UK covertly helping US military campaign in Yemen: Report
The British spy services and special forces have been covertly helping the United States in its military campaign against what it calls al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, a new report reveals.
In a Thursday report, VICE New said it had unconverted “systematic collaboration” between Britain’s Secret Intelligence Services (SIS) and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in running a deadly drone operation against purported positions of Takfiri al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen.
British Special Forces are also involved in covert operations in the Arab country, according the report.
The report, which is based on interviews from more than two dozen current and former British, American and Yemeni officials, also reveals a series of occasions when Britain has provided crucial intelligence for the US to target alleged militants.
The US has been carrying out drone strikes in several Muslim countries, including Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, over the past years. Washington claims the attacks target al-Qaeda militants, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the raids.
US drone strikes have added further complexity to the chaotic situation in Yemen amid a relentless Saudi war on the impoverished country.
The al-Qaeda branch in Yemen has exploited the volatile atmosphere and the breakdown of security in Yemen since the beginning of the Saudi war to tighten its grip on areas in the southeast of the country.
Meanwhile, Reprieve, a rights group that campaigns against the US aerial raids in Yemen, says its investigation has confirmed without doubt that London has played a role in the covert war in the impoverished country.
“For years, the British government has denied any involvement in the US’s covert drone war in Yemen, saying it’s a ‘matter for the states involved’,” the group said, adding, “It’s now beyond dispute the UK is one of those states working hand in glove with the Americans to create the very kill list that drives those strikes.”
This comes as some recent media reports have revealed that British Special Forces are conducting previously unreported operations against Takfiri Daesh militants in Libya and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group in Somalia.
The UK military is also suspected of having participated in the US drone operations in Pakistan, which have killed thousands of people.
Last September, a spokesman for the British Ministry of Defense (Mod) reportedly conceded that the country has been collaborating with the US military in drone strikes across some Asian countries.
“UK personnel embedded with the US air force have only flown remotely piloted aircraft systems in support of operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq,” the spokesman said.
However, Britain has always denied playing a role in the controversial US drone campaign in Yemen, which has been widely criticized by international organizations and human rights groups.
“Drone strikes against terrorist targets in Yemen are a matter for the Yemeni and US governments,” said the then Foreign Office Middle East Minister Hugh Robertson in 2014.
Last year, the United Nations said the drones had killed more civilians than alleged al-Qaeda militants across Yemen.
A report by The Guardian has confirmed that scores of UK personnel are based at the Creech airbase in Nevada, from where CIA drone missions are operated. A handful of UK personnel are known to have been embedded with US teams, raising questions about who ultimately has authority over them.
This comes as US and Britain are already under fire for being complicit in Saudi war crimes in Yemen.
A high-ranking Human Rights Watch official has recently criticized the United States and Britain over their support for Saudi Arabia’s deadly military campaign in Yemen through providing arms and munitions to Riyadh.
“It’s relatively well known that the US and Britain are contributing to the war effort as the lead providers of the Saudi coalition’s arsenal,” said Executive Director of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa division Sarah Leah Whitson in early April.
Many human rights groups have called for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 9,400 Yemenis, including 4,000 women and children, have lost their lives since late March 2015 when Saudi Arabia launched the deadly attacks on its impoverished neighbor.