Armies of Liberation

Jane Novak's blog about Yemen

Pres Hadi on US drones: more precise than the Yemeni Air Force

Filed under: Counter-terror, Sana'a, Saudi Arabia, Yemen — by Jane Novak at 5:04 pm on Saturday, September 29, 2012

Drone strikes are an improvement from aging and imprecise Soviet aircraft in the Yemeni air force, said Hadi, and that’s indisputable. (Why Saleh poured millions on the decrepit MIGs is another story.) Hadi, like Obama, personally approves all strikes in advance.

President Hadi was the only foreign leader that Obama actually had a meeting with, and the US considers him much more reliable than Saleh, not a high threshold to beat. Hadi said there are more controls that should reduce or hopefully eliminate errors and civilian casualties which are the primary concern among Yemenis and others. With 33 airstrikes this year, and 10 last year, the ratio of the death of innocents has dropped substantially, if we use the US metric that every male over 16 killed in a drone strike is assumed a terrorist and legitimate target.

Those in Yemen like HOOD who continually decry a loss of Yemeni sovereignty over its airspace should be reassured, but probably won’t be, by Hadi’s comments that he retains control. Those who see the air strikes as the harbinger of an impending US invasion are disconnected from reality and/or engaging in incitement and wouldn’t be swayed by any facts or adjustments to the program. The Houthis consider the Youtube trailer for the 2002 movie Rules of Engagement to be an CIA blueprint of some sort, really. Its a phrase to be avoided.

NYT: President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, elected in a one-candidate election in February, said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars that the precision afforded by drones gave them a marked advantage over the aging Soviet aircraft in the Yemeni Air Force.

“They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” said Mr. Hadi, a former army officer and the successor to Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after protests against his three-decade rule.

The United States “helped with their drones because the Yemeni Air Force cannot carry out missions at night,” he said. “The electronic brain’s precision is unmatched by the human brain.” —

On Tuesday, President Obama underscored America’s gratitude to Mr. Hadi by dropping by as the Yemeni president met in New York with John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser. While Mr. Obama spoke briefly with several heads of state at a reception during the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Mr. Hadi was the only one singled out for a meeting.

CT center in Sanaa includes Oman, SA, US and Yemeni reps

WAPO: Yemen’s president said Saturday that he personally approves every U.S. drone strike in his country and described the remotely piloted aircraft as a technical marvel that has helped reverse al-Qaeda’s gains.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi also provided new details about the monitoring of counterterrorism missions from a joint operations center in Yemen that he said is staffed by military and intelligence personnel from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Oman…

Hadi’s comments mark the first time he has publicly acknowledged his direct role in a campaign of strikes by U.S. drones and conventional aircraft targeting an al-Qaeda franchise that is seen as the most potent terrorist threat to the United States.

“Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president,” Hadi said in an interview with reporters and editors from The Washington Post. Praising the accuracy of the remotely operated aircraft, he added, “The drone technologically is more advanced than the human brain.”

Hadi’s enthusiasm helps to explain how, since taking office in February after a popular revolt ended President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule, he has come to be regarded by Obama administration officials as one of the United States’ staunchest counterterrorism allies.

In a sign of Hadi’s standing, he was greeted by President Obama during meetings at the United Nations in New York last week and has met with a parade of top administration officials in Washington, including Vice President Biden, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The pace of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen has surged during the past year, as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula gained territory in the southern part of the country and continued to mount attacks against the United States, according to U.S. officials who said they disrupted an airline bomb plot earlier this year that originated in Yemen.

The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA have carried out 33 airstrikes in Yemen this year, compared to 10 in 2011, according to the Long War Journal Web site, which tracks drone attacks.

In the interview, Hadi alluded to civilian casualties and errant strikes earlier in the campaign, which began in December 2009, but he said that the United States and Yemen have taken “multiple measures to avoid mistakes of the past.”

He also described a joint operations facility near Sanaa, the capital, that serves as an intelligence nerve center for operations against AQAP, as the terrorist group’s Yemeni affiliate is known. “You go to the operations center and see operations taking place step by step,” Hadi said.

U.S. Special Operations drones patrol Yemen from a base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa. The CIA aircraft are flown from a separate facility on the Arabian Peninsula whose location has not been publicly disclosed.

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