Early Thursday evening, reports emerged of a series of drone strikes on targets in Yemen that apparently killed as many as 12 people. With these three attacks, we now of at least eight drone strikes in the country over the past two weeks.
The details of the strikes are still not clear. On Thursday morning, NBC News reported on the first strike, which they said struck a car about 100 miles east of the country's capital and killed six people. A bit later in the day, CNN had news of another strike, that killed two in the same region. CNN reported that the first strike killed eight, a figure echoed by Reuters. Then, in the early evening, a third strike, which USA Today reported, hit another vehicle in the country. Total number killed, in USA Today's estimation: 12. Yesterday, a strike killed four.
There's little question that the abnormal frequency of the strikes relates to the ongoing alert that shuttered American embassies in the region — an alert that apparently stemmed from a conversation between the global head of al-Qaeda and his counterpart in Yemen. While the country's government's claims ti have foiled terror plots proved to be exaggerated, the American response seems to be clear.
People in the region seem used to the activity.
Residents told CNN that the drone had been roaming the sky over the province since dawn and was flying at a low altitude.
"When we hear it flying above us we know there will be a strike later in the day," said a local in Hadramout who asked not to be named.
This is essentially how the war on terror has been conducted by the Obama administration. Gather intelligence about the location of known militants, strike them remotely. Since Obama took office, the United States has launched at least 300 strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan alone; under Obama, the range of targets has expanded into Yemen and Somalia. It's a policy that the president suggested in May that he planned to reform; to date, it appears that hasn't happened.
"This war," Obama said in that May speech, "like all wars, must end." But how? How should we respond when we learn about a terror threat if not by flicking missiles from robot planes? Do we want American troops marching into eastern Yemen? Arming Yemeni troops to hunt terrorists themselves? Americans are fine with the way Obama's dealing with it now. The country has never before lost so few of its own lives in as inextricable a quagmire.