The US army announced Friday that a small contingent of troops has been sent to Yemen to aid the Arab coalition, in particular the United Arab Emirates, in the fight against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
This is the first time the US has acknowledged that it has troops on the ground in Yemen to help the Saudi-led Arab coalition, which began its operations in Yemen in order to restore the legitimacy of president Mansour Hadi after the Iran-backed Houthis seized the capital Sana’a in late 2014.
Recently, US troops helped Emirati forces seize the city of Mukalla, which AQAP took control of last year amid security unrest.
“This is of great interest to us. It does not serve our interests to have a terrorist organisation in charge of a port city, and so we are assisting in that,” said US department of defence spokesperson Jeff Davis on Friday.
Davis added that the American troops are working from a fixed location to provide the Arab forces with intelligence and support.
The Pentagon also announced that US forces recently carried out attacks on AQAP locations in Yemen outside Mukalla port.
“We have conducted four counter-terrorism strikes against AQAP since 23 April, killing 10 Al-Qaeda operatives and injuring another,” Davis added.
Davis also affirmed that the US is committed to hunting down Al-Qaeda.
The crisis in Yemen escalated when the Houthis seized some cities including the capital San’aa in 2014.
Saudi Arabia and an Arab coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore “the legitimacy” of president Hadi Mansour.
AQAP and “Islamic State” (IS) have taken advantage of Yemen’s political unrest to expand in some locations across the country.
US president Barack Obama announced last month that 250 US Special Forces soldiers will be sent to Syria to aid the fight against IS by supporting Syrian ground troops.
“They’re not going to be leading the fight on the ground, but they will be essential in providing training and assisting local forces as they continue to drive back [IS],” Obama said earlier.