The Wall Street Journal reports that the CIA is preparing to take on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula using the unmanned Predator and Reaper strike aircraft, which the US employ for strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Currently, the US military has targeted AQAP in Yemen using cruise missiles and fixed-wing strike aircraft. At least one strike, on May 5, was carried out by a Predator. Anwar al Awlaki was the target of that strike. The last strike, on June 5, is thought to have killed a mid-level AQAP leader in Abyan.
Interestingly enough, the CIA is going to work with Saudi intelligence to conduct the campaign, according to The Wall Street Journal. There is no mention of pairing with Yemeni intelligence:
The CIA has been ramping up its intelligence gathering efforts in Yemen in recent months in order to support a sustained campaign of drone strikes. The CIA coordinates closely with Saudi intelligence officers, who have an extensive network of on-the-ground informants, officials say.
The new CIA drone program will initially focus on collecting intelligence to share with the military, officials said. As the intelligence base for the program grows, it will expand into a targeted killing program like the current operation in Pakistan.
While the specific contours of the CIA program are still being decided, the current thinking is that when the CIA shifts the program from intelligence collection into a targeted killing program, it will select targets using the same broad criteria it uses in Pakistan. There, the agency selects targets by name or if their profile or “pattern of life”–analyzed through persistent surveillance–fits that of known al Qaeda or affiliated militants.
By using those broad criteria, the U.S. would likely conduct more strikes in Yemen, where the U.S. now only goes after known militants, not those who fit the right profile.