US to provide Yemen with warplanes amid drone strike criticism

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-6-30 8:49:32

The United States has agreed to give Yemen warplanes to fight al-Qaida militants amid calls by the public and international organizations for putting an end to US intervention and drone strikes in the country, a senior military official said Saturday.

"The warplanes, about three, will be shipped to Yemen in the next few months," the official said on condition of anonymity, adding "Yemen sent to the United States earlier this year pilots for training in operating the warplanes, in an effort to stop depending on complete foreign assistance."

Frequent US drones

Since 2009, the US drones have carried out many operations targeting al-Qaida leaders and most wanted members. And since the 2011 political upheaval in the Arab country, the drone strikes increased and people in areas such as provinces of Abyan and Marib have complained of the dangers resulted by such strikes.

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said in 2012 during a trip to the United States that there was coordination between the two countries to fight terrorism under which he, as the transitional president, personally gave permission to use US drones to target militants in Yemen.

Senior military officials said the Yemeni authorities are aware of all counterterrorism operations including drone strikes.

"All strikes are carried out through the coordination between the United States and Yemeni authorities including the Yemeni commander-in-chief's office, the operations room at the defense ministry and the Yemeni-US security coordination office at the U. S. embassy in Sanaa," a military official said.

"(But still) it is impossible to believe that foreign warplanes are easily violating our airspace... It can't be like that even though Yemen does not have modern military equipment," the official added.

US intervention

Some international organizations, such as the Britain-based Reprieve, considered the US drone strikes -- especially the misdirected ones that have killed dozens of innocents in recent years -- as part of illegal foreign intervention that affects Yemen's national security and social stability.

Cori Crider, the legal director at Reprieve, visited Yemen's national dialogue conference (NDC) in June, calling on the SANAA government to issue a law that criminalizes extrajudicial killings and violation of Yemen's airspace.

"Even though there were wanted and dangerous combatants, killings must be (conducted) according to the law," Bara'a Shaiban, a member of the NDC and coordinator for Reprieve in Sanaa said.

Shaiban said his team at the NDC has consensually made a decision on criminalizing extrajudicial and drone killings and they are struggling to ensure the new constitution will include provisions criminalizing foreign direct intervention.

"Yemen does not have advanced equipment to hunt militants at the moment and this is a key reason for the presence of US drones in the country," another official at the air force said. " We can say -- and this is not justification -- that the United States is providing complete assistance to Yemen."

"Theoretically no one can deny that US strikes may violate our country's sovereignty, but the Yemeni-US counterterrorism cooperation deals are clear and what is going must take place according to them," he added.

Local researchers said Yemen has laws that prevent direct foreign intervention on its soil but there are key reasons behind overpassing such laws on the ground.

"When it comes to the war on terrorism, the United States and Europe ignore sovereignty and that is a problem which Yemen should focus on," Abdulsalam Muhammad, head of ABAAD center for strategic studies, said.

"The United States has carried out drone strikes in Yemen's eastern and southern regions in recent years and dozens of innocents were killed, which stirs public anger and could affect the bilateral relations between the two countries," he added.

Posted in: Mid-East

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