Intel influx leads to increased U.S. strikes in Yemen
April 19th, 2012
02:12 PM ET

Intel influx leads to increased U.S. strikes in Yemen

By Barbara Starr

The increased pace of counterterrorism strikes in Yemen by U.S. drones and aircraft is a result of what U.S. military and intelligence officials describe as improved intelligence about the leadership of the al Qaeda movement in that country.

The United States is using a broad range of assets, including manned U.S. fighter jets, along with unmanned drones operated by the military and by the CIA, according to two senior American officials who would not be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The target list of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists the United States has developed has emerged since an American drone killed Anwar al-Awlaki last year in Yemen. Al-Awlaki was identified as a key operative, and the United States has focused on trying to determine the leadership structure that has emerged since his death.

Both officials said the standard of judgment for a U.S. strike is that the target must have a "direct interest" in attacking the America.

"The emphasis is on surgical targeting" one official said, explaining that the focus is on specific targets where there is detailed intelligence that supports the decision to conduct an airstrike.

Just this past week, five U.S. drone strikes killed six suspected al Qaeda militants in the southeastern Yemeni province of Shabwa, two security officials and one defense ministry official told CNN's Hakim Almasmari. According to two Defense Ministry officials, at least 11 U.S. attacks were conducted on Yemeni soil over the past week alone.

The Defense Secretary Leon Panetta emphasized on Thursday that the United States is seeking out only those who threaten the America.

"Our target there represents those terrorists, or those al Qaeda terrorists that involve a threat to this country, and there are very specific targets," Panetta said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing. "This is not broad-based, we are not becoming part of any kind of civil war disputes in that country. We are very precise, and very targeted and will remain pursuant to those operations."

He added that the position of the administration "is to go after ... those al Qaeda terrorists, who are involved in planning attacks on this country. No more, no less."

The United States is also working with Yemen's special forces to increase their capabilities as part of the counterterrorism strategy in that country, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the same committee.

"It's important not to see this as we are only doing one thing and not the other," Gen. Martin Dempsey said.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that the CIA is seeking permission to conduct so-called "signature" strikes, which generally are aimed at targets or compounds involving suspicious behavior. CNN has not be able to confirm the report. Panetta would not comment on the Post story when asked about it at the hearing.

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Malvina Kotter

    March 6, 2021 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  2. Pete

    Eliminating the leadership who are planning strikes on the US should be applauded but does not really address the problem. First, Awlaki's role in the organization should not be over-estimated. He was probably the director of US operations but this was not as significant in AQAP's strategy as there "near" war. To be effective, we must reduce AQAP's overall capability and erode its ties with its Somali allies. While the eliminationg of an Awlaki is a success, ultimately a capable replacement will be identified if the overall group is allowed to flourish. AQAP's predecessor was susceptible to de-capitation perhaps a similiar strategy targeting AQAP might be part of a broader strategy.

    April 24, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  3. Pete

    While the strategy of increased strikes against those threatening the US should be applauded, we need to ask whether a broader objective is being missed. AQAP's predecessor organization AQY was susceptible to decapitation. Might a similar strategy against the broader AQAP be considered to reduce its overall organizational capability. Trying to eliminate those who wish to strike the US is laudable but ultimately reducing AQAP's operational capability and its resource pipeline in Somalia is the broader objective.

    April 24, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Reply
  4. Keith Urban is Gay

    ......and so are all his songs and videos.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  5. Joe

    My concerns are the lack of due process. If surgical attacks are justified on suspicion, what are the penalties for incorrect assumptions. If the enemy acts suspicious as a ruse and the US intel team falls for it, they could be guilty of unjustified homicide. Sort of like those that were made fools by Saddam's WMD ruse.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:29 am | Reply
    • frank

      "lack of due process"? are you under the impression that war is some kind of judicial process? that the enemy is entitled to a preliminary exam and appointed counsel if indigent? how absurd.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:18 am | Reply
      • finkey

        Well said!

        April 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  6. Sid Airfoil

    Whether our war against Al Qeada is worth it depends on whether you believe that they hate us for what we DO or for what we ARE. If they hate us for what we DO (i.e. our invasions of Muslim countries, our support of Israel or our support of Muslim dictators), then we could avoid conflict with Al Qeada by changing our behaviors (and there are some that we SHOULD change for our own reasons). However, I believe that they hate us for what we ARE. Our cultural values are secularism, pluralism, individualism, and toleration. In other words, we are the opposite of what Islamists are in every measurable way. ANd worst of all. we are more successful as a culture than they are, objectively demonstrating that our values are superior to theirs. I think that our very existence as a successful culture is an insult to them and they just can't live with it. I think that they use what we DO as an EXCUSE to attack us for what we ARE. As a result, I don't think that changing our behaviors will have much of an effect on their hatred for us. If we stop doing one thing that they hate, they'll just find some other excuse to hate us. So I suppose that the only thing we can reasonably do is to keep fighting them. Personally, I like the targeted drone strikes. They are quick, easy, cheap and apparently pretty effective.


    April 20, 2012 at 6:30 am | Reply
    • frank

      good analysis. kudos!

      April 20, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • Robert

      Your thinking is correct. As a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officercs (AFIO), I heard Michael Schuer, ex-head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, say your exact words. Robert at Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) News

      April 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  7. johnny57

    Good thing we have our man, Mr. Barack Obama, on the job. This guy is tough on terrorism. A lot more than that other guy. He got Osama, and he got AL-Alrawki. The man has terrorism on the run!!

    April 20, 2012 at 1:17 am | Reply
  8. Steve in Iowa

    Kinda curious... Are we at war with Yemen or are we bribing their leaders not to retaliate?

    April 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Reply
    • nk

      We are fighting al queda, which has actually grown dramatically and even caputured a few small towns in the country> It kind of sucks that I could care less what happens there. I'd rather my country not worry about it.

      April 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Reply
      • nafrankie

        Really, like just before 9/11. Let your Country be some place Other than America

        April 19, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  9. bspurloc

    now get out of Afghanistan.....................

    April 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Reply
    • biggerdawg

      When we're ready. Now, sit down and shut up.

      April 20, 2012 at 5:23 am | Reply
  10. Osiris




    We can’t support a criminal regime any longer, not while we still have problems of our own.

    April 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Reply
    • Imjesayin

      Yes. I always trust people who use the word "Zionist." Always a good indicator of a rational thinker. (sarcasm)

      April 19, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Reply
      • Osiris

        Which is funny, because I actually only use the same terms that ZIONIST politicians nandy about everyday....

        "zionism is not racism" Barack Obama.

        So to you I say.....

        Suck these nuts, you piece of shittt.

        April 20, 2012 at 1:40 am |
      • Dave

        Well Osiris, thanks at least for revealing your (mental) age.

        April 20, 2012 at 2:01 am |
      • Osiris

        Hush Dave, your nobody.

        And stupid enough to shell out your tax dollars to am aparteid nation.

        April 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • nafrankie

      And were would your problem be Yeman, sure not Upstate New York kinda Veiw, or Name

      April 19, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Reply
    • Commojoe

      Bozo, get a life and stop spreading your anti-Israel hate here,

      April 20, 2012 at 1:20 am | Reply
      • thesteward

        While zionism is a threat, it motherfukkkkers like you who make the world dangerous, Commojoe.

        Osiris, god bless you. You are not alone by any means.

        April 20, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • rick

      "our own"? who is this "our" you are referring to? the Gaza city council, the "hookah smokers of ramallah" club? from your fractured english, i doubt you are an american, not even from dearborn. Keep chanting the palestinian mantra: "woe is me, woe is me, everyone but us is the cause of our misery", it's really helped your people so far.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:23 am | Reply
  11. HughMungus

    "Both officials said the standard of judgment for a U.S. strike is that the target must have a "direct interest" in attacking the America."

    Like Iran or North Korea perhaps? What constitutes a "direct interest", whispering it to a friend?

    April 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Reply
    • nafrankie

      Works For Me

      April 19, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Reply
    • rick

      you choose the wrong side and then you cry, whine and beat your breast! oh, so sad.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:24 am | Reply
  12. Sal

    We cannot defeat all these fucking muslim bastards! They are like ants and there is no end to them. I hate religion because I have seen what it has done in the world. The world would be a much better and safer place if there was no religion! 

    April 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply
    • Pinko

      Does your hatred of religion extend to your own, or is it primarily for Muslims?

      April 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
      • J-Man

        This guy hates religion. He didn't single out any one religion. However both he, and probably you will be spending eternity in an unpleasant place.

        April 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
      • Pinko

        Why am I going to hell? Is it because I'm a pinko? And with all due respect, I do believe that the term 'fucking muslim bastards', does indeed, single out the Muslims.

        And I'm already in an unpleasant place. I'm at my in-laws.

        April 19, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • YoungMarine

      I completly agree. No religon= no jihadist no Christians killing Muslims and no Jews watching Muslims and Christians kill each other

      April 20, 2012 at 12:01 am | Reply
  13. shivadass

    These events are nothing more than organized bullying.
    A new future is as close as we want it to be.

    April 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  14. Yoshinobu Togukawa

    Send more drones. Kill those 父子のヤギの息子

    April 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  15. If only i was an editor

    Gotta make sure we protect "The America"

    April 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  16. frank

    sounds good to me. this is what happens when you pull on supermans's cape once too often. killing americans and planning to kill Americans is obviously not a good idea.

    April 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply

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