Why The U.S. Is Aggressively Targeting Yemen

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Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. "The United States is doubling down on its use of air power and drones, which are swiftly becoming the primary focus of Washington's counterterrorism operations," writes Jeremy Scahill. (AP)
Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. "The United States is doubling down on its use of air power and drones, which are swiftly becoming the primary focus of Washington's counterterrorism operations," writes Jeremy Scahill. (AP)

U.S. intelligence officials announced last week that they had broken up a plan by al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen to blow up a plane headed toward the United States.

U.S. officials are aggressively targeting terrorists in Yemen, which is now considered to be "the greatest external threat facing the U.S. homeland in terms of terrorism," says investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill.

Scahill, the national security correspondent for The Nation, has reported from the ground in Yemen, the home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The group was behind the attempted "underwear bombing" in December 2009 and the attempted parcel bombings in 2010.

Scahill talks about the recent leadership shifts in Yemen and increased drone strikes in the country, including one that killed Fahd al-Quso, who played a role in the USS Cole bombing, and the deadly attack against Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen in Yemen who was involved with AQAP.

Scahill tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that increased drone attacks by the U.S. military have led to many civilian casualties in Yemen, and a growing resentment and anger toward the United States.

"Because the drone strikes started by President Obama's administration in 2009 have not been precise, what I saw was Yemenis starting to say, 'The enemy of the enemy is my friend. If the United States is saying they're fighting AQAP but they're killing our children and our grandchildren and our wives, then we're terrorists too,' " he says.

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