The relationship the U.S. has (had) with the Yemeni government was productive to the extent that it allowed us to work with their agencies to control threats to US security in the Arabian peninsula. That capability began to deteriorate last year, even before the Houthi began their full-on assault on Sana’a. The model fell apart, but according to recent reports, we may still have some counterterror capabilities in the region.
Earlier today, Yemen’s al-Qaeda cell announced that top cleric and Saudi national Ibrahim al-Rubaish was killed by a drone strike. Al-Rubaish had a $5 million bounty on his head, so if this is true, it would provide some excellent optics for struggling US operations on the peninsula.
The AP has some background:
Al-Rubaish, believed to be in his late 30s, was released from Guantanamo Bay in 2006, after which he joined al-Qaida in Yemen. He was considered the group’s the main ideologue and theological adviser and his writings and sermons were prominent in its publications. …
If the drone attack is confirmed, it would be the first use of unmanned aircraft since Yemen sank further into turmoil last month, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to launch airstrikes on March 26 in an attempt to halt Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as Houthis who have taken over much of the country.
According to the AP, this has yet to be confirmed; but if and when Defense verifies the strike, it will signal the first attack by an unmanned aircraft since before last month’s coup.