Last week, the U.S. carried out its first airstrikes in Yemen in nearly three months, striking targets associated with a local al Qaeda affiliate there.
The six airstrikes were the first since Jan. 1, when the U.S. conducted two strikes, killing one of the al Qaeda operatives associated with the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen back in 2000. The U.S. has not released details about casualties from last week’s airstrikes.
The U.S. has worried that instability from the ongoing civil war in the Middle Eastern country could allow a power vacuum for al Qaeda and Islamic State group affiliates to flourish in the region.
“In coordination with the government of Yemen, U.S. forces continue to support ongoing counterterrorism operations against AQAP and ISIS-Y to disrupt and destroy militants' attack-plotting efforts, networks, and freedom of maneuver within the region,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement according to CNN.
Despite the concern that terror groups could exploit the ongoing crisis in Yemen to gain a foothold in the region, U.S. airstrikes in Yemen have declined in recent years. In 2017 the U.S. conducted 131 airstrikes and in 2018 it conducted 38.
Last month, the Senate passed a resolution 54-46 aimed at reducing U.S. involvement in the civil war between the Saudi-backed government and Iranian-backed rebels. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rebuked the Senate for passing the measure.
“The senators who voted 'aye' say they want to end the bombing in Yemen and support human rights. But we really need to think about whose human rights,” Pompeo said. “The way to alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering isn’t to prolong the conflict by handicapping our partners in the fight, but by giving the Saudi-led coalition the support needed to defeat Iranian-backed rebels and ensure a just peace.”