The CIA conducts lethal drone strikes inside Yemen from a remote base in Saudi Arabia, including the strike that killed the U.S.-born militant Anwar al-Awlaki.
The location of the base was first disclosed by The New York Times online Tuesday night.
The Associated Press first reported the construction of the base in June 2011 but withheld the exact location at the request of senior administration officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because portions of the military and CIA missions in Yemen are classified.
Any operation by U.S. military or intelligence officials inside Saudi Arabia is politically and religiously sensitive. Militant groups have used the Persian Gulf kingdom’s close working relationship with U.S. counterterrorism officials to stir internal dissent against the Saudi regime. AP
The Obama administration’s refusal to provide details about one of the most controversial aspects of its drone campaign — strikes on U.S. citizens abroad — has emerged as a potential source of opposition to CIA nominee John O. Brennan, who faces a Senate confirmation hearing scheduled for Thursday. Washington Post
The Obama administration’s targeted-killing program has relied on a growing constellation of drone bases operated by the CIA and the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command. The only strike intentionally targeting a U.S. citizen, a 2011 attack that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, was carried out in part by CIA drones flown from a secret base in Saudi Arabia. Washington Post
The first strike in Yemen ordered by the Obama administration, in December 2009, was by all accounts a disaster. American cruise missiles carrying cluster munitions killed dozens of civilians, including many women and children. Another strike, six months later, killed a popular deputy governor, inciting angry demonstrations and an attack that shut down a critical oil pipeline. NY Times
Not long afterward, the CIA began quietly building a drone base in Saudi Arabia to carry out strikes in Yemen. NY Times
The base was established two years ago to intensify the hunt against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the affiliate in Yemen is known. Brennan, who previously served as the CIA’s station chief in Saudi Arabia, played a key role in negotiations with Riyadh over locating an agency drone base inside the kingdom. Washington Post
The U.S. military pulled out virtually all of its troops from Saudi Arabia in 2003, having stationed between 5,000 and 10,000 troops in the kingdom after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Only personnel from the United States Military Training Mission (USMTM) officially remain. BBC
In a January 2009 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Egyptians said their opinion of the United States would significantly improve if it moved all military bases out of Saudia Arabia. 40 percent of Syrians, 39 percent of Jordanians, 52 percent of Saudis, 40 percent of Palestinians, 55 percent of Tunisians, 40 percent of Lebanese people, and 30 percent of Algerians said their opinions of the United States would significantly improve if we closed all our Saudi Arabian bases. The Atlantic
President Obama apparently thought it would still be desirable to have a spot in that country where drone strikes could be launched. The Atlantic
Senior government officials had said they were concerned that disclosure would undermine operations against AQAP, as well as potentially damage counter-terrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia. BBC
FACTS & FIGURES
On January 22, Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour criticized the U.S. drone war in Yemen, a tactic that is supposed to eliminate alleged al-Qaeda threats, but which often kills civilians and generates outrage among the local population. Antiwar
U.S. drone strikes against Yemen escalated dramatically in 2012 suggest this will continue to be a growing target for U.S. drones going forward. Antiwar
The United States military command in Africa is preparing plans to establish a drone base in northwest Africa as well to increase unarmed surveillance missions, according to the New York Times.