Report: CIA building drone base near Yemen
WASHINGTON — The United States is building a secret CIA air base in the Persian Gulf region to target terrorists in Yemen, preparing for the possibility that an anti-American faction may take over Yemen and ban U.S. forces from hunting a lethal al-Qaida faction there, The Associated Press has learned.
The anti-al-Qaida effort in Yemen is being run by the Joint Special Operations Command, the top U.S. military counterterrorism outfit, and the CIA provides intelligence support. JSOC forces have been allowed by the Yemeni government to conduct limited strikes there since 2009 and have recently allowed expanded strikes by U.S. armed drones and even war planes against al-Qaida targets who are taking advantage of civil unrest to grab power and territory in the Gulf country.
The new CIA base provides a backstop, if al-Qaida or other anti-American rebel forces gain control, one senior U.S. official explained. The White House has already increased the numbers of CIA officers in Yemen, in anticipation of that possibility. And it has stepped up the schedule to construct the base, from a two-year timetable to a rushed eight months.
The Associated Press has withheld the exact location at the request of U.S. officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because portions of the military and CIA missions in Yemen are classified.
Drones like Reapers and Predators are unmanned aircraft that can be flown from remote locations and hover over a target before firing a missile. Yemeni officials have indicated their preference toward drones, versus allowing U.S. counterterror strike teams on Yemeni soil, saying they are less apt to incense the local population.
The planned CIA base suggests a long-term U.S. commitment to fighting al-Qaida in the region, along the lines of the model used in Pakistan, where CIA drones hunt militants with tacit, though not public, Pakistani government approval. Its construction also indicates a possible shift in the internal debate in the administration over whether U.S. special operations forces should continue to lead the fight in Yemen, U.S. officials said.
Meanwhile: Lawmakers Sue President Obama Over “Illegal Libya War”
John R. Parkinson|ABCNews
Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Walter Jones continued their bipartisan quest to end the U.S. military’s participation in the conflict in Libya, filing a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court against President Obama to “challenge the commitment of the United States to war in Libya absent the required constitutional legal authority.”
The lawsuit challenges what the lawmakers see as “the executive branch’s circumvention of Congress and its use of international organizations such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to authorize the use of military force abroad, in violation of the Constitution.”
“With regard to the war in Libya, we believe that the law was violated. We have asked the courts to move to protect the American people from the results of these illegal policies,” Kucinich said in a statement announcing the suit.