May 12, 2012
With growing fighting in the Abyan Province, the Pentagon is announcing that it intends to send troops to Yemen as part of a “training mission.”
Following repeated claims by US leaders that Yemen’s al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the greatest threat on the planet,the US has dramatically escalated its drone strike campaign against Yemen, pounding southern towns under the control of Ansar al-Sharia several times a week. All this and the ground troops, nominally “trainers,” point to an ever increasing US military role in Yemen.
Despite this, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta insisted that there was “no consideration” that the training mission could be escalated into a full scale ground operation. Officials have also repeatedly “ruled out” boots on the ground in Yemen.
The exact details of the training mission have been a matter of considerable speculation, with the preliminary announcement earlier this week followed by comments that the troops being sent are “special forces” aiming to do a lot more than just train.
Though the Pentagon introduced the deployment as a “first,” US troops have actually been in Yemen for months now, as the Pentagon reported US troops coming under attack in the city of Aden in early March. There was no attempt at the time to explain what the troops were doing there.