The U.S. military said for the first time on Thursday it has both a ground and air presence in Yemen, assisting Saudi Arabian forces in their battle against Iran-backed Houthi forces.
The Pentagon said it had conducted “multiple ground operations” along with airstrikes at an increased rate of more than two per week this year. The attacks are primarily aimed at offshoots of al Qaeda and ISIS.
In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Central Command did not provide details on when and where the ground attacks were carried out in Yemen. However, the command said that more than 120 airstrikes in 2017 have targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the relatively new group known as ISIS-Yemen, of ISIS-Y.
Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a CentCom spokesman, said the increased OPTEMPO in Yemen was in direct response to President Donald Trump’s directive to pursue terrorist elements more aggressively.
The commander-in-chief “has made it abundantly clear” that AQAP and ISIS-Y sites and facilitators should be targeted, Brown said.
“AQAP is one of the terrorist groups most committed to, and capable of, conducting attacks in America, as assessed by the intelligence and defense communities, while intelligence estimates indicate that ISIS-Y has doubled in size over the past year,” CentCom said.
On Oct. 16, a series of airstrikes against a pair of ISIS-Y training camps in al-Bayda killed more than 50 ISIS-Y combatants. CENTCOM said the attacks are disrupting the organization’s attempts to recruit and train new fighters. [source]
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