As war Between Israel and Hamas threatening to drag Yemen in, the minimal US military presence on the ground in the war-torn country raises the specter of deepening US involvement in the conflict.
On Monday, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired ballistic and cruise missiles at Israel. This attack marks the first time ballistic missiles have been launched at Israel since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles at Israel in 1991, according to Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and expert on the region. The use of ballistic missiles represents a major escalation that threatens to ignite a regional war – with US forces stationed nearby.
“The best strategy to avoid being drawn into another war in the Middle East is to not have troops unnecessarily in the region in the first place.”
“The best strategy to avoid being drawn into another war in the Middle East is to not have troops unnecessarily in the region in the first place — and to bring those who are there now home,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Foundation. The Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a Washington think tank that advocates a restrained foreign policy. Their presence there does not make America safer, but rather it puts America more at risk of another war in the Middle East.
Although the size of the US special operations footprint inside Yemen has grown and flowed – the US has been at war there since 2000 – the White House revealed in June that the US maintains “combat” forces in Yemen. “U.S. military personnel are deployed to Yemen to conduct operations against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS,” the White House revealed in a previously unreported paragraph of the latest war powers resolution. a report To Congress.
The Houthis have not been listed as an official target of the US Special Forces mission in Yemen, but the Pentagon has used its powers in the war against ISIS to strike Iranian-backed groups elsewhere. Last week, the United States bombed two facilities linked to Iranian-backed militias in Syria in response to attacks on US facilities in the region by Iranian-backed armed groups.
However, analysts cautioned against dismissing the Houthi strike as part of a broader Iranian campaign without any evidence.
“One should be careful about interpreting the missile attack as part of a grand strategy by the Iranian-led ‘axis of resistance,’” Paul Pillar, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, told The Intercept. “The Houthis, despite material support from Iran, are making their own decisions: perhaps their biggest move of the war in Yemen — seizing the capital, Sanaa — is said to have been taken against the advice of the Iranians.”
President Joe Biden justification US strikes on Syrian targets as a deterrence strategy, but some observers say any deterrence will be undermined by the fact that the US’s massive regional military presence provides a range of available targets.
“Biden believes that existing and new US forces in the region serve as a deterrent against attacks by Iran or its allies,” said Parsi of the Quincy Institute. “But instead of deterring these actors, too often U.S. forces act as ducks that provide the Houthis or Iraqi militias with more targets. Even lawmakers who do not want more war in the Middle East will have to push for military action if these forces to attack.
Yemen has been locked in a brutal civil war since 2014, with the Houthi rebel group in the north backed by Iran and the southern government in exile backed by the United States and a coalition of Yemen’s neighbours, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The United States has consistently supported the Saudi-backed Aden government.
US operations in Yemen are monitored by Special Operations Command Central Forward-Yemen, or SOCCENT FWD Yemen – commonly abbreviated as SFY – a forward element of the Tampa-based Special Operations Command that oversees the counterterrorism campaign in the Middle East, from Pakistan. to Egypt.
While the Department of Defense has never officially acknowledged SOCCENT FWD Yemen or its mission—which is reported here for the first time—evidence of its existence and goals can be gleaned from scattered points. Referencesas well as details provided by a military officer to The Intercept.
A senior military officer serving at SFY, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, told The Intercept that during the beginning of the Trump administration, he oversaw plans to train a 300-person Yemeni tribal force for attacks. Long-range unconventional warfare and counter-terrorism operations.
In 2015, a former SFY commander, Captain Robert A. Newson, who was then a Navy SEAL, wrote a similar account in Interview With the West Point Counterterrorism Center. Having served at SFY until 2012, Newson said that troops there “trained and advised Yemeni partners” and, more vaguely, that they were “deeply entrenched within the embassy and their activities.”
Since then, the main US embassy in Sanaa has been closed amid the chaos of the Yemeni civil war.
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