U.S. drones will soon be joined in Yemeni skies by spy planes operated by Yemen's forces. Wired's Spencer Ackerman reported that "the Pentagon wants to buy its Yemeni ally small, piloted spy planes."
According to Ackerman, "It’s a sign that the U.S. is upgrading the hardware it gives the Yemeni military, and digging in for a long shadow war." The few dozen Light Observation Aircraft will be flown by Yemenis trained by U.S. forces. "The planes have to be configured so the U.S. can teach Yemenis how to be their own eyes in the sky, and they need to be in Yemen in under 24 months," reported Ackerman, noting that the aircraft will be used in Yemen alongside, not instead of, remotely operated U.S. drones to fly over areas where al-Qaida is believed to be operating.
The U.S.’ shadow war in Yemen is showing other traces of entrenchment and durability. In September, the Army put out a call for armored SUVs, the signature vehicle of the post-9/11 era for transporting security contractors and operatives who’d prefer not to be seen taking military transport. Starting in January, transiting diplomats once lodged in a Sanaa hotel run by the Kuwaiti government will now stay in a secured “hotel-like” domicile constructed by the State Department, separate from the U.S. embassy and complete with “30-plus channel hotel cable system” and room “for up to 240 guests.”
The news falls in line with reports from the Washington Post's Greg Miller which revealed that the Obama administration has expanded its terrorist kill lists into a "disposition matrix" -- a database “designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.” Spy planes for the shadow war in Yemen are just another example of what Miller called "a series of moves, in Washington and overseas, to embed counterterrorism tools into U.S. policy for the long haul."