By Kasim Ileri
The U.S. has recently deployed troops to Yemen to help United Arab Emirates forces drive al-Qaeda out of the port city of Mukalla, the Pentagon said Friday.
“We have seen over a period of many months a troubling growth of AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] in Yemen,” spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said, adding that the U.S. sent a “small number of people” to help the United Arab Emirates [UAE] efforts to rout the militant group from the Hadhramut coastal region in the south, located 480 kilometers (300 miles) east of Aden.
Davis declined to give a number of troops but said they are providing “intelligence support,” and “assistance with operational planning.”
It has been less than two weeks that the troops have been in Yemen, he added.
He underscored that the operation in Makalla is led by Yemeni forces, backed by gulf partners, particularly the UAE.
Apart from troops on the ground, the U.S. is also providing Emirati forces with “airborne Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), maritime interdictions, security operations, medical support and aerial refueling,” Davis said.
The U.S. withdrew the remaining 1,000 Special Forces from Yemen amid security concerns following a Houthi uprising last year.
Responding to a question about whether the Pentagon has ensured the security of the forces on the ground against the Houthis, Davis said that they are far away from the areas where Houthis are fighting.
According to the spokesman, the U.S. also has one amphibious ship and two destroyers off the Makalla coast as well as several aircraft, including ISR and drones.
The U.S. military has conducted four unilateral airstrikes against AQAP since April 23 and has killed 10 al Qaeda operatives while injuring another, according to Davis.