In November 2002, a Hellfire missile launched from a CIA-operated Predator hit a vehicle on a road in Yemen's Marib province. The strike killed six al-Qaida terrorists, among them Qaed Senyan al-Harthi. Al-Harthi organized the October 2000 terror attack on the USS Cole (in the Yemeni port of Aden), which left 17 American sailors dead.
I wrote a column about the Predator attack shortly after it occurred, noting that the Predator-B's successes against al-Qaida, (including the November 2001 attack against al-Qaida bigwig Mohammed Atef) demonstrated how "arming the persistent sensor" creates opportunities to ambush even the most elusive targets.
Predator was born as an unarmed Balkans peacekeeper, a recon platform that could "loiter" over Bosnia and locate Serb artillery pieces shelling non-combatants. The U.S. needed "persistent eyes" over difficult terrain. Adding laser-guided missiles made Predator a sniper with extraordinary reach.
The Predator attack on al-Harthi comes to mind for two reasons. The first is al-Qaida has declared Yemen "a sanctuary" (StrategyPage.com, Sept. 19). American traitor Maj. Nidal Hasan's spiritual adviser, Anwar al-Awlaki, is allegedly hiding in Yemen. It is a chaotic and dangerous place. Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni government are currently battling Shia tribes in northern and eastern Yemen (which may be drawing support from Iran).
The second reason was President Barack Obama's reply to a question posed in a recent interview conducted by CBS News.
CBS' interviewer remarked: "Al-Qaida is in a lot of places besides Afghanistan. They've got people in Sudan. They've got people in Somalia. They've got people in Yemen."
Obama replied: "And we go after them there, too." A moment later he added "I don't want to comment on certain sensitive aspects to our efforts in this (Afghanistan-Pakistan) border region. I think it is fair to say ... if we've got actual war intelligence on high-ranking al-Qaida leaders, or for that matter high-ranking Taliban leaders who are directing actions against U.S. troops, then we will take action."
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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