WASHINGTON, DC – On January 29, 2017, US forces conducted a raid in al-Baydha, Yemen which targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants. The US military announced that the action resulted in the deaths of 14 AQAP-affiliated operatives and one US service member; a local Yemeni official stated that 16 civilians—eight women and eight children—were also killed during the raid. The Yemen Peace Project (YPP) condemns the killing of civilians and urges the Trump administration to deescalate US military action in Yemen immediately. The Trump administration should instead work with Congress and outside experts to develop a transparent, comprehensive counterterrorism program that focuses on resolving the root causes of radicalization in the country. This weekend’s raid marks the first major counterterrorism operation to be ordered by President Trump, who stated that “Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism.” According to CENTCOM, four additional service members suffered injury during and after the raid. The US government has not remarked upon civilian casualties. Following the attack, AQAP released a statement denying any connection to those killed and highlighting the deaths of women and children.
“The raid and resulting loss of life signal a counterproductive escalation of US military action in a country already devastated by civil war and humanitarian crises,” said Will Picard, executive director of The Yemen Peace Project. “The killing of civilians is tragic and unnecessary, and it boosts militants’ recruitment efforts. Actions like these, taken without the consent of the American public, exacerbate conflict without delivering clear benefits to US national security. In the context of the Trump administration’s recent immigration ban against individuals from Yemen and six other states, such actions seem less like effective moves to counter violent extremism and more like punitive measures against whole societies based on religion and nationality,” Picard added.
The YPP urges the Trump administration to defuse, rather than fuel, instability in Yemen and to develop a counterterrorism policy centered on human development and the rule of law. US national security interests can be best served by facilitating an inclusive political settlement to the war in Yemen and supporting institutional reforms that provide opportunities for all segments of the Yemeni population, which are key to ending the cycle of radicalization and ultimately eliminating AQAP’s foothold in Yemen.