Marines assigned to the 13th Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit provide security on April 30, 2016, during operations on the bridge wing of guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) in the Gulf of Aden.
“AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) 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,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Friday.
The UAE itself along with Saudi Arabia provided financial and military support to al-Qaeda militants last year to confront Houthis and the Yemeni army units that had taken over the security of the country after president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi resigned.
Last month, forces loyal to Hadi and Emirati troops reportedly overran Mukalla after al-Qaeda militants left the seaport in southeast Yemen.
The deployment of US troops comes a year after the withdrawal of its forces from Yemen. On March 21, 2015, the US evacuated its remaining forces out of al-Anad airbase in southern Yemen “due to the deteriorating security situation” a day after al-Qaeda captured the nearby city of al-Houta.
Davis noted Friday that “we view this as short term,” saying the US support includes a “very small number” of military personnel as well as intelligence, surveillance, planning, maritime security and medical help.
“This is of great interest to us. It does not serve our interests to have a terrorist organization in charge of a port city, and so we are assisting in that,” he added.
The US military carried out an airstrike against an al-Qaeda training camp in the group’s stronghold in southeastern Yemen in March.
He also distinguished between the ongoing US mission on the ground in Yemen and US-led counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda in the country.
US drones and warplanes have conducted 4 strikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen during the last two weeks and 10 militants have been confirmed to be dead.
“We have conducted four counterterrorism strikes against AQAP since April 23, killing 10 al-Qaeda operatives and injuring another,” Davis said.
Al-Qaeda has become stronger in Yemen taking advantage of the chaos created by the Saudi military campaign against Houthis more than a year ago.
Lately, Riyadh and its allies have announced an offensive against al-Qaeda in a decision seen by analysts as an attempt to ward off international criticism of the Saudi intervention in Yemen.
Yemen has been under military attacks by Saudi Arabia since late March last year.