Yemen

U.S. ramps up air war against Islamic State in Yemen as fight subsides in Iraq and Syria

As the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria comes to a close, U.S. military and counterterrorism officials are setting their sights on the group’s growing presence in the war-torn country of Yemen. The number of U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State’s Yemeni faction has increased in the past several weeks as the mission for American drones and warplanes against the group’s bastions elsewhere in the Middle East ramp down. A trio of deadly strikes this month against Islamic State training camps in Yemen marks a refocus by American counterterrorism forces back onto the Gulf state that has been a regular target of U.S. forces battling the al Qaeda faction known as al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula, or AQAP, for the past two decades. But strikes in the country this month are the first time Washington has gone after the Islamic State inside Yemen. The uptick in U.S. operations against the Yemeni-based Islamic State cells began in mid-October with an airstrike against a suspected camp in the country’s al Bayda governorate. The strike, which the Pentagon said was critical to “disrupting the organization’s attempts to train new fighters,” was the first such strike specifically targeting Islamic State in the country. On Wednesday, American forces launched a pair of airstrikes against another suspected target in al Bayda, reportedly killing nine jihadis tied to Yemen’s Islamic State factions. All told, American warplanes killed roughly 60 insurgents from the group during all three strikes, said Central Command officials, according to reports. “ISIS has used the ungoverned spaces of Yemen to plot, direct, instigate, resource and recruit for attacks against America and its allies around the world,” Pentagon officials said after the initial Oct. 9 strike, using an acronym for the group. “U.S. forces are supporting ongoing counterterrorism operations in Yemen against ISIS and AQAP to degrade the groups’ ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to hold territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen,” Pentagon officials added. U.S. forces have launched over 100 airstrikes against al Qaeda in Yemen this year, according to figures compiled by the Washington-based think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The high rate of airstrikes this year under the Trump administration dwarfs the previous high of 46 strikes in 2016 ordered by President Obama.

Pentagon: US forces in Yemen to aid fight against Al Qaeda affiliate

A “small number” of U.S. forces have been on the ground in Yemen for the past two weeks helping Yemeni and Emirati forces, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, battle Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, the Pentagon announced Friday. Their presence marks the first time U.S. troops have been on the ground in Yemen since March 2015, when the U.S. military pulled the last of its special operations forces as a civil war raged. Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. forces are providing “intelligence” support to Arab allies fighting AQAP for a “short term.” He declined to offer a more specific timeline or provide the size of the detachment of U.S. forces, characterizing the group as a “small number.” Davis said there have been four airstrikes against AQAP since late last month. In March, the U.S. military conducted an airstrike in Yemen against the affiliate, killing 70 fighters. The military used jet fighters and drones in the operation, according to officials. Davis said the U.S. Navy also has positioned the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer and two escort ships, USS Gravely and USS Gonzales, both guided-missile destroyers, off the coast of Yemen. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit is headquartered aboard the USS Boxer and has over 2,000 U.S. Marines under its command ready to go ashore if needed. Two weeks ago, Yemeni and Emirati forces pushed AQAP militants out of the port city of Mukalla, about halfway down Yemen’s coastline in the Gulf of Aden. The civil war in Yemen has drawn support from Middle Eastern countries along sectarian lines since fighting broke out last year. Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been fighting Yemeni troops loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. AQAP has taken advantage of the chaos to expand its control over large portions of the country. The State Department closed its embassy in Yemen in February 2015. U.S. Marines protecting the embassy were forced to destroy their weapons before boarding a private charter from Oman during the evacuation.

This story is developing..

US seizes thousands of Iranian weapons, including grenade launchers, in Arabian Sea

The crew of a U.S. Navy ship stopped a massive Iranian arms shipment dead in its tracks, seizing thousands of weapons, AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers that likely were headed to Yemen, the Pentagon announced Monday. The seizure, which unfolded in the Arabian Sea on March 28, was the third of its kind in recent weeks, military officials say. Iran has been supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen in their proxy war against a Saudi-led coalition backed by the United States. Like Iran, the Houthis are a Shia-led group. The arms shipment appears to mark the latest provocative action from the defiant Islamic republic, which reported last month that it tested missiles marked with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out.” And on Monday, the Iranian government warned the U.S. to butt out of trying to control its missile program. “The White House should know that defense capacities and missile power, specially at the present juncture where plots and threats are galore, is among the Iranian nation’s red lines… and we don’t allow anyone to violate it,” Deputy Chief of Staff Brig-Gen Maassoud Jazzayeri told state media. On Friday, President Obama said Iran was obeying the “letter” of its landmark nuclear agreement with the West, but not the “spirit” of it. The Navy said the shipment included 1,500 AK-47s, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 21 .50-caliber machine guns. After the U.S. seized the weapons stash from the dhow, a traditional sailing vessel, the Navy let the crew go. A U.S. official told Fox News current rules do not allow western naval forces to seize the crew in addition to illicit cargo. “You have to find a country willing to prosecute,” the official said. A defense official reached by Fox News would not reveal the nationality of the dhow’s crew. Last month, Iran announced that it tested missiles marked with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out,” in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution tied to the recent nuclear deal. The resolution forbids Iran from working on its ballistic missile program for eight years and bans sales of its conventional weapons. In January, Iran captured 10 U.S. Navy sailors in the Persian Gulf, on the same day President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. Iran released the sailors one day later. Last year, naval forces from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship and held it for weeks to settle a business dispute. Iranian vessels later surrounded a U.S.-flagged vessel but did not detain it. Soon afterwards, U.S. warships escorted all U.S. and British flagged cargo ships and tankers transiting the Strait of Hormuz, a key Mideast oil passage. In late December, Iran’s military fired rockets near the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, a move the U.S. called “unnecessarily provocative and unsafe.”

More of the same from Iran… And yet Obama continues to give them our hard-earned tax-dollars, and appease them.  Unreal..  Kudos to this Navy crew for doing it’s part to thwart this shipment.  Outstanding!   🙂

At least 4 Americans reportedly held by Yemen’s rebels

At least four Americans are reportedly being held by rebels in Yemen who toppled the U.S.-backed government, and the State Department said Saturday it is “doing everything we can to get these individuals released.” The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that attempts to free the Americans have failed. The four are believed to be imprisoned in the Yemen capital of Sanaa, which Saudi Arabia has repeatedly bombed in a campaign to oust the Houthi rebels from power, the newspaper reported. “We have seen reports that several U.S. citizens have recently been detained in Yemen,” the State Department said in a statement. “We are doing everything we can to get these individuals released. “Due to privacy considerations, we do not have any further personal details or information to share,” the agency said. “The protection of U.S. citizens abroad is a top priority.” The State Department did not provide an exact number of U.S. prisoners detained. The Houthis had cleared one of the prisoners for release, but the Post report says members of the rebellion reversed the decision. Three of the four prisoners held private sector jobs and fourth holds dual American-Yemeni citizenship. None is a U.S. government employee, according to the Post. U.S. officials and relatives requested that the Post withhold details about the four citing safety concerns. Another American, Sharif Mobley, is also being held in Houthi custody. He’s been held for more than five years on terrorism-related charges brought by the previous government. The Post report said those most recently detained are among dozens of Americans who were unable to leave Yemen or who chose to remain in the country after the U.S. closed its embassy.

And why haven’t we heard about this??  Obama’s policies in Yemen, like everywhere else, are a total disaster..

Iranian Warships Arrive Near Yemen – Comes just days after U.S. announced it would send its own warships

A fleet of Iranian warships arrived near the southern coast of Yemen on Wednesday in a move likely to add greater tension in a developing U.S.-Iranian standoff in the region, according Iranian military leaders. Just days after the United States announced it would send its own warships to Yemen in order to prevent Iran from smuggling weapons to terror forces fighting there, a flotilla of Iranian destroyers docked in the same area. Iran’s military moves are likely to increase tensions between the two countries as each seeks to bolster opposing sides in the fight currently unfolding in Yemen. An Iranian fleet including a destroyer warship and a helicopter-carrying warship arrived in the waters off the southern tip of Yemen on Wednesday, according to Iranian state-controlled media. The warships will “protect [Iran’s] cargo ships and oil tankers against pirates,” according to Iran’s Fars News Agency. The United States and other countries fear Iran is using these cargo ships to deliver weapons and other deadly hardware to opposition forces in Yemen. The Iranian warships will remain in the area for at least three months, according to Fars. Iranian military officials have been defiant about the country’s presence in the region, vowing to remain there despite pressure from other countries.

Looks like Iran is calling Obama’s bluff…  If our President were Reagan, I’d sleep well.  But, with our limp-wristed, metro-sexual, narcissistic, breathtakingly weak, bumbling fool currently in the White House…not so much.

US aircraft carrier sent to block Iranian shipments to Yemen

A U.S. aircraft carrier has been dispatched to waters off Yemen to join other American ships prepared to block any Iranian shipments to the Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen. The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of about eight Iranian ships is heading toward Yemen and possibly carrying arms for the Houthis. A Navy official confirmed to Fox News that the USS Theodore Roosevelt — along with her escort ship, the USS Normandy, a guided-missile cruiser — left the Persian Gulf on Sunday en route for the Arabian Sea, to help enforce the blockade. Tensions are rising in the region even as the U.S. and five other world powers scramble to strike a final deal with Iran on its nuclear program by the end of June. The fighting in Yemen, where U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition against the Iran-backed rebels, is complicating matters. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, without commenting specifically on any Navy movements, said the U.S. has concerns about Iran’s “continued support” for the Houthis. “We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen. That support will only contribute to greater violence in that country,” he said. “These are exactly the kind of destabilizing activities that we have in mind when we raise concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East.” He said “the Iranians are acutely aware of our concerns for their continued support of the Houthis by sending them large shipments of weapons.” A written statement from the Navy on Monday said the two ships are joining others in conducting “maritime security operations” in the region. “In recent days, the U.S. Navy has increased its presence in this area as a result of the current instability in Yemen,” the statement said. “The purpose of these operations is to ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region remain open and safe. The United States remains committed to its regional partners and to maintaining security in the maritime environment.”

This story is developing..

Iran sends navy vessels near Yemen amid airstrikes

Iran dispatched a naval destroyer and another vessel Wednesday to waters near Yemen as the United States quickened weapons supply to the Saudi-led coalition striking rebels there, underlining how foreign powers are deepening their involvement in the conflict. Iran’s English-language state broadcaster Press TV quoted Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari as saying the ships would be part of an anti-piracy campaign “safeguarding naval routes for vessels in the region.” The maneuver comes amid an intense Saudi-led Gulf Arab air campaign targeting the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, who come from a Shiite sect. Critics say Shiite power Iran backs the Houthis, though both the Islamic Republic and the rebels deny any direct military assistance. Speaking a day earlier in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken blamed the violence in Yemen on the Houthis, and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, saying that the U.S. is committed to defending Saudi Arabia. “We have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination and planning cell in the Saudi operations center,” he said in a statement to reporters after meeting with Saudi royals and Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled his country amid rebel advances. Intelligence sharing includes making available raw aerial imagery the coalition could use to better strike anti-Hadi forces, said a U.S. defense official who was not authorized to comment publicly. Blinken said the U.S. and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council must coordinate closely and press all parties to seek a political solution. The Gulf Arab-backed air campaign supporting Hadi, which began on March 26, has so far failed to stop the Houthis’ advance on Aden, Yemen’s second-largest city, which was declared the provisional capital by Hadi before he fled. The U.S. says that the chaos has allowed the local al-Qaida branch, which it considers the world’s most dangerous wing of the group, to make “great gains” on the ground, causing Washington to rethink how it prevents it from launching attacks in the West. Speaking from Tokyo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the collapse of the central government in Yemen makes it harder to conduct counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida, which has ambitions to strike Western targets, including the United States. Regarding the weapons deliveries, he said it involved “some resupply of equipment and munitions” to Saudi Arabia.

Something to keep an eye on.. This story is developing…