In Yemen, Trump's 'counter-terrorism' policy will feed anti-Americanism

In Yemen, Trump's 'counter-terrorism' policy will feed anti-Americanism
5 min read
02 Feb, 2017
Comment: Yemeni civilians are victims of indiscriminate killings perpetrated by both US special forces and armed extremist groups, writes Khalid Al-Karimi.
Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaqi was at home when she was killed by the US operation [Twitter]

At dawn on Sunday this week, the American commandos set foot in Yemen's Al-Beidha province and delivered a violent message that a fresh era of extrajudicial killings has dawned in the Arab world's poorest country.

The American soldiers landed there, bearing weapons that would kill several women and children. They returned home, leaving behind pools of Yemeni blood, piles of human remains and the rubble of modest houses. It seems that propagating violence will be high on the agenda for the US new administration.  

The two-week old Trump presidency has begun its "War on Terror" in Yemen, a country already devastated by civil strife, foreign military intervention and worrying levels of food insecurity. The raid was termed "successful" but the fact remains that it was totally counter-productive.

The US has lately started to make more enemies than friends.

The indiscriminate killing that took place in Al-Beidha on Sunday has magnified the anti-American sentiments in Yemen. The Yemeni people are certainly not sympathising with Al-Qaeda suspects or outlaws. They have displayed their deepest sympathy to those innocents and their families who were murdered by the American forces under the pretext of "counter-terrorism" operations.

Indisputably, what happened was an act of extreme violence, and not a 'counter-terrorism' operation

Almost weekly, news reports emerge stating that American drone strikes are hitting Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen, particularly in the south. The strikes bomb those suspects as they are moving on vehicles from one territory to another, or when they settle in their hideouts. Yemenis do not feel sad as they hear such routine news.

As long as these militants have links with extremist acts, they should not be condoned or upheld. What matters is the Yemeni civilians who want to live peacefully, for they too have the right to life.  

Furious reactions

There has been a wave of outraged reactions towards the American raid which occurred on Sunday in Yemen. Social media users nationwide have flooded their pages with photos of the child victims, posting repeatedly about this massacre.

  Read More: Not-so-successful: Al-Qaeda takes Yemen towns days after Trump-sanctioned raid

The story of Nawar, one of the child victims, has gone viral. This eight-year old girl sustained a bullet to the neck, and died of her injuries.

She departed this life along with several others at the scene, leaving one serious question: Did the American soldiers come to her village for tourism, or simply to terrorise its people?

Indisputably, what happened was an act of extreme violence, and not a "counter-terrorism" operation. Soon afterwards, Mohammed Jumeh, a renowned Yemeni political commentator even sparked the hashtag #trump_is_a_child_killer.

Yemeni, Arab and Muslim public opinion should rally around this issue: The fight against extremism should not come at the cost of children and women's blood.

President Trump is self-righteous. Whatever his critics state about this unfair killing of civilians in Yemen, he is insisting that he wants to "eradicate radical Islam from the face of the earth." Unfortunately, this raid which he authorised is shows us that his violence matches the violence of the extremists who have wreaked havoc on many areas of the country.

These lines are not just representative of my vantage point. Instead, they tell of how the Yemeni people have felt towards this aggressive attack on civilians in Al-Beidha province.

Yemen: A victim of extremism

Yemen has been partnering with America in the "War on Terror" for many years now. Neither the state nor the Yemeni people are complicit with the actions of these extremists. The country has been a victim of extremist attacks, particularly since the breakout of the 2011 uprising. At the time, these groups grabbed a golden opportunity for establishing their venomous presence in some areas, capitalising on the political rows within the political classes.     

The notorious saying that Yemen is a "safe haven for terror suspects" has cost Yemen a lot. The time has come to assert the truth; that Yemen is actually the primary victim of extremist violence. These gangs have killed and wounded hundreds of Yemenis either in mosques, on streets or in markets.

The random killing of people is serving the evil goals of the extremist groups in Yemen

Given this is the case, Yemen's counter-extremism operations should not adopt the same violent techniques of those extremists who harm civilians. Targeting civilians contributes to fanning the flames of violence and earns these extremist operatives some gullible sympathisers.

The random killing of people is serving the evil goals of the extremist groups in Yemen, and the country's dark record of brutal attacks is seared into popular memory.

In December of last year,
for example, a suicide bombing killed at least 49 Yemeni soldiers in Aden at their outpost. The radical Islamic State declared publicly they were responsible. All those killed were Yemenis, not Americans.

Take another example. In December of 2013, Al-Qaeda militants attacked Yemen's Defense Ministry hospital in Sanaa, claiming the lives of at least 52 including soldiers, civilians and doctors. Other examples are too numerous to list here.

So, Trump had better remember that Yemen is the number-one victim of extremism. Combatting violent extremism entails collective efforts and coordinated work with the concerned authorities in Yemen. Haphazard killing and impetuous policies will only add insult to injury.

Khalid Al-Karimi is a freelance reporter and translator. He is a staff member of the Sanaa-based Yemeni Media Center and previously worked as a full-time editor and reporter for the Yemen Times newspaper.

Follow him on Twitter: @Khalidkarimi205

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.