Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trump mounts more aggressive US actions in Yemen

(March 4) As airstrikes against Yemen reached an unprecedented level over just two days, the Pentagon is quietly ordering new commando deployments to the Middle East as well as North Africa,

US counter-terrorism officials told ABC news of the new developments. The moves may be a sign of Trump's promise of a more aggressive counter-terrorism campaign. In late January, the Trump administration launched the first known commando operation with ground forces in Yemen in the last two years. Although Trump called the raid a success because it collected valuable intelligence, a Navy Seal was killed and several wounded. Many civilians were killed including women and children and a helicopter had to be destroyed. Critics have even questioned whether the main aim of the raid was even achieved as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article. In just the last few days there have been over thirty airstrikes on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAM) targets in Yemen.
A 20-year veteran of secret military operations told ABC news that authority had been given to broaden counter-terrorism operations recently: "Authorities have changed in special operations' favor with the new administration. We're doing work on the bad guys." Retired Army Special Forces Colonel Mark Mitchell said that chaos and lack of any functioning government has meant there is little pressure on AQAP. AQAP also fights against the Houthi rebels and hence the western and Saudi supported Hadi government headquartered in Aden will not attack AQAP while they are attacking the Houthi rebels. AQAP however has attacked Hadi forces as well. Mitchell said: "The increased counterterrorism operations are compensating for the absence of a Yemeni counterterrorism capability and highly restricted operations under the Obama administration." Some special forces members think that they will see more action under the Trump administration. Speaking this week Trump said: "We are going to have very soon the finest equipment in the world, we will give our military the tools you need to prevent war and if required to fight war and only do one thing and do you know what that is, win, win, we’re going to start winning again." While the commando raid is still claimed to have produced a great deal of valuable intelligence, none of the recent raids was based on any new intelligence from it. The more than thirty raids had long been planned and did not use any of the newly garnered intelligence. Apparently the intelligence gathered in the commando raid included many telephone numbers and some intelligence on AQAP leadership and activities but nothing that would be useful for airstrikes.
Scott Mann, a retired senior Green Beret officer said: "It is good to see the Trump Administration increasing pressure on ISIS and AQ senior leaders through air strikes and surgical ground strikes by some of our nation's most elite forces. But after 15 years of unilateral counterterror strike operations, our leaders must learn that 'cutting the head off the snake' is not how you defeat violent Islamist extremists." Mann said that the US must deploy "expeditionary diplomats" who are willing to take risks and engage local populations who then would help crush AQAM and the Islamic State.


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