The C.I.A. is preparing to launch predator drone strikes in Yemen to kill Al Qaeda militants, taking advantage of that country’s dangerous power vacuum, according to a report.
Revealing the "secret" program, part of a major expansion of U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Yemen, the Wall Street Journal has reported that the strikes would be modeled after those Pakistan — conducted without express permission of the country.
The U.S. previously has operated strikes aimed at Al Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen — the source of several attempted attacks on the U.S. and home to the radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — but with the knowledge of Yemen’s government.
Strikes had also previously been carried out by the U.S. military with intelligence support from the C.I.A, though now the spy agency would carry out aggressive drone strikes, the WSJ reports.
U.S. officials told the Washington Post that the C.I.A. would operate alongside the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, which has been flying Predators and other remotely piloted planes over Yemen for much of the past year.
The expanded drone campaign will make use of "a mix of U.S. assets," one U.S. official reportedly said, adding: "It's not like you’re going to have a change of command ceremony that goes from U.S. military to C.I.A."
Yemen’s acting president, meanwhile, has reportedly agreed to begin discussions with opposition parties about how to transfer power from the country’s embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The meeting between Vice President Abdu Rabo Mansour Hadi and the opposition Monday was the first of its kind since Hadi became acting president, CNN reports.
Saleh and other senior officials were wounded June 3 in an attack on the presidential palace.
A senior Yemeni official in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, where Saleh is hospitalized, said the president’s condition was stable but not improving.