Moral Low Ground


Former US Official Nabeel Khoury: Every US Drone Strike in Yemen Creates 40-60 New Enemies

Yemeni children killed by US air strike in al-Majalah in 2009 (Photo: Al Jazeera)

Yemeni children killed by US air strike in al-Majalah in 2009 (Photo: Al Jazeera)

A former US State Department official in Yemen claims that for every al-Qaeda militant killed by a drone strike, 40-60 new “enemies of America” are created.

Writing in the Cairo Review of Global AffairsNabeel Khoury, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen from 2004-2007, implies that US unmanned aerial drone strikes are doing more harm than good.

“Drone strikes take out a few bad guys to be sure, but they also kill a large number of innocent civilians,” writes Khoury, who was also the US Consul General in Morocco from 1998-2002. “Given Yemen’s tribal structure, the US generates roughly 40-60 new enemies for every AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) operative killed by drones.”

“My former colleagues are probably going to get upset with me, because the policy now is to do [drone strikes],” Khoury told the Huffington Post.

In a recently-released report, the human rights group Human Rights Watch found that some US drone strikes in Yemen “killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war” and that some strikes “may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths.”

The HRW report counts 82 people killed in six selected drone strikes in Yemen, 57 of them civilians. Among the victims were 12 civilians riding in a van and a farmer whose father, mother and 10-year-old sister were killed. HRW also detailed a 2009 US cruise missile strike that killed 40 civilians, most of them women and children, in the village of al-Majalah.

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