US troops are on the ground inside Yemen for an offensive against al Qaeda

An unknown number of US troops are on the ground inside Yemen to help with “intelligence sharing” in an operation to rout al Qaeda militants, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis.

The US military is also providing overhead imagery, midair refuelling, and has at least three Navy ships in the region with about 4,000 Marines onboard, according to TM Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post.

US-backed Yemeni troops on Friday were able to push militants of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) out of Shabwah, a province in the south. The operation was also backed by the United Arab Emirates, which announced its support in a statement on Thursday, the Post reported.

The ongoing civil war in Yemen has pitted its government, backed by Saudi Arabia, against Houthi rebels, which are backed by Iran. AQAP had been able to secure a larger foothold in the country since the conflict began in late 2014.

US forces have conducted about 80 airstrikes against AQAP militants there since Feb. 28, the Post reported. American special operations forces have also conducted a limited number of raids on terrorist compounds in recent months.

In February, President Donald Trump gave the green light to his first military operation as commander-in-chief — a Navy SEAL raid on an AQAP compound in Yemen’s al Bayda province. Although the Pentagon said 14 militants were killed, roughly 30 civilians died in the battle as well, in addition to SEAL Chief William “Ryan” Owens.

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