The Pentagon has acknowledged for the first time it has deployed its troops to Yemen more than a year after pulling out following military intervention by the Arab-led coalition.
The security void created in the wake of the more than a year of war between loyalists of exiled government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Shia Houthi rebels has been exploited by the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Davis said on Friday the US military had also stepped up air strikes against AQAP fighters in the war-torn country.
A “very small number” of American military personnel has been working from a “fixed location” with Yemeni and Arab coalition forces – especially the Emiratis – in recent weeks around Mukalla, a port city seized by AQAP a year ago, Davis said.
“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,” the spokesman added. He said the troops were helping the Emiratis with “intelligence support,” but declined to say if they are special operations forces.
AQAP fighters have now fled Mukalla and other coastal areas, due to the government offensive. The United States is also offering an array of assistance to partners in Yemen, including air-to-air refueling capabilities, surveillance, planning, maritime security and medical help.