Despite the claims of large numbers of civilian deaths, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a controversial U.S. ally in the war on terror, has always supported the drones. As a result — and likely the reason for his continued support, analysts say — the United States remained largely quiet during the massive protests that engulfed the country earlier this year, only backing an internationally-brokered plan for a transfer of power after his security forces opened fire on unarmed activists in Sanaa, Yemen's capital.
Saleh's cooperation with the United States, and his support of the air strikes, has further enraged average Yemenis and is often cited as one of the reasons why millions of people have risen up against his government over the last eight months.
“The Saleh regime allowed the U.S. to intervene and desecrate our homeland from end to end,” said a local politician in the rural village of Muajala, located in southern Abyan Province, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Yemen has been turned into Afghanistan and its people, either in mountains or valleys, were turned into [members] of Al Qaeda.”