Update on US Operations Against AQAP, Yemen
US Centcom Continues Airstrikes Against Al Qaeda Affiliate in Yemen
U.S. Central Command has conducted six counterterrorism airstrikes targeting the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Islamic terrorist network in Yemen in three separate governorates since May 16, bringing the total number of airstrikes to 34, Centcom officials announced August 30.
Codenamed Copper Dune, the US is supporting the Yemen government in its campaign against Islamic insurgents across the country. The airstrikes took place in Yemen’s Shabwah, Hadramawt and Bayda governorates, officials said, noting that a recent United Nations report assessed that AQAP leaders recognize Yemen as a hub for external operations.
AQAP a Significant Threat to Regional Security
“AQAP has taken advantage of the conflicts in Yemen to plot, direct and encourage terror attacks abroad,” said Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a Centcom spokesman. “We will not relent on our pursuit of AQAP terrorists as they remain a significant threat to regional security and stability and the safety of Americans at home and abroad.”
U.S. forces conducted 17 airstrikes in four separate governorates against AQAP through February to April this year. These included six air strikes against AQAP terrorists in February, seven air strikes against AQAP terrorists in March and four airstrikes against AQAP terrorists in April.
The April airstrikes included an AQAP training camp in western Hadramawt governorate April 11 and an AQAP checkpoint for asserting regional control and raising illegal revenue in al Bayda governorate April 23.
Other air strikes took place in al Bayda, Hadramawt, Zamakh and Shabwah governorates.
U.S. Central Command is aware of reports of alleged civilian casualties following the March 29 air strike against AQAP in al Bayda governorate. A credibility assessment is being conducted.
Intelligence and defense communities have assessed AQAP as one of the terrorist groups most committed to and capable of conducting attacks in the United States. AQAP has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States, its citizens and its allies around the world.
Khalid Batarfi and Hamza bin Laden Rousing Hatred Against US
In early 2018, senior AQAP figure Khalid Batarfi called on the group’s supporters to “rise and attack” Americans “everywhere.” Last month, Osama Bin Laden’s son Hamza, an influential al-Qaeda figure, called on aspiring terrorists to join and support AQAP’s terrorist efforts in Yemen.
The civil war in Yemen has killed an estimated 10,000 people in the two years to 2017, leaving a devastated country. Before the civil war, Yemen imported around 90% of its food. Fighting brought the food supply chain to a standstill, leaving more than half of the country’s 28 million people in danger of starvation.
The United States is committed to finding and striking AQAP’s terrorist network in Yemen.
“In coordination with the government of Yemen, U.S. forces are conducting a series of counter-terrorism operations against AQAP and ISIS-Yemen,” said US Centcom spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown. “We will continue to disrupt and degrade the ability of AQAP to plan attacks, confronting threats before they reach our borders.”
Image: airstrike in Sana’a 2015 (CC, 2015).