NEW YORK -- A former State Department official in Yemen says every U.S. drone killing there of an al Qaeda operative creates 40 to 60 new enemies of America.
In an article for the Cairo Review posted Wednesday, Nabeel Khoury, the deputy chief of mission in Yemen from 2004 to 2007, writes, "Drone strikes take out a few bad guys to be sure, but they also kill a large number of innocent civilians. Given Yemen’s tribal structure, the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] operative killed by drones."
Khoury says in the article that drones cannot substitute for coherent foreign policy in Yemen.
Khoury, now retired from State and working as a fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, told HuffPost, "My former colleagues are probably going to get upset with me, because the policy now is to do this." U.S. drone strikes in Yemen have intensified in the years since he left his post there.
Khoury said his estimate, while not "scientifically drawn," was based on his knowledge of the tribal nature of Yemeni society. His concern over drone strikes is based more than anything else, he said, on the pragmatic question: Should the U.S. be creating this many future enemies?
A report released on Tuesday by Human Rights Watch found that the U.S. policy of not acknowledging drone strikes means innocent victims' families are without the ability to seek U.S. compensation -- further fueling anti-American anger.
"I'm not absolutely against the use of drones," said Khoury. But, he added, in "any country where we're not at war, then it has the complications of sovereignty, of popular opinion. In the end, I'm not talking about international law. I'm talking about cost-benefits."