The Pentagon has confirmed that a former Guantanamo Bay detainee that had been going by the name of Yasir Ali Abdallah al Silmi since his release has been killed by a drone strike during ongoing airstrike operations in Yemen. Previously known as Mohammed Tahar, he had rejoined al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (A.Q.A.P.) since his release.
Drone Strike Kills Al-Qaeda Radical
Tahar was part of a small group of detainees that the Obama Administration had released to Yemen in 2009 despite concerns about the chaos in Yemen at the time. The drone strike was part of an increased effort to root out al-Qaeda operatives operating outside the control of local government authorities. This effort included more than 40 airstrikes throughout central and southern Yemen since the end of February.
Although Tahar was not considered a “high-value” target, the Obama Administration made the tactical error of pushing too hard for the release of al-Qaeda operatives like him who were likely to rejoin the fight against the United States. Republicans point to the return of operatives like him to the battlefield in Yemen as proof that they were right to refuse to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, as Obama wanted to do.
Operation Shaping Up To An Overall Success
The primary goals of the airstrikes include the destruction of the A.Q.A.P. organization and its assets, as well as protect American citizens from any possible threat to American citizens. This includes denying al-Qaeda operatives freedom of movement between their safe havens in parts of Yemen that have fallen out of the control of the weakened Yemeni government. Al-Qaeda has used these ungoverned parts of Yemen to plot or inspire regional and international terror attacks.
Locals describe fierce fighting between al-Qaeda and air-based assets owned by the U.S. military. “The U.S. planes become more aggressive when al-Qaeda militants fire back. We can see balls of fire in the sky when the Americans exchange fire with al-Qaeda,” one resident of Baydha Province told the New York Times. There have also been reports of strikes on vehicles being used by al-Qaeda operatives.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is regarded as an especially dangerous branch of this extremist group that takes advantage of chaos and civil unrest such as the civil war that has raged in Yemen for the past couple of years. “It’s a reflection of growing concern about the reconstitution of A.Q.A.P. in Yemen,” Gerald M Feierstein, a former ambassador to Yemen who currently works with the Middle East Institute in Washington said of the increased airstrikes in this country that have been authorized by President Trump. While he did express his preference that the military will take steps to act only on reliable intelligence and reduce collateral damage, he also admitted, “I don’t know the answers to those questions” of how to improve procedures that would address both concerns.
In The Long Run
Despite criticisms over a botched raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL, the airstrikes are shaping up to be a success. Confirmed reports of enemy casualties include the death of an al-Qaeda explosives expert who also served as the organization’s emir on March 2 and a communications intermediary between al-Qaeda leaders on March 3.
So critics are getting too hyperfocused on one raid as a smokescreen to hide the fact that airstrikes are killing al-Qaeda operatives like Tahar, who rejoined the fight after being released by the Obama Administration. These airstrikes often use drones to take care of the fierce fighting being reported by locals with reduced risk to American troops, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula no longer has the capacity to plot international attacks. U.S. armed forces are committed to working with the Yemeni government to accomplish this goal.
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