The CIA will soon begin launching drone strikes against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, where months of unrest have left the political landscape in chaos. The CIA strikes will expand upon those carried out in the country by the US military since 2009, the Wall Street Journal reports. While the Yemeni government has given permission for the military strikes, the CIA operates under lesser restrictions that give it greater freedom to carry out the campaign even if President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s administration is replaced by a government that reverses his approval.
The CIA program also allows for greater secrecy, and the smaller warheads on CIA drones should reduce civilian casualties. The program, modeled on the agency’s Pakistan program, was secretly approved by President Obama last year. Originally slated for a July start, the launch may be pushed back a few weeks. A US intelligence official says the government is concerned that Islamist militants will take advantage of Yemen’s deteriorating security: "They're looking to take advantage of an opportunity that has arisen.” (Read more drone strike stories.)