The troops are operating as an intelligence support team near the southern port city of Mukalla in aid of the the Yemeni government, Emirate and Arab coalition battling al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Washington (Talk Media News) – The “small number” of U.S. ground troops operating in Yemen for the past two weeks are deployed there on a “short term” basis, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Monday.
The troops, located near the southern port city of Mukalla, are operating as an intelligence support team for the the Yemeni government, Emirate and Arab coalition battling al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
“It’s going to be a limited period of time, but I don’t have a particular deadline [for withdrawal],” Cook said during a press briefing from the Pentagon.
The Pentagon revealed the presence of U.S. troops in Yemen on May 6, saying that the military personnel are “providing limited support” in the form of intelligence, maritime support, airborne intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, aerial refueling and medical aid.
The USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group; comprised of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the USS Boxer, the USS Gravely and the USS Gonzalez; is operating off the coast of Yemen and providing medical support to the effort.
Prior of the outbreak of its civil war last year, the U.S. had about 125 special operations troops in Yemen. They were withdrawn in March 2015 as the war between government loyalists backed by a U.S.-allied Saudi Arabian-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels expanded.
The U.S. has supported the Saudi-led coalition in this battle with intelligence, aerial refueling and advanced munitions over the past year.
These new personnel in Yemen are part of a separate mission, the Pentagon said.
“This one is specifically in support of the Yemeni government re-taking Mukalla from AQAP,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis noted Friday.
The U.S government considers AQAP to be the most dangerous al Qaeda branch due to its emphasis and reputation for plotting attacks on overseas targets.
The counter-terrorism operations against AQAP in Yemen are pursuant to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and in compliance with international law, according to the Pentagon.