A group of around 20 U.S. special operations forces are on the ground in Yemen, reports the Los Angeles Times.Reuters reports that at least one of those troops was shot and seriously wounded on Sunday near the Red Sea city of Hudaida while AFP reports that a Yemeni solider blew himself up in the middle of an army battalion in the capital of Sanna, killing 96 and wounding about 300.
Yemeni soldier packing powerful explosives under his uniform blew himself up in the middle of an army battalion in Sanaa on Monday, killing 96 troops and wounding around 300, a military official and medics said.
The group is operating from a Yemeni base and using technology such as satellite imagery, drone video and eavesdropping systems to pinpoint targets while military actions intensify, according to U.S. and Yemeni officials.
The contingent of troops is expected to grow and are working in concert with the campaign of airstrikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Major General Kenneth Tovo, head of U.S. Central Command’s special operations force, told the Yemeni defence Ministry that “Yemeni armed forces will receive the necessary support that would enable it to destroy al Qaeda,” according to Reuters.
According to the Long War Journal, the U.S. is known to have carried out 21 airstrikes so far in 2012, compared to 37 total since December 2009.
The U.S. has been ramping up pressure in Yemen ever since a mole infiltrated AQAP and developed a improved version of an underwear bomb of the type that failed to explode on a 2009 U.S.-bound flight that he then gave to Saudi, British and U.S. intelligence officials.
U.S. special operations troops were withdrawn from Yemen during the Arab Spring last year as violent protests toppled then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh. It has been reported that the U.S. secretly placed troops in both Libya and Syria.
The U.S. has been a strong supporter of Saleh’s vice president, Abed Rabbo Hadi, who took power in February and has been much willing to allow Americans work directly with Yemeni military forces outside of Sanaa, officials told the Los Angeles Times.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Obama said in 2010 that he had “no intention of sending U.S. boots on the ground” to Yemen. But Army Gen. David Petraeus, now head of the CIA, offered to secretly put U.S. special operations troops in the country, leaked State Department cables show. Then-President Saleh rebuffed his proposal, the cables show.
Last week President Obama signed an executive order that gives the Treasury Department authority to freeze U.S. assets of anyone (including U.S. citizens) who “threaten the peace, security and stability” of Yemen. The same day about 20,000 Yemeni government troops supported by warplanes killed at least 29 alleged al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen.
Last week Secretary of defence Leon Panetta told Anna Mulrine of the Christian Science Monitor that “None of us know where this is going.”
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