The uptick in the CIA's drone war in Yemen shows there is no disguising U.S. concerns over losing the chief Yemeni ally in the war against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
U.S. drones and Yemeni military are "taking advatage of the power vacuum" created by the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to keep American-born Al Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki from solidifying his move to gain control of AQAP, a career counter-terrorism official explained.
The mission's objective is to eliminate Awlaki. The CIA had targeted him since shortly after Osama bin Laden was killed in the daring raid on his compound in Pakistan.
Yemeni military are also engaged in hunting Awlaki and other AQAP operatives, but sources say there are still concerns that the U.S. could lose "assets" and access in Yemen without Saleh, who is being treated in Saudi Arabia for serious wounds in the assassination attempt on him last Friday.
Concerns over whether the predator drones will be given permission to fly over Yemen in the future have not kept the U.S. from calling for Saleh to give up power so free elections can be held. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today Saleh has failed to keep his part of the bargain to allow the election to go forward.
"On several opportunities, President Saleh did not go forward with what we thought had been agreed to," Clinton said in Abu Dhabi at meetings on the future of Libya, another country like Yemen where The Arab Spring freedom movement has taken root.
"We don’t think that the instability can be fully addressed until those changes commence. And so we’re going to continue to consult closely with our friends in the region to determine the best way forward," Clinton said.
"I can’t speculate on what President Ali Abdullah Saleh will decide to do. That’s obviously up to him. But Yemen has a strong constitution, and we believe if their constitution were actually implemented, Yemen would be moving in the right direction," Clinton added.