via Lobe Log

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen told the Washington Post this week that his office and the Yemeni military fully cooperate with US counterterrorism efforts in his country, a frank admission that his predecessor was not willing to provide:

Hadi’s comments mark the first time he has publicly acknowledged his direct role in a campaign of strikes by U.S. drones and conventional aircraft targeting an al-Qaeda franchise that is seen as the most potent terrorist threat to the United States.

“Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president,” Hadi said in an interview with reporters and editors from The Washington Post in his hotel suite in the District. Praising the accuracy of the remotely operated aircraft, he added, “The drone technologically is more advanced than the human brain.”

Hadi’s enthusiasm helps to explain how, since taking office in February after a popular revolt ended President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule, he has come to be regarded by Obama administration officials as one of the United States’ staunchest counterterrorism allies.

….U.S. Special Operations drones patrol Yemen from a base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa. The CIA aircraft are flown from a separate facility on the Arabian Peninsula whose location has not been publicly disclosed.

The admission illustrates a high level of confidence by the Yemeni leader that he will not suffer political fallout in Yemen from the program, as the Washington Post reported in May that the drone strikes were proving deeply unpopular among Yemenis outside of the capital, Sana’a. Foreign Policy notes that his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was very reluctant to admit the scope of his military cooperation with the US and Saudi Arabia. Yemeni elites are still grappling for power in the vacuum created by the long-serving Saleh, whose slighted family retains influence in their country’s armed forces. According to Bloomberg News, USAID funds to Yemen “more than doubled” this past year while the US also recently waived military assistance restrictions.