Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Hans Nichols and Mosheh Gains / NBC News – 2017-12-22 00:50:25
Pentagon Confirms ‘Multiple’ US Ground Operations in Yemen
Officials Offer Few Details on the Raids
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(December 21, 2017) — While the Pentagon has been very secretive about what they’ve been doing in Yemen all year, on Wednesday officials confirmed that they have carried out “multiple ground operations,” as well as 120 airstrikes in 2017.
US operations haven’t been well-documented at all, In January, almost immediately after the inauguration, the US attacked the village of Yakla, claiming there was an al-Qaeda “collaborator” there. The troops ended up destroying most of the village in the offensive.
President Trump loudly praised the Yakla raid as a huge success, though it’s wort noting that they never tried to heavily publicize them again with such fanfare. And what have they accomplished in all these raids and airstrikes.
Well Yemen in general is a mess, of course, but the Pentagon also estimated that ISIS has doubled in size since the start of the year, though they did claim they’d degraded al-Qaeda’s “propaganda” coming out of Yemen.
That’s a mixed bag, to say the least, and it’s surprising the Pentagon would choose now to disclose these operations, given the massive humanitarian crisis cause by the Saudi invasion of Yemen, which the US has been backing from the beginning.
Pentagon Confirms US Ground Operations in Yemen
Hans Nichols and Mosheh Gains / NBC News
WASHINGTON (December 20, 2017) — The Defense Department on Wednesday acknowledged for the first time “multiple ground operations” in Yemen, while noting that the Islamic State has doubled in size in the war-torn country, where an insurgency by Houthi rebels has allowed terrorist groups to seek haven.
“US forces have conducted multiple ground operations and more than 120 strikes in 2017,” said a statement from the US Central Command in Tampa, Florida.
The goal is to “disrupt the ability of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Yemen to use ungoverned spaces in Yemen as a hub for terrorist recruiting, training and base of operations to export terror worldwide.”
Before Wednesday’s statement, the extent of the US counterterrorism operations in Yemen was unknown under the Trump administration, with only sporadic acknowledgement of US military operations there. Unlike the campaign in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State, the Defense Department did not provide regular updates on either air or ground operations in Yemen.
In January, officials acknowledged a ground raid against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula after Navy Seals encountered stiff resistance that left a Seal, William “Ryan” Owens, dead.
President Donald Trump called that raid a “huge success,” a characterization that many in his own party, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., criticized.
The announcement came as the White House sought to use passage of a tax reform bill to celebrate what officials view as victories, both on Capitol Hill and on the battlefield. Vice President Mike Pence said the Islamic State’s “so-called caliphate has crumbled across Syria and Iraq,” as he praised Trump’s approach to fighting ISIS across the globe.
Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that Iraqi security forces had defeated ISIS in Iraq. US officials congratulated them on their victory, but insisted that difficult days lie ahead.
“Right now, clearly ISIS is getting broken,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon last week. “The fight is not over with them. Don’t believe it when somebody says that ISIS is completely down.”
Military officials have been bracing for ISIS to look for safe havens from Africa to Afghanistan as it has lost territory in Iraq and Syria.
On the Horn of Africa, airstrikes against ISIS affiliates in Somalia have accelerated. In October, an ISIS-linked group ambushed a Green Beret-led team in Niger leaving four American soldiers dead, the largest loss on the continent since two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in Somalia in 1993.
In the announcement about ISIS in Yemen, the Defense Department also said it had killed three senior al Qaeda leaders last month and 50 ISIS Yemen combatants at two training camps in October.
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