Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Thomas Gibbons-Neff / The Washington Post & Sami Aboudi /Reuters – 2017-08-05 00:09:06
US Troops Are on the Ground in Yemen for al-Qaeda Offensive
Pentagon Won’t Rule Out More Troops Being Sent in Coming Weeks
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(August 4, 2017) — A day after the US was reported to have participated in an anti al-Qaeda offensive in southern Shabwa Province of Yemen, the Pentagon is confirming that a “small number” of US ground troops have been deployed into Yemen for an ongoing operation against the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) force.
Details are still scant, but the operation is said to be taking place across central Yemen in a major al-Qaeda stronghold. The Pentagon said the main purposes of their presence is “intelligence sharing,” at least for now.
That’s because the Pentagon said they are not ruling out sending even more troops into Yemen in the coming weeks, as they appear to intend to continue escalating the fight against AQAP, in an offensive which apparently is being coordinated with the United Arab Emirates.
This operation is distinct from the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which is not focused on fighting against AQAP, but the presence of US ground troops in the country at all is likely to be controversial, given the human rights disaster the US-backed Saudi conflict has turned into.
US Troops Are on the Ground in Yemen
For Offensive against al-Qaeda Militants
Thomas Gibbons-Neff / The Washington Post
(August 4,2017) — A contingent of US troops is involved in a Yemeni operation to push al-Qaeda militants from one of their key strongholds in central Yemen, the Pentagon said Friday.
A small number of troops are there to help with “intelligence sharing,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said, though he did not rule out that more US forces could be committed to the operation in the coming weeks.
The announcement comes a day after the United Arab Emirates said in a statement that its forces, along with US troops, were supporting the Yemeni military in the Shabwa governorate in a bid to oust al-Qaeda fighters entrenched there.
The operation is just the latest US-backed move against the terrorist group, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and signals the next phase of the invigorated US counterterrorism campaign against the militants that began shortly after Donald Trump took office.
Since Feb. 28, the United States has conducted roughly 80 airstrikes against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, Davis said, a number that remains little changed in past weeks. US Special Operations forces have also been involved in a limited number of ground operations in the country, including one that ended in the death of a Navy SEAL in January.
Aside from intelligence sharing, Davis said, the United States is providing midair refueling and overhead reconnaissance for forces involved in the operation. The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, a collection of US Navy ships loaded with Marines, is in the region and is probably assisting the operation with aircraft and personnel. In the past, amphibious groups much like the Bataan’s have been integral in supporting US-led operations against al-Qaeda in Yemen.
The last large-scale operation against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen was in 2015, when UAE and Yemeni forces, backed by another small element of US Special Operations troops, helped seize the port city of Mukalla. The operation faced relatively little resistance as the militants mostly fled into the interior of the country.
While the United States has remained focused on striking al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist group US officials see as especially potent, a Saudi-led coalition, propped up by US support and munitions, has been waging a parallel war against Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen for more than two years.
In 2015, Houthi forces ousted the Saudi-backed Yemeni government led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and in the ensuing vacuum of the civil war, al-Qaeda militants wrested control over large areas in the south of the country.
The war has killed thousands and displaced millions, with both sides accused of targeting civilians. With air and port access limited and access to medical care nearly nonexistent, famine and cholera have swept the country, leaving its population facing a humanitarian crisis on a scale not seen in decades.
Nine Family Members Killed in Yemen Air Strike
Sami Aboudi /Reuters
“We are recording all the crimes of the enemy and we will not forget them.”
— Dr Abdel-Ilah al-Azz
DUBAI (August 4, 2017) — Three women and six children from the same family were killed in an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition on their home in northern Yemen on Friday, a local health official said, the latest in a series of attacks since 2015.
Yemen has been torn by a civil war in which the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, is trying to roll back gains made by the Iran-aligned Houthi group which controls most of northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.
The head of the local health department, Dr Abdel-Ilah al-Azzi, said the attack at dawn on the family home of Taha al-Dharafi in Mahda district on the south-western outskirts of Saada city, also injured three other people.
“We are recording all the crimes of the enemy and we will not forget them,” Azzi said. “All the criminals will be put on trial soon, God willing,” he added. A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not respond to a request for a comment.
It was not immediately clear if the house was hit by mistake, but the coalition says it does not target civilians.
A family relative, who declined to be identified, said the attack happened before dawn while the family slept. He said the bodies were taken to the morgue while rescue workers continued to search for a missing woman in the rubble of the house.
Pictures from the scene showed the house completely destroyed by the strike. Residents who rushed to the scene were afraid to start rescue work while aircraft hovered overhead.
Saada, a stronghold of the Houthi group, which hails from the Zaidi branch of Shi’ite Islam, has been repeatedly hit by air strikes since the coalition of Arab states joined the civil war in March 2015. They see the war as an attempt by Iran to expand its influence in Yemen.
At least 25 Yemenis were killed in June when Saudi-led coalition aircraft struck a market in the Saada province. And in March, another coalition air strike killed 22 people and wounded dozens in a market in western Yemen near the Red Sea fishing town of Khoukha.
Khoukha and the nearby city of Hodeidah are controlled by the Houthis who overran Sanaa in 2014 and moved south to Aden in 2015 forcing Hadi and his administration to flee into exile.
The Yemen war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than three million and ruined much of the impoverished country’s infrastructure.
The Saudi-led coalition was formed in 2015 to fight the Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who have fired missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia.
In December, the coalition acknowledged it had made “limited use” of British-made cluster bombs, but said it had stopped using them. Nearly half of Yemen’s 22 provinces are on the verge of famine, according to the UN World Food Programme.
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