To recap, back in 2009, there were around 300 al Qaeda members in Yemen. Not long after inauguration, Commander-in-Chief Obama began a series of 75 drone strikes across this troubled nation. At least 600 were killed in those strikes. Today, there are over 1,000 al Qaeda members in Yemen. Can we now call Obama's drone policy in Yemen a dismal failure? I agree with Gregory Johnsen. The answer is yes.
All this raises a rather simple question: Why? Why, if the U.S. counterterrorism approach is working in Yemen, as Barack Obama's administration claims, is AQAP still growing? Why, after nearly four years of bombing raids, is the group capable of putting together the type of plot that leads to the United States shuttering embassies and missions from North Africa to the Persian Gulf?
The answer is simple, if rather disheartening: Faulty assumptions and a mistaken focus paired with a resilient, adaptive enemy have created a serious problem for the United States.
Yemen is also where the possible murder of a 16-year old American citizen took place. How exactly did that help?
I have one small disagreement with Johnsen. While killing al Qaeda members in Pakistan by drone was reasonably effective, the killing of Talibaners was less so, particularly since only 5% of its citizens approve of the practice and only 11% have a favorable view of the U.S. (link). We killed thousands there, but pissed off tens of millions.