “czar” John Brennan (pictured) was quoted as saying, “There are aspects of the Yemen program that I think are a true model of what I think the U.S. counterterrorism community should be doing” to fight the spread of al-Qaeda in Northern Africa.
Before turning to the expansion of the death-by-drone program in North Africa, one should consider the case against Brennan's claim of success for the policy in the Yemeni theatre.
First, as we have reported, President Obama began ordering drone strikes in the Arab nation in 2009. Since that initial attack, Long War Journal reports that “the CIA and the US military's Joint Special Operations Command are known to have conducted at least 50 air and missile strikes inside Yemen.”
Given Brennan’s praise of the prosecution of the drone war in Yemen, one would imagine that al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) forces in Yemen have been eliminated or at least significantly weakened as a result of the U.S. drone attacks.
Not so much.
As Gregory Johnsen writes in BigThink.com:
Estimates of the group's size vary widely. But both US and Yemeni officials estimates in December 2009 suggested that AQAP was around 200-300, while today official US estimates range from 1,000 to several thousand. Yemenis who are close to AQAP suggest that the group has as many as 6,000 fighters.
But even taking the most conservative official estimate of AQAP's current strength, which happens to be Brennan's: the group still went from 200-300 fighters in 2009 to 1,000 today.
Click here to read the entire article.
Photo of John Brennan: AP Images