CIA to operate drones in Yemen

June 14, 2011 at 8:58 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 14 (UPI) -- The CIA is expected to begin operating unmanned aircraft over Yemen, U.S. officials said.

U.S. officials said the CIA would operate alongside and in coordination with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Commands, which has been remotely flying drones over Yemen for much of the past year, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Because it operates under different legal authorities than the military, the CIA could have more leeway to carry out strikes if the political climate shifts in Yemen and cooperation with American forces is reduced or eliminated, an official said. The already politically troubled Yemen has been hit by a popular uprising against its president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The expanded drone campaign will make use of "a mix of U.S. assets," a U.S. official familiar with the plan told the Post. "It's not like you're going to have a change of command ceremony that goes from U.S. military to CIA."

The country's turmoil has put pressure on Washington to use other means to locate operatives of Yemen-based al-Qaida offshoot al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula, seen as capitalizing on the chaos to improve its position in the country and potentially launch new attacks.

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