President Donald Trump has authorized a new campaign of airstrikes against al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen.
The new campaign has bombed the group 44 times in the last 5 days, Fox News reports. These strikes include both manned and unmanned aircraft, and may even be accompanied by more ground raids by U.S. special operators.
The bombing campaign is a major departure from Yemen strikes under the Obama administration. The Long War Journal, a project of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which tracks U.S. airstrikes, notes that the U.S. has only averaged approximately 30 airstrikes a year in Yemen since 2012. Trump has outpaced that rate in just the last week.
Trump also reclassified Yemen as an “area of active hostility” which lets the military launch strikes against terror targets without clearing it through a long approval process. The group is estimated to have nearly 3,000 fighters in Yemen.
Trump authorized a late-night Jan. 29 Navy SEAL team 6 raid on al-Qaida compound which killed dozens of terrorists, along with Chief Petty Officer Ryan Owens. Reports indicate he may delegate further authority for such raids to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other military commanders. This policy would also be a departure from the Obama administration, which tightly controlled high-profile military action.
The Jan. 29 raid yielded information on potentially hundreds of terrorist contacts, including some in the west. U.S. officials also found information regarding training camps used by the groups, explosive-manufacturing techniques, and possible targets being considered by the terrorist group.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has long been a thorn in the side of the U.S. in Yemen and it expanded its territory during the Yemeni civil war. The group has launched multiple plots against the U.S., including the famous underwear bomber plot that nearly brought down a Northwest flight over U.S. territory.
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