Despite President Trump’s claimed antipathy for wars in the Middle East, he has dramatically stepped up US counterterrorism activity in Yemen, well beyond the levels he inherited from Barack Obama, according to a new assessment by a major counterterrorism watchdog.
A recently released report by Airwars, one of the most persistent researchers on wars fought under the veil of official secrecy, finds that the U.S. military and CIA have launched as many as 231 airstrikes and, to a lesser extent , ground engagements in Yemen from 2017 to 2020.
While the vast spike in attacks on Yemeni targets occurred during Trump’s first year in office, that total of 231 strikes is enough to almost match the 255 such strikes in Yemen during the eight-year term of the government. Obama’s tenure. This is the latest indication that Trump’s murderous counterterrorism actions have surpassed Obama’s, despite the widely held perception, encouraged by the President, that Trump disdains endless foreign wars.
Likewise, Airwars estimates that the 2017-2020 strikes in Yemen killed at least 121 civilians. Eight years of Obama strikes there, according to Airwars, have killed at least 166 civilians.
“2017 has been the worst year for reported civilian casualties in Yemen as a result of US actions since the concerted military and CIA strikes began in 2009. However, civilian casualties from US actions in Yemen are currently at relatively low levels, ”noted Airwars.
Although drone strikes account for the vast majority of military and CIA strikes in Yemen, Airwars examines the war on terrorism in Yemen more comprehensively, including field data that includes AC-130 gun strikes. , manned airstrikes and ground operations. While ground operations in Yemen, such as a disastrous raid in early 2017 that killed a Navy SEAL and the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar Awlaki, accounted for only 3% of violent actions by the United States, the director of ‘Airwars Chris Woods found they were at least 40%. of total probable civilian deaths.
“We’re less focused on the platform that killed them,” Woods said.
Further clarification is complicated by the great secrecy that the Trump administration has placed on its counterterrorism activities. In 2019, he officially rescinded a meager transparency measure promulgated late by Obama in 2016, which required public reporting of counterterrorism strikes beyond the declared battlefields of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
Airwars found an American security apparatus taking advantage of the restored secrecy. According to its report, Airwars found 31 strikes that took place after mid-2019, the last time the U.S. Central Command reported carrying out airstrikes. The report assesses that thereafter, “covert and clandestine strikes” carried out by the CIA and US special operations forces played an expanded role in Yemen.
“They have folded back into the bad old days of secrecy that we saw in the early years of Obama and George W. Bush,” Woods said.
Although the military has carried out airstrikes in Yemen consistently for over a decade, CENTCOM has represented to Airwars that it does not have a dedicated entity to track the civilian deaths it causes, and counts them rather ad hoc, leading to what many human rights observers consider to be drastic under-representation.
The CIA declined to comment on the Airwars report. CENTCOM and US Special Operations Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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