A new report from Airwars raises the question of whether the Trump administration has switched to using the CIA for strikes in Yemen in order to shroud US operations there in greater secrecy.
Airwars documented at least 30 locally-claimed US drone strikes, including 11 in the past ten months. The US has not officially declared a strike in Yemen since mid-2019.
The report found that US strikes and raids in Yemen since Trump came into office have killed at least 86 civilians, including 28 children and 13 women.
When Airwars contacted the US military with evidence of these incidents, the US declined to respond. Instead, officials confirmed that there is no functioning civilian casualty monitoring cell covering Yemen operations within the US Department of Defense. The DoD claimed there were zero civilian deaths in both its 2018 and 2019 reports to Congress.
The failure to carry out adequate post-strike investigations was just one of a series of criticisms levelled at the US drone programme by a German court in a landmark decision in March 2019. The case, brought on behalf of Faisal bin ali Jaber, a Yemeni engineer who lost family members to a strike in August 2012, marked the first time a European country has been found to play an essential role in US drone strikes. The court’s decision, which held that Germany must do more to ensure its territory is not used by the US to carry out unlawful drone strikes in Yemen, is set to be heard on appeal at Germany’s highest Administrative Court on November 25.
Jennifer Gibson, who leads Reprieve’s work on drone strikes, said: “These findings paint a shocking picture of a US administration gone rogue in Yemen, so unconcerned with accountability that they haven’t even allocated a desk to track how many civilians their missiles kill. This shadowy assassination programme makes none of us safer, and is causing irreparable harm.”