US military supporting Yemen in fight against al-Qaeda
WASHINGTON – The Associated PressThe Pentagon is providing military support, intelligence, ships and special operations forces to help in the ongoing operations against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, U.S. officials said May 5.
The U.S. military is helping Yemeni, Emirati and Arab Coalition forces that are battling al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and were recently able to retake the port city of Mukalla from AQAP control.
A senior U.S. official said that American special operations forces are advising the Yemeni and Emirati forces in the region, and that they are working at the headquarters level and are not near the conflict. The official was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. is providing “limited support” to the Arab Coalition and Yemeni operations in and around Mukalla. He said that includes planning, airborne surveillance, intelligence gathering, medical support, refueling and maritime interdiction.
Davis declined to discuss whether or not special operations forces were in the country. But he said the U.S. has sent a number of ships to the region including the USS Boxer amphibious ready group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is embarked with the group. The USS Gravely and USS Gonzalez, both Navy destroyers, are also in the area.
“Trained and supported by an Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Yemeni government forces and resistance fighters have retaken Mukalla and continue their offensive against AQAP in eastern Yemen,” said Davis. “AQAP remains a significant security threat to the United States and to our regional partners and we welcome this effort to specifically remove AQAP from Mukalla and to degrade, disrupt and destroy AQAP in Yemen.”
Late last month forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government drove AQAP militants from Mukalla, a year after they captured it. Mukalla had been their stronghold.
Meanwhile, Yemen foes discussed major political and security issues May 5 in face-to-face negotiations aimed at bringing an end to 13 months of devastating war, the U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.
As the talks got underway in Kuwait City, the airport in Yemen’s government-controlled second city of Aden reopened after months of closure due to security issues.
Three joint working groups formed by the United Nations exchanged views on resolving the political and security issues, and the release of prisoners and detainees, said Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
The teams were formed from members of the warring delegations on May 4 when direct talks resumed following a three-day interruption after the government delegation walked out in protest against the seizure of an army camp by the rebels.