The United States is continuing airstrikes against al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen while facing questions about how to carry on such operations without a trusted partner on the ground following the collapse of the country’s fragile, pro-Western government.

The U.S. strategy until now has been centered on CIA drone strikes on al Qaeda targets and ground raids by Yemeni special forces ferried around the country aboard American aircraft. That two-pronged approach is now in doubt in the immediate aftermath of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s resignation Jan. 22 after Houthi rebels seeking greater political power effectively seized control of the capital, Sanaa.

After years of close cooperation with elite, U.S.-trained units of Yemeni special forces, the United States may now find it has to carry out more missions on its own. In practice, that will likely mean an acceleration of the covert effort to track and kill individual militants using armed drones. In 2014 alone, the United States carried out at least 23 such strikes, according toThe Long War Journal. That was just one less than was carried out in Pakistan, long the central battlefront in the American drone war against militants around the world. […]