Captain Jeff Davis
, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense announced the strikes at a briefing on Friday March 3rd, saying: "We said more than 20 [strikes] two nights ago. Last night's would put us somewhere over 30.. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been gaining strength, gaining a deeper foothold in Yemen." AQAM has been able to extend its influence due to the ongoing civil war between the rebel Houthis who control much of the north-west of the country and the Saudi and U.S. supported government of Mansour Hadi. His government was in exile in Saudi Arabia but is now headquartered in southern Yemen in the port of Aden.
According to an Al Jazeera report
the strikes were by U.S. jets rather than drones. Residents of Wadi Yashburn villange in Shabwa province told reporters that some of the strikes hit civilian homes and that a number of civilians were wounded. The air raids also hit the home of an al-Qaeda commander in the area Saad Atef according to tribal sources. Security officials in the area said 8 suspected al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the strikes.
Residents also reported
that U.S. ground troops also fought with al-Qaeda fighters Friday. They said that the troops descended into the village of Wadi Yashburn on Friday night supported by drones and Apache helicopters in a fight that lasted nearly half an hour. About three hours later another half-hour battle took place in neighboring Abyan province in the Jabal Mugan area according to residents there. The Pentagon did confirm raids on Friday but denied that U.S. troops had been enaged in any ground combat. Obviously, the local residents must have been hallucinating or perhaps the ground troops were Yemeni forces with US air support. Captain Davis
said: "I know there have been reports of firefights, raids, there have not been any that US forces have been involved in [on Friday]."
Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the Europe Council on Foreign Relations in Beirut said of the raids:"What you have here over the past 24 hours is the U.S. military launching a series of strikes in a way that does appear to be a strong action against al-Qaeda, even if the ultimate results of these strikes remain unclear. It looks like they're basically aiming to bombard various areas that are known as so-called strongholds of al-Qaeda and their backers. That being said, there is obvious a huge possibility of civilians being caught in the crossfire. So there is a huge danger that even if you are hitting al-Qaeda targets that civilians will be caught in the crossfire, which risks blowback beyond being a violation of international humanitarian law."
The later raid comes a month after Trump's first commando raid in Yemen on January 29
, a Navy Seal was killed as well as several wounded. Many civilians including women and children were killed. Although the Trump administration called the raid a success, there are doubts that the main aim
of raid was even accomplished or that valuable intelligence was gleaned. Drone attacks against AQAM started soon after the 2001 terror attacks. AQAM is still thriving but faces competition from the Islamic State. The drone attacks are widely resented in Yemen as shown in then appended video from April 2014. However, Hadi supports the drone attacks even though doing so hurts his popularity. Many critics claim that the attacks help AQAM recruit fighters.
Trump has vowed to defeat the Islamic State and Al Qaeda and to step up the battle against them. So far his strategy seems to be just to intensify the same policies that President Obama followed.