The airstrikes in Yemen this year have been split fairly evenly between operations carried out by CIA Predators and those conducted by JSOC using Reapers and other drones as well as conventional aircraft. (MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AP)
There is little doubt among U.S. intelligence officials that Kaid and Nabil al-Dhahab — brothers who reportedly survived a U.S. airstrike in Yemen on Memorial Day — are associated with the al-Qaeda insurgency in that country. Less clear is the extent to which they are plotting against the United States.
“It’s still an open question,” a U.S. counterterrorism official said. The siblings were related by marriage to Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda operative killed in September, but they have not been connectedto a major plot. Their focus has been “more local,” the official said. But “look at their associations and what that portends.”
The quickening pace of the U.S. drone campaign in Yemen this year has raised new questions about who is being targeted and why. A review of strikes there so far suggests that the Obama administration has embraced a broader definition of what constitutes a terrorism threat that warrants a lethal response.
In more than 20 U.S. airstrikes over a span of five months, three “high-value” terrorism targets have been killed, U.S. officials said. A growing number of attacks have been aimed at lower-level figures who are suspected of having links to terrorism operatives but are seen mainly as leaders of factions focused on gaining territory in Yemen’s internal struggle.