New war? Pentagon confirms U.S. forces ‘conducted multiple ground operations’ across Yemen

TAMPA, Fla., Dec. 20, 2017 — U.S. Central Command officials announced today that U.S. forces have conducted multiple ground operations and more than 120 strikes this year to remove key leaders and disrupt the ability of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Yemen to use ungoverned spaces in Yemen as a hub for terrorist recruiting, training, and base of operations to export terror worldwide.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is one of the terrorist groups most committed to and capable of conducting attacks in America, as assessed by the intelligence and defense communities, the officials said, while intelligence estimates indicate that ISIS-Yemen has doubled in size over the past year.

In November, the U.S. conducted 10 strikes across Yemen governorates Bayda and Marib, including a strike on Mujahid al-Adani, the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula Shabwah leader, who was killed Nov. 20 in Bayda. Al-Adani, also known as Mohammad Shukri, was a senior leader responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks against Yemeni, coalition and tribal security forces. He exerted significant influence within al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s terrorist attack networks, similarly, maintained close ties and access to the group’s other senior leaders, and previously served as an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula military leader in Aden.

Abu Layth al-Sanaani, an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula facilitator for Bayda governate, and three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula associates were also killed in the Nov. 20 strike.

Ruwahah al-Sanaani, also an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula facilitator, was killed Nov. 2 in Marib governorate.

In October, a strike Oct. 19 killed Ubaydah al-Lawdari, the Emir of Lawdar, and four associates in Bayda governorate. Al-Lawdari had been known to provide equipment and money in support of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula attacks against coalition forces, posing an increased threat to U.S. interests.

Service members from the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps participate in sustainment training at Grand Bara, Djibouti, Jan. 5, 2017. During the exercise, Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, along with soldiers from the 101st Infantry Battalion and Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted training utilizing MV-22 Osprey and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. During a raid against the terrorist group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Jan. 28, 2017, in Yemen, an Osprey hard-landed, injuring three service members and killing one. (Air Force photo Tech. Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)

Disrupting the organization

Meanwhile, a series of strikes on Oct. 16 against two ISIS terror training camps in Bayda killed more than 50 ISIS-Yemen combatants, disrupting the organization’s attempts to recruit and train new fighters.

“The removal of key facilitators in this region will interrupt al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s freedom of movement and likely force the group into a reactionary posture, limiting their ability to challenge Yemeni security forces and partnered advances,” said Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a Centcom spokesman.

“U.S. forces also expanded counterterrorism operations in October to encompass both al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS. This parallel targeting effort is required to prevent ISIS-Yemen from filling the vacuum left by a diminished al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula footprint or influence in the region,” he said.

Ongoing operations pressuring the network have also degraded al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s propaganda production, reducing one of the methods for the terror group to recruit and inspire lone wolf attacks across the globe. The al-Masra newsletter, previously published three times a month, has not been published since July.

Al-Malahim Establishment for Media Production, which produces al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s terrorist-inspiring video series, as well as Inspire Magazine, saw a large drop in October. Unable to produce video series and graphic terror-inspiring magazines, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has resorted to using low-tech audio messages.

“U.S. forces have enabled regional counterterrorism partners to regain territory from these terrorists — forcing them to spend more time on survival,” Brown said. “These operations have helped to illuminate terrorist networks, making intelligence gathering, subsequent targeting and follow-on operations increasingly productive and effective.

“Every strike, every raid and every partnered operation advance the defeat of these violent extremist organizations. U.S. forces will continue to use all effective measures to degrade the groups’ ability to export terror.”

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