The US military killed “dozens” of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters in an airstrike yesterday that targeted a training camp in western Yemen. While the US military claims that the strike will deny AQAP “safe haven,” the air campaign waged by the US against the jihadist group since 2009 has done little to halt its advance.
The US military confirmed it targeted the training facility in a statement released on March 22 on the Department of Defense’s website.
“The camp was located in the mountains, and was being used by more than 70 AQAP terrorists,” the statement, which was attributed to spokesman Peter Cook, notes.
“We continue to assess the results of the operation, but our initial assessment is that dozens of AQAP fighters have been removed from the battlefield,” Cook continues. “This strike deals a blow to AQAP’s ability to use Yemen as a base for attacks that threaten US persons, and it demonstrates our commitment to defeating al Qaeda and denying it safe haven.”
More than 50 AQAP fighters are reported to have been killed and 30 more are said to have been wounded, Reuters reported. The strike is said to have taken place as the AQAP fighters were lining up for dinner.
While the strike may have killed and wounded scores of AQAP fighters, it likely will do little to deny AQAP “safe haven” in southern Yemen. Since going on the offensive last year, AQAP controls at least eight major cities and towns in southern Yemen, including the provincial capitals of Hadramout (Mukallah), Abyan (Zinjibar), and Lahj (Houta). AQAP has been administering governance in many of the areas it controls. [See LWJ reports, Al Qaeda seizes more territory in southern Yemen and AQAP provides social services, implements sharia while advancing in southern Yemen.]
The US has actively targeted AQAP leaders, operatives, and fighters in multiple airstrikes since 2009, but it has not halted AQAP’s advance in the south. Although AQAP has lost several key leaders in American drone strikes since early 2015, this has not slowed al Qaeda’s guerrilla war. Among those killed was AQAP’s emir, Nasir al Wuhayshi, who also served as a top official in al Qaeda’s global organization. Not only has AQAP continued to gain ground, it also quickly introduced new leaders to serve as public faces for the organization.
The US airstrikes have also not stopped AQAP from striking in the West. AQAP has been behind multiple plots to attack the US and the West. Most recently, in January 2015, two AQAP fighters raided the headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the heart of Paris, and killed 12 people. AQAP has also provided key technical support to al Qaeda’s other branches, including Shabaab in Somalia and the Al Nusrah Front in Syria.