US conducted a record 131 airstrikes in Yemen last year

The US military has released a final tally for airstrikes conducted in Yemen in 2017. CENTCOM spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown told FDD’s Long War Journal that US forces conducted 131 counterterrorism strikes in Yemen last year, which provides a concrete figure after CENTCOM noted “more than 120” in previous press releases.

That previous estimate of “more than 120” strikes still represented an all-time high in Yemen, greater than the previous four years combined.

The strikes are part of an “ongoing effort to prevent terrorists from directing or supporting external operations against the United States homeland and our citizens, allies, and partners overseas,” Brown told FDD’s LWJ.

Despite the significant increase in strikes, the US military has released very few details on its air campaign in Yemen. Of the 125 strikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen in 2017, CENTCOM only provided details on seven, all of which involved high value targets. Long War Journal has filed a FOIA request in an effort to obtain more information.

Some of the airstrikes appear to have been close air support missions to bolster a Yemeni and coalition offensive actively trying to clear AQAP from Shabwah during the summer of 2017, which US Special Forces supported. The US military has a history of using air power to target AQAP’s military under the guise of counterterrorism operations. For instance, a number of attacks targeted AQAP’s military infrastructure after it seized control of large areas of southern and central Yemen in 2011.

The United States has been more forthcoming about its targeting of the Islamic State in Yemen, which began in Oct. 2017. US forces conducted six strikes against the Islamic State in Yemen in 2017, all of which occurred in the southern-central Bayda governorate.

The United States appears to be maintaining a high operational tempo in Yemen in 2018. According to figures released yesterday, US forces conducted 10 strikes in Jan. 2018, putting them on-pace to end up with a similar final count this year.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal. Alexandra Gutowski is a military affairs analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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