The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

The Yemen model’s collapse extends far beyond Yemen

Throughout the last decade, including the three years of chaos between the ousters of President Saleh and President Hadi in Yemen, the U.S. has engaged in one of its most robust counterterrorism campaigns. This approach, known as the “Yemen model,” consists of two main tenants: training and arming internal security forces and bombing from drones.

The model, despite the administration’s insistence, is a proven failure. It failed in Iraq. It failed in South Sudan. It failed in Mali. It failed in Nigeria. Now it’s failing in Yemen. This should come as no surprise; countries with the weakest state institutions and militaries, often prone to human rights abuses, are given weapons and training and told to attack an amorphous, subjective threat called terrorism. Yet President Obama, with Congressional consent, continues to expand security assistance programs that, in effect, allow him to fight proxy wars without committing ground troops – the emerging political and tactical redline.

{mosads}One of the primary tools the U.S. used to prop up Yemen’s security forces is Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act, a large and growing program. This recently codified authority provided Yemen with nearly $400 million from 2006-2014, in addition to millions of other security assistance dollars, mainly in an attempt to combat al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAM). To help support these train-and-arm missions, the CIA has launched 121 drone strikes since 2009 that have killed an estimated 950 people, including at least 80 civilians.

Other countries across the Middle East and Africa are receiving ever-increasing security assistance dollars that typically stay out of the headlines, but add fuel to tinderboxes and sow the seeds of violence. Short-term “successes” may appear such as the killing of a high-level violent extremist, but underlying political and economic issues that drive the conflict remain; it attacks some symptoms while leaving the disease to fester and grow stronger.

The euphemisms in the Yemen model abound: soldiers are sometimes deemed “advisors,” arming militaries and police forces is called “security cooperation,” drone strikes are named “signature strikes,” and combat training is phrased as “building partner capacity.” But it is clear that the Yemen model is the new way the U.S. fights wars in the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan disasters and it is just as horrific as the old. It’s a model that limits the deployment of U.S. troops, therefore saving political face, and exports tax dollars and weapons to do the bidding on the country’s behalf.

No longer can the progressive foreign policy community be content with staving off airstrike campaigns and ground invasions. The Yemen model is just as much of an affront to long-term U.S. national security and the wellbeing of the civilians that live in the places into which it is pouring military aid. Instead the U.S. should dramatically scale back its military aid to fragile states and halt all drone strikes and instead invest in evidence-based political tools that historically bring about the end of terrorist groups and financially support partners on-the-ground that are implementing effective, non-violent CVE programs.

Langberg is the program assistant for Peacebuilding at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.


Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Foreign Policy News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video