The White House has approved new rules allowing wider latitude for implementing unmanned aerial vehicle strikes against suspected terrorists based in Yemen, according to published reports.
Under the new guidelines, the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military can launch UAV strikes even if the target is only a “suspected” terrorist, according to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Both newspapers have reported on the impending policy shift on the use of drones to attack suspected al-Qaida operatives Yemen.
The new policy allowing the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command greater leeway is likely to escalate a the use of UAVs, a tactic that has increased significantly during 2012, according to the reports. During the first four months of 2012, there have been nine drone strikes, which is about equal to all such airstrikes in Yemen conducted during 2011, according to the reports.
However, concerns over the new policy are focused on the CIA and JSOC being given authority to fire on targets based solely on intelligence “signatures”—patterns of behavior detected through signal intercepts, human sources and aerial surveillance indicating the presence of a high-level al-Qaida operative or a plot against the United States—which is likely to result in the deaths of militants who are fighting the Yemeni government and not involved in plots against U.S.-interests. Such actions will anger Yemeni tribes and likely create new crops of al-Qaida recruits, according to the reports.