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Debating drone strikes in Yemen

July 22, 2011
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Gregory Johnsen has written a rebuttal to the rebuttal of his criticisms of the paper by Frank Cilluffo and Clinton Watts on drone strikes in Yemen, further laying out his views of the likely effectiveness (or not) of a drone-led leadership decapitation strategy to combat AQAP in Yemen. I think he’s right to hammer home the long term problems with such a strategy, but I fear that as the strongest argument for it is the lack of an obvious short-term alternative, critics of drone strikes aren’t going to make much headway without laying out clearly ways the threat can be, or is being, mitigated on a short term basis.

Cilluffo and Watts are making the case for a “short term results now, deal with long term effects later” approach: flawed in many respects, but an attitude that has traction in many quarters.  While I would agree with Johnsen that considering long term effects should be key in any CT strategy, it seems to me there is a significant contingent in Washington that prioritises short term results.


Following the debate:

Yemen & Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: Exploiting a Window of Counterterrorism Opportunity (Cilluffo and Watts)

The seduction of simple solutions (Johnsen)

Authors’ rebuttal to “The seduction of simple solutions” (Cilluffo and Watts)

Drones instead of a strategy (Johnsen)


Other recent blog posts on drones, in Yemen and Pakistan:

On drones (Abu Muqawama)

Drone strikes: the human cost (Louisa Loveluck)



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