The civilian casualties of the latest US alleged operation against Al Qaeda in Yemen appear to have led the Yemeni government to suspend US government missions on its territory, the New York Times reports.
The Yemeni authorities have yet to officially comment on the measure, but the bombing, the first of its kind authorized by President Donald Trump, caused about thirty deaths, half of them women and children, as well as the death of a US commando’s life and the loss of a helicopter.
“I can not confirm or deny the information because I do not have data. It is a decision that corresponds to the president,” said an adviser to the Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al Mekhlafi.
US Central Command of Operations in the Middle East (CENTCOM), which coordinates the missions in Yemen, did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
The New York Times cites unidentified “US officials” claiming that the suspension has occurred following the fiasco of the operation in al-Baydah, one of Al Qaeda’s fiefdoms, and which took place on the last Sunday of January.
It is not clear if the Yemeni decision responds to the inclusion of the country in the list of nations whose citizens were banned by president Trump’s Administration from entering the United States, or if the ban itself spurred the Yemenis from issuing the prohibition against US operations.
What is clear is that the bombing, much criticized by the experts, angered the Yemeni rulers, already pressured by the stagnation of the conflict with the Huthi rebels and its allies who accuse them of being puppets of Saudi Arabia.
Al Mekhlafi, the head of Foreign Affairs, described the deaths as “extrajudicial killings” on his Twitter account.
“The Yemeni government is a key partner in the fight against terrorism, but such cooperation cannot be carried out at the expense of Yemeni citizens and national sovereignty,” said Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, the Yemeni ambassador to Washington, interviewed on the Arab channel, Al Jazeera.
Bin Mubarak, who is a person close to President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi, also said that he had mentioned the matter to the US ambassador to Yemen during a rendezvous in Riyadh, where the bulk of the internationally recognized Yemeni government is located.
The Pentagon conceded last Thursday that several civilians had been killed in the Al Baydah attack and that it was investigating.
Explanations by some spokespersons that the dead women were fighters raised skepticism as images of the bodies of bloodied children on social networks agitated the discomfort of Yemenis.
According to New York Times sources, the decision “does not affect attacks with military drones,” as it did in 2014 when the Sanaan government canceled drone flights because of the numerous civilian casualties they caused.
At the time, as attention focused on other problems, the program resumed even more intensively as Yemen fell deeper into chaos and whose result was the growth of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups.
Significantly, the measure does not seem to affect the handful of US military advisers who provide intelligence support to the Yemenis and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) forces, the only ones in the Saudi-led coalition with a significant presence on the ground.
Yemen, a country fractured in a thousand pieces by a long overlapping of conflicts, was from the beginning a perfect refuge for the members of Al Qaeda, but its importance grew after 2001 when the US began to bomb Afghanistan, in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks.
The growth and development of this group, which years later merged with the Saudi Arabian branch to form Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQPA), was undoubtedly helped by the duplicity of its president, Ali Abdalá Saleh, who used the threat to get aid from Washington.
Now the intervention of Saudi Arabia, to stop the coup of Huthi rebels allied with Saleh, has given air to Al Qaeda.