Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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You Might Have Missed: Yemen, Drone Wars, and More

by Micah Zenko
May 25, 2012

A military band plays at Arlington National Cemetery (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). A military band plays at Arlington National Cemetery (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).


2011 Human Rights Report: Yemen, U.S. Department of State, May 24, 2012.

The government also employed air strikes against rebellious tribes in Nihm and Arhab. Human rights observers and local residents accused the government of targeting villages of these tribesmen in both areas with aerial bombardment, leading to significant noncombatant casualties. The government also employed air strikes against AQAP and affiliated insurgents in Abyan, with some strikes hitting civilian areas. Although some accused the government of intentionally striking civilians in Abyan, most if not all noncombatant casualties from these bombardments were attributed to a lack of air force training and technical capability.

(3PA: For my response to this description of what could have been CIA or JSOC air strikes, see here.)

Iona Craig, “U.S. Drone Blitz on Yemen Swells al-Qaeda’s Ranks,” The Times of London, May 24, 2012.

Iona Craig, “Resistance Battles Al-Qaeda-Linked Fighters in Yemen,” USA Today, May 24, 2012.

From a nearby military base, Jamal Naser al-Aqel, the provincial governor, said the support of the tribesmen and residents is vital in the offensive to crush the insurgency. Long-term success is likely to depend on improving the impoverished lives of the people here. “We have a lot of problems here. The greatest problem here in Abyan is poverty,” al-Aqel said. “Al-Qaeda is here because of the poverty. What we need from America is economic help.”

Phil Stewart and Mark Hosenball, “Bin Laden Film Got No Special Ops Help: U.S. Admiral,” Reuters, May 24, 2012.

[U.S. Special Operations Command chief, Adm.] McRaven played down the sensitivity of the mechanics of the raid itself.

“There was nothing frankly overly sensitive about the raid. We did 11 other raids much like that in Afghanistan that night,” McRaven said.

“From a military standpoint, this was a standard raid and really not very sexy.”

Jim Garamone, “Defense, State Leaders Urge Senate to Ratify Law of the Sea Treaty,” American Forces Press Service, May 23, 2012.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey: “But, the force of arms does not have to be — and should not be — our only national security instrument.”

Suzan Fraser, “Turkey Says U.S. Favorable to Sale of Armed Drones,” Associated Press, May 22, 2012.

Washington, which is providing technical and intelligence to Ankara in its fight against autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels, deployed four Predator drones from Iraq to Turkey last year. NATO-ally Turkey is now trying to acquire armed drones — the kind the U.S. has used to target militants in places like Yemen and the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But analysts say some Congress members may oppose the sale of armed Predator drones to Turkey due to its tense relations with Israel, a close U.S. ally. A botched Turkish military airstrike in December aimed at the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that killed 34 civilians is also likely to further complicate any sale.

Kimberly Dozier, “Who Will Drones Target? Who in the U.S. Will Decide?” ABC News, May 21, 2012.

White House counterterror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in choosing which terrorists will be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure for both military and CIA targets.

The effort concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones within one small team at the White House.

Walter Pincus, “House Puts Squeeze on Military’s Musical Arsenal,” Washington Post, May 18, 2012.

In a statement placed in the Congressional Record, McCollum said: “Over the past four years, taxpayers have spent $1.55 billion for the Pentagon’s 150 military bands and more than 5,000 full-time, professional military musicians…. At a time of fiscal crisis the Pentagon will have to get by spending only $200 million for their musical arsenal.”

The military has plans to spend $388 million on military bands in fiscal 2013 — roughly $10 million less than this year.

(CPA: By way of comparison, while the U.S. military has 5,000 full-time musicians, the authorized total workforce for the U.S. Agency for International Development is 6,400 people.)

Assessing the Representativeness of Public Opinion Surveys,” Pew Research Center, May 15, 2012.

It has become increasingly difficult to contact potential respondents and to persuade them to participate. The percentage of households in a sample that are successfully interviewed – the response rate – has fallen dramatically. At Pew Research, the response rate of a typical telephone survey was 36% in 1997 and is just 9% today.

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  • Posted by Don Bacon

    “White House counterterror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in choosing which terrorists will be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure for both military and CIA targets.”
    That’s Brennan’s story, as iterated in his recent speech. Actually he is targeting people based upon their behavior patterns, so-called “signature” behavior. And of course anyone in the near vicinity of an exploding eighteen-pound blast fragmentation warhead is a goner.

    This is otherwise known as: Recruiting a resistance, as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc.

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