This report in the New York Times details the latest drone attack in Pakistan, which killed at least 25 people Saturday.
Yemen has long been compared unflatteringly to both Afghanistan and Waziristan not only in the English press but also in Arabic newspapers and even local Yemeni reports. Back in 2005 Hazim al-Amin for al-Hayat spent a lot of time comparing Yemen to Afghanistan and in 2007 after the retaliatory strike following the July 2007 suicide attack on a convoy of tourists, Arafat Madabish compared Marib to Waziristan.
These comparisons and the growing sense that al-Qaeda is growing and regrouping in Yemen along with the fact that the Yemeni government seems unable to destroy it could eventually lead to a grafting of the drone policy in Pakistan onto Yemen. Two weeks ago, there were reports in the local Yemeni media that a US drone crashed in Yemen. I am usually wary about these reports, since from time to time falling rocks and other debris are reported as US drones – a phenomenon that has grown since the US used a drone to kill Abu Ali al-Harithi back in November 2002. But this latest report was confirmed by sources to my satisfaction.
I don’t think it is a secret that the US is flying drones over Yemen, but if the US grows sufficiently concerned about al-Qaeda in Yemen to start using the drones as attackers then I think there will be a real problem. Yemen is not Pakistan and using drones to attack al-Qaeda in Yemen would be a huge mistake that would have long and lasting consequences for the US.
UPDATE: I’ve heard from some who are unsure about the report of the drone crashing in Yemen, and so I’ve double-checked my sources in Yemen (both governmental and non-governmental) and they are standing by the story.