Author Topic: HRW:"Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda"The Civilian Cost of US drone strikes in Yemen  (Read 2727 times)

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enrica

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This Day In WikiLeaks: 22 October 2013

A new report by Human Rights Watch on drone strikes in Yemen references WikiLeaks cables, specifically 09SANAA2251 and 10SANAA4.

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"Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda"


 The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen
 
 October 22, 2013
 
 
The 97-page report examines six US targeted killings in Yemen, one from 2009 and the rest from 2012-2013. Two of the attacks killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war; the others may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths.
Read the Press Release
Read the Report
 ISBN: 978-1-62313-0701

 
Get the Report
 


Source: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/10/22/between-drone-and-al-qaeda-0
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 US: Reassess Targeted Killings in Yemen
 
 
Inquiry into 6 Airstrikes Finds Violations, Harm to Civilians

 
 
 October 22, 2013

United States targeted airstrikes against alleged terrorists in Yemen have killed civilians in violation of international law, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The strikes, often using armed drones, are creating a public backlash that undermines US efforts against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The 102-page report, ‘Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda’: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen,”examines six US targeted killings in Yemen, one from 2009 and the rest from 2012-2013. Two of the attacks killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war; the others may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths.
“The US says it is taking all possible precautions during targeted killings, but it has unlawfully killed civilians and struck questionable military targets in Yemen,” said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. “Yemenis told us that these strikes make them fear the US as much as they fear Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”
Human Rights Watch released “‘Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda’” in a joint news conference on October 22, 2013, with Amnesty International, which issued its own report on US drone strikes in Pakistan.

 What the US Should Do
 
 
Stop killing civilians, investigate and publish findings on civilian killings, and appropriately compensate families of civilians killed.
 
 
 What Yemen Should Do
 
 
Condition US targeted killings in Yemen on compliance with international law.

Source: http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/10/21/us-reassess-targeted-killings-yemen

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Full report:


"Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda"
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Read the report here:
http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/10/22/between-drone-and-al-qaeda

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Mentioned cables:

GENERAL PETRAEUS' MEETING WITH SALEH ON SECURITY ASSISTANCE, AQAP STRIKES
http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/10SANAA4_a.html


ROYG LOOKS AHEAD FOLLOWING CT OPERATIONS, BUT PERHAPS NOT FAR ENOUGH
http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09SANAA2251_a.html

enrica

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ROYG LOOKS AHEAD FOLLOWING CT OPERATIONS, BUT PERHAPS NOT FAR ENOUGH

Date:2009 December 21, 13:34 (Monday)
   
Canonical ID:09SANAA2251_a
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Classified By: Ambassador Stephen Seche for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY. The ROYG views the December 17 CT operations as a success and a benefit to Yemeni national interests, and appears not overly concerned about unauthorized leaks regarding the U.S. role and negative media attention to civilian deaths. ROYG officials continue to publicly maintain that the operation was conducted entirely by its forces, acknowledging U.S. support strictly in terms of intelligence sharing. Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi told the Ambassador on December 20 that any evidence of greater U.S. involvement ) such as fragments of U.S. munitions found at the sites - could be explained away as equipment purchased from the U.S. While the ROYG has touted the operation as a victory in terms of the number of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) members killed or captured, it hasn't yet decided how, or even if, it should begin to modify its public messaging to address criticism over collateral damage, or the likelihood that the extent of U.S. involvement may become impossible to deny. END SUMMARY.

2. (S/NF) In a December 20 meeting with the Ambassador, Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defense Rashad al-Alimi said that the ROYG, including President Saleh himself, views the December 17 CT operations in Abyan and Arhab as a success, despite negative press reports (septel) and leaks to the U.S. press regarding a U.S. role in the operation. Alimi said he was joined by other ROYG officials in their positive view of the operation against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and a desire for continued collaboration on CT operations. Referring to an internal ROYG meeting chaired by President Saleh on December 19, Alimi assured the Ambassador that Saleh wants these operations against AQAP to continue "non-stop until we eradicate this disease."

3. (S/NF) Alimi told the Ambassador that Saleh was undisturbed by press reports citing U.S. officials asserting American involvement in the operations, saying that the ROYG "must maintain the status quo" with regard to the official denial of U.S. involvement in order to ensure additional "positive operations" against AQAP. Alimi seemed more concerned with the political opposition and Southern Movement's use of the Abyan operation as an example of the government's heavy-handed response to groups the ROYG deems a threat. The Ambassador cautioned Alimi that the ROYG may need to nuance its position regarding U.S. involvement in the event more evidence surfaces, complicating its ability to adhere to the official line that ROYG forces conducted the operations independently. Alimi appeared confident that any evidence of greater U.S. involvement ) such as U.S. munitions found at the sites - could be explained away as equipment purchased from the U.S. However, Alimi informed the Ambassador that senior ROYG officials continue to the discuss media strategy and the public posture of the ROYG. NOT SO INNOCENT ---------------

4. (S/NF) According to Alimi, the ROYG has recruited a number of local political and religious leaders to visit the ares affected by the air strikes in Abyan to explain o the people the need for the operation and the dnger that AQAP poses to all Yemenis. The Governr of Abyan was given YR 20 million (approximatel USD 100,000) to disburse to the families of those killed or wounded in the strikes in Maajala, where the AQAP training camp was located. Alimi said that the civilians who died were largely nomadic, Bedouin families who lived in tents near the AQAP training camp and were assisting AQAP with logistical support. Alimi said they were poor people selling food and supplies to the terrorists, but were nonetheless acting in collusion with the terrorists and benefitting financially from AQAP's presence in the area. He assured the Ambassador that the Governor of Abyan visited the site after the operation and confirmed that there were no villages, houses, or civilian institutions that were damaged, only the training camp, and the encampments of the non-combatant Bedouin population. COMMENT -------

5. (S/NF) Given that local and international media will continue to look for evidence of a U.S. role in the December 17 strikes against AQAP, the ROYG must think seriously about its public posture and whether its strict adherence to assertions that the strikes were unilateral will undermine public support for legitimate and urgently needed CT operations, should evidence to the contrary surface. Thus far, the ROYG has deployed influential local leaders to the affected area in Abyan to explain the need for the strikes in an effort to quell potential unrest; however, it has not attempted to provide any context for the civilian casualties, which might help to counter overblown claims of ROYG disregard for the local population ) in this particular case, southerners. END COMMENT. SECHE

Source: http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09SANAA2251_a.html

enrica

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GENERAL PETRAEUS' MEETING WITH SALEH ON SECURITY ASSISTANCE, AQAP STRIKES

Date:2010 January 4, 13:33 (Monday)
   
Canonical ID: 10SANAA4_a
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 Classified By: Ambassador Stephen A. Seche for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: Commander of the U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus congratulated President Saleh on recent successful operations against AQAP, and informed him that U.S. security assistance to the ROYG would increase to USD 150 million in 2010, including USD 45 million to equip and train a CT-focused aviation regiment under the Yemeni Special Operations Forces. Saleh requested that the U.S. provide 12 armed helicopters and train and equip three new Republican Guard brigades. Saleh rejected the General's proposal to have USG personnel armed with direct-feed intelligence present inside the area of CT operations, but agreed to a have U.S. fixed-wing bombers circle outside Yemeni territory ready to engage AQAP targets should actionable intelligence become available. END SUMMARY. SALEH: HELICOPTERS, HELICOPTERS, HELICOPTERS --------------------------------------------

2. (S/NF) CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus, accompanied by the Ambassador, CENTCOM aides, the Embassy DATT, and EconOff note taker, congratulated President Saleh on successful operations against AQAP during a January 2 meeting. The General told Saleh that he had requested USD 150 million in security assistance for 2010, a substantial increase over the 2009 amount of USD 67 million. Also present were Minister of Defense MG Muhammed Nasser Ahmad Ali and Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security Affairs Rashad al-Alimi. Raising a topic that he would manage to insert into almost every item of discussion during the hour and half-long meeting, Saleh requested that the U.S. provide the ROYG with 12 armed helicopters. Possessing such helicopters would allow the ROYG to take the lead in future CT operations, "ease" the use of fighter jets and cruise missiles against terrorist targets, and allow Yemeni Special Operations Forces to capture terrorist suspects and identify victims following strikes, according to Saleh. The U.S. could convince Saudi Arabia and the UAE to supply six helicopters each if the American "bureaucracy" prevented quick approval, Saleh suggested. The General responded that he had already considered the ROYG's request for helicopters and was in discussions with Saudi Arabia on the matter. "We won't use the helicopters in Sa'ada, I promise. Only against al-Qaeda," Saleh told General Petraeus.

3. (S/NF) Saleh agreed to General Patraeus' proposal to dedicate USD 45 million of 2010 security assistance funds to help establish and train a YSOF aviation regiment, allowing YSOF to focus on al-Qaeda targets and leaving Sa'ada air operations to the Yemeni Air Force. Without giving much detail, Saleh also requested that the U.S. equip and train three new Republican Guard brigades, totaling 9,000 soldiers. "Equipping these brigades would reflect upon our true partnership," Saleh said. The General urged Saleh to focus first on the YSOF aviation regiment. AQAP STRIKES: CONCERN FOR CIVILIAN CASUALTIES ---------------------------------------------

4. (S/NF) Saleh praised the December 17 and 24 strikes against AQAP but said that "mistakes were made" in the killing of civilians in Abyan. The General responded that the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site, prompting Saleh to plunge into a lengthy and confusing aside with Deputy Prime Minister Alimi and Minister of Defense Ali regarding the number of terrorists versus civilians killed in the strike. (Comment: Saleh's conversation on the civilian casualties suggests he has not been well briefed by his advisors on the strike in Abyan, a site that the ROYG has been unable to access to determine with any certainty the level of collateral damage. End Comment.) AQAP leader Nassr al-Wahishi and extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may still be alive, Saleh said, but the December strikes had already caused al-Qaeda operatives to turn themselves in to authorities and residents in affected areas to deny refuge to al-Qaeda. Saleh raised the issue of the Saudi Government and Jawf governorate tribal sheikh Amin al-Okimi, a subject that is being reported through other channels. SHIFTING AIRSTRIKE STRATEGIES -----------------------------

5. (S/NF) President Obama has approved providing U.S. intelligence in support of ROYG ground operations against AQAP targets, General Petraeus informed Saleh. Saleh reacted coolly, however, to the General's proposal to place USG personnel inside the area of operations armed with real-time, direct feed intelligence from U.S. ISR platforms overhead. "You cannot enter the operations area and you must stay in the joint operations center," Saleh responded. Any U.S. casualties in strikes against AQAP would harm future efforts, Saleh asserted. Saleh did not have any objection, however, to General Petraeus' proposal to move away from the use of cruise missiles and instead have U.S. fixed-wing bombers circle outside Yemeni territory, "out of sight," and engage AQAP targets when actionable intelligence became available. Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are "not very accurate" and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours," Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just "lied" by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG. ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT IN MIL-MIL RELATIONS -----------------------------------------

6. (S/NF) General Petraeus praised cooperation between the Embassy and the NSB, YSOF, Yemeni Coast Guard (YCG), and Counterterrorism Unit (CTU), but singled out relations with the Yemeni Air Force as problematic. Only four out of 50 planned U.S. Special Operations Forces Command training missions with the Yemeni Air Force had actually been executed in the past year, he said. Saleh said he would personally instruct Minister of Defense to improve the situation. The General also urged Saleh to stop Yemeni Customs' habit of holding up Embassy cargo at the airport, including shipments destined for the ROYG itself, such as equipment for the CTU. Saleh laughed and made a vague pledge to have the customs issue "taken care of." Saleh complained that the ROYG had not yet received the necessary training to operate 17 Iraqi Light Armored Vehicle (ILAVs) provided by the USG in 2008, saying that YSOF needed the training in order to use the ILAVs for CT operations. The General said he would look into having U.S. Special Operations Forces personnel conduct the training.

7. (S/NF) Pointing to the ROYG's problems in combating rampant drug and arms smuggling, Saleh told General Petraeus that U.S. maritime security assistance was insufficient to cover Yemen's nearly 2,000 km of coastline. "Why not have Italy, Germany, Holland, Japan, Saudi, and the UAE each provide two patrol boats?" Saleh suggested. The General told Saleh that two fully-equipped 87-foot patrol boats destined for the Yemeni Coast Guard were under construction and would arrive in Yemen within a year. Saleh singled out smuggling from Djibouti as particularly troublesome, claiming that the ROYG had recently intercepted four containers of Djibouti-origin TNT. "Tell (Djiboutian President) Ismail Guelleh that I don't care if he smuggles whiskey into Yemen -- provided it's good whiskey ) but not drugs or weapons," Saleh joked. Saleh said that smugglers of all stripes are bribing both Saudi and Yemeni border officials. SALEH WELCOMES LONDON CONFERENCE --------------------------------

8. (S/NF) Saleh told the General that he welcomed PM Gordon Brown's announcement of the London conference and said that the cooperation on Yemen between the U.S., EU, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE would be benefitial. Qatar should not be involved, however, because "they work with Iran." In this regard, Saleh also identified Qatar as one of those nations working "against Yemen," along with Iran, Libya, and Eritrea.

9. (U) General Petraeus did not have an opportunity to clear on this cable. SECHE

Source/ Full cable: http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/10SANAA4_a.html