In the southeast (Hadramout province) tribesmen complain that there have been so many UAV attacks on al Qaeda vehicles lately that civilians are reluctant to go to the hills for picnics. This was usually done in a convoy, full of armed men (for protection from bandits and hostile tribal factions) who could be misinterpreted as an al Qaeda convoy. This rarely happens, as the CIA demands a lot of intel before authorizing an attack. That's why there are so few civilian casualties.Remember when some critics of the drone campaign were telling us that by hunting down terrorists we were just creating more of them? Maybe so, but which is better: to have lots of terrorists living in constant fear, unable to settle in one area for long, and with no veteran leadership, or to have lots of terrorists living in safety planning attacks against the U.S. under the direction of highly experienced and competent leaders?
The U.S. believes, based on intercepted communications, interrogations of captured terrorists and reports from informants on the ground that al Qaeda is sending more and more of its personnel to Syria. There it is safer (no American UAVs and missile attacks) and the terrorists expect the Assad dictatorship to fall and the new government to reward al Qaeda (who are doing a lot of the fighting) to be given a sanctuary in Syria.
Getting out of Yemen isn't easy for known al Qaeda members (who need false documents and such), and even those who can easily pass as just another Yemeni need money and coordination with al Qaeda groups in Syria. So not as many al Qaeda men can travel to Syria as quickly as they would like.
The American UAV campaign has been a huge success, killing dozens of key al Qaeda personnel and many lower ranking terrorists. In the last two weeks at least three dozen al Qaeda have been killed by these attacks and so far this year about 200 have died. Many more al Qaeda have been killed or captured by the army in the south, which is out there daily looking for groups of al Qaeda trying to hide while planning more terror attacks and an eventual comeback.
Although I think it's true that almost any American president would be doing precisely what President Obama is doing in conducting these drone strikes, he still deserves credit, in my opinion, for ordering them.