Edited by Sam Thielman
WE AREN'T TALKING ABOUT THE LATEST WAR in Yemen, except we kind of are.
Six years ago, as the U.S.-backed Saudi/Emirati war on the Houthis bogged down, Aram Rostom of Buzzfeed revealed that one of the proxy combatants in the war was a mercenary company staffed by retired, Iraq and Afghanistan-experienced U.S. special operators and French Foreign Legionnaires. The company, known as the Spear Operations Group, killed targets selected by its employer: the U.S.-aligned government of the United Arab Emirates.
But the UAE and its Yemeni client, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), weren't hunting the Houthis. The targets of the Spear Operations Group and other sponsored or hired militias were human-rights activists, troublesome imams, lawyers and even opposition politicians. Or, as Spear tended to call them, terrorists.
Now two Spear Operations veterans have given on-camera interviews to a blockbuster BBC investigation. The investigation finds that Spear Operations acted as an Emirati-hired death squad. One of its leaders, ex-COO Isaac Gilmore, a former Navy SEAL, tells the BBC that he was confident he would face no legal hindrance because Spear was basically in line with U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and acted on behalf of a major U.S. ally. So far, Gilmore has been proven correct.
But while Gilmore and others in Spear insist they were assassinating members of al-Qaeda, the BBC presents an explosive allegation from someone they say is a Yemeni military whistleblower. According to the whistleblower, the Emiratis and the STC were freeing al-Qaeda figures from prison in exchange for killing people they wanted dead.
This story is a wild one that reveals a tremendous amount about what the landscape looks like in areas of Yemen the Houthis don't control. And it made me wonder if these sorts of tactics—and these sorts of militias—are going to be options for the U.S. as it gets frustrated with the performance of its current stand-off strikes on the Houthis, the most recent of which occurred Tuesday.
That story is going to follow the paywall, because FOREVER WARS needs you as a paid subscriber! Smash that button because you know you're not going to want to miss this one.