U.S. government officials believe that an American drone strike has killed the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Qasim al-Raymi is believed to have been killed by a CIA drone sometime in January. U.S. officials have been hesitant to confirm his death because of previous instances were High-Value-Targets (HVTs) were pronounced dead only to reappear later.
President Trump, however, indicated that the reports are valid by retweeting several news articles announcing al-Raymi’s death.
If proved true, al-Raymi’s death will be a major blow to AQAP, one of the more dangerous branches of the terrorist organization. In 2005, al-Raymi had plotted to assassinate the U.S. ambassador in Yemen, and he was behind the “underwear bomber” in 2009.
The State Department’s Reward for Justice program offers $10 million for information that will lead to the arrest or killing of al-Raymi.
The AQAP leader has been on American crosshair for decades now. In 2017, a SEAL Team Six raid failed to kill al-Raymi. Chief Special Warfare Operator Ryan Owens was killed during the operation.
U.S. Special Operations Forces have been active in Yemen for years. There was a brief gap in their presence in the Middle Eastern country back in March 2015. Then, the Houthi rebels had ousted the Yemeni government and captured the capital Sanaa. The Iran-backed rebels had then released hundreds of al-Qaeda terrorists from government prisons. As a consequence, all American military and diplomatic personnel were ordered out of the country. Their absence, however, was temporary. By early 2016, American SOF and intelligence personnel were operating once more in the Arab country.
Their goal there is to help the Yemeni government contain AQAP. But since the Yemeni Civil War began, they have also been training and advising the government forces in their fight against the Houthi rebels. In a nutshell, American commandos are conducting Counterterrorism (CT), Special Reconnaissance (SR), and Foreign Internal Defence (FID) missions.
When it comes to which units operate in the region, there is presence from both the “white” and “black” side of the community — “white” refers to units whose existence is freely acknowledged by the Pentagon, for example, SEAL Team Eight or the 3rd Special Forces Group; conversely, “black” refers to Special Missions Units (SMU) that mostly fall under the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), for instance, SEAL Team Six or the Intelligence Support Activity (ISA). When it comes to JSOC, Yemen falls under the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of SEAL Team Six.