The U.S. has quietly re-entered the ground war in Yemen after withdrawing more than a year ago, deploying a small team of troops to assist an Arab-led mission targeting the al-Qaida affiliate that had established a stronghold in the eastern reaches of the war-torn Gulf nation.
Less than two weeks ago, a team of U.S. ground forces landed in Yemen to provide forces from the United Arab Emirates with intelligence, information from spy planes, advice and assistance on planning for operations, help with maritime security, medical support and aerial refueling, the Pentagon announced Friday. The Emiratis have led a coalition to retake the eastern port town of al-Mukalla from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, in recent weeks.
“This is really about providing fusion and access to U.S. information on a tactical, real-time level,” Defense Department spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Friday. “This is really about being a liaison to us for information.”
Davis would not say how many U.S. forces were contributing to the ground mission but indicated it is fewer than two dozen. He declined to say whether any other U.S. ground forces are in Yemen. Other officials at the Pentagon declined to comment on alocal Yemeni news report that a force of as many as 100 Army Rangers have landed in Lahij, Yemen, roughly 350 miles to the west.