CIA to target AQAP in Yemen with Predators and Reapers

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Readeing alot? says:

    A Sheepdog Pushes and Rounds up the heard.
    and this article by WSJ ….
    “As a rule, the CIA does not comment on allegations of prospective counterterrorism operations,” said CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf
    The Yemen program had been slated to begin in July, but the launch time may be moved back a few weeks to accommodate planning and logistical needs, U.S. officials said.
    and from WAPO
    “Federal prosecutors dropped nearly all charges against former U.S. intelligence executive Thomas Drake who was accused of leaking classified information to a newspaper reporter”
    “the Obama administration, which has brought more leak-related prosecutions than any previous administration ”
    So, who’s the dog?
    I’m just say’n.

  • kp says:

    @Soccer: “They should be targeting Kunar and Nuristan with drones, if anything:”

    They (i.e. the USAF and the US Army … which flies its own RQ-1 and RQ-9 drones) do exactly that. And they have fixed wing and helicopter assets too. The CIA focuses their drones (separate flights) on places the US military doesn’t.

    The CIA is most interested in targeting senior leadership and those that are looking to attack the US and West and those that support them in places we are “not at war” with. I think AQAP is the most dangerous emerging threat amongst those states.

    It’s also starting to come clear that the US is tiring of the “other double game” in Yemen. With Saleh apparently KOed in Saudi hospital (“brain surgery on the neck” to quote one Yemeni report … I doubt he’s coming back), the government being less able to control parts of their territory and, from the above report, not providing good intel against AQAP it seems that we have decided to start addressing the problem in Yemen directly with Saudi help (who have skin in the game).

    I wonder if the drones will fly from Djibouti or from Saudi?

  • Soccer says:

    I think that at this point, anybody who denies that we are indeed in a GLOBAL war against Islamism is simply hard headed.
    It worries me that we are this overstretched. Besides, we’re starving at home, can’t we cut back on anything? We are in 5 Muslim countries now, and that presence in itself is a very powerful recruitment tool for Al Qaeda.
    I notice with the TIME article, the mainstream media is finally starting to pick up on figures like Qari Zia Rehman and what he says about the war. It seems the left-wing mainstream media realizes they can no longer ignore this Long War and it’s global implications.
    It’s about damn time.

  • Soccer says:

    As Bill already knows very well, I am fascinated with the two provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. So much has gone on there in the past few months, it is ridiculous. Al Qaeda and other dangerous and vital militants are known to shelter there as well, so I thought it would be important to strike in those areas. It would also help the Afghan government and neutralize the terrorists in the area.
    Of course we could sit here all day focusing on what threats are the worst, but the point I was getting across is that sooner or later, something’s gotta give. Something’s gotta budge and it might just be us this time. The reason many empires and great societies collapse is because they overstretch themselves too thin and thus it sucks their resources dry. It’s the same case with us. We are criss-crossed all across the globe, chasing some primitive blood thirsty criminals who want to see the end of western civilization.
    I think they might see it soon. China holds all our debt, our credit rating is horrid there are signs we could default on the debt soon. Now, I believe it is necessary to pursue these bad men wherever they may be, but we are playing right into their hands. ‘Death by a thousand cuts’ is the method they are using to defeat us internationally. They know that they will never be able to defeat the alliance militarily, so they bleed us out through wars and long, bloody conflicts that also sap our energy and make us in-fight with each other on the home front. Sooner or later we’ll have to reduce our footprint somewhere, or else we won’t be able to fight AQ at all. AQ’s (AQAP’s, as well)’s main goal is to defeat us economically.

  • kp says:

    It may be worth considering these articles on how President Saleh was “blown up”. It doesn’t look like a rocket or artillery or a mortar or an RPG, as the Yemeni government reported, but a bomb. Why would they lie about that? How many people could plant a bomb in the Presidential palace mosque? And the FBI doing forensics there perhaps to see if it’s a known AQAP bomb signature? Or something else.

    This FP article has background on the succession in Yemen.
    It is a tribal society (remind anyone of FATA/Afghanistan or Somalia?) and it was suggested that the the al-Ahmar family was behind the attack. It looks like a Mafia novel or an episode of the Borgias with different groups relatives vying for power.

    Perhaps most importantly, why the Yemeni government has fragmented after this attack. Who is in charge?

    I do disagree with her final paragraph though:

    Yemen’s modern history is full of short, sharp conflicts, but it is when outside powers have intervened, as in the 1962-1970 bloody northern civil war — which became a proxy fight between Egypt and Saudi Arabia — that war has become most intractable. This observation provides all the more reason to worry about the deep involvement of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with its myopic focus on fighting al Qaeda, in Yemen’s crisis. Both players may be helping to set the stage for the regime’s internal rivalries to explode — with dire consequences for the Yemeni people.

    If the US is only interested in AQAP then the CIA is the best tool to use. We don’t have to get involved with the “civil war” just target AQAP when we find them. The Saudis have their own goals, of course, but they don’t want a Somalia-like basket case as home to AQAP.

    I suspect this is the backstory to the change in US government policy. Saleh and his families time is probably numbered. We can’t rely on the other people in charge to fight AQAP directly as they’re fighting for position in some future transitional government. Time for direct action and them we talk to a future transitional government when they have their act together. Of course with the US help that government won’t include AQAP.

  • Jose says:

    Soccer…couldn’t agree with you more. Too bad you weren’t there advising our “Leaders”! Soccer for prez….

  • kp says:

    More on the Yemen drone plan with the problems of getting on the ground intel to avoid civilian casualties.

    And a report that the US is building a secret CIA air base in the Persian Gulf region at an unknown location. Saudi given the intel will come from them but Oman is close and friendly and won’t annoy the Islamists as much. The military could also fly anti-piracy drones from there too over the eastern part of the Gulf of Aden leaving Djibouti for Somalia and the military drones


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram