In February of 2015 I reported on the Future of SOF in Yemen and the complications of this three-way civil war following their government’s collapse to the hands of the Shiite Houthi Rebellion. A close military partnership to battle al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) existing since 2002 had come to an end.
In January 2015 the Yemeni president (Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi) resigned and his government collapsed, the U.S. closed its embassy in February, and in March, a task force of 125 U.S. special operations soldiers were evacuated as the raging civil war made future operations against AQAP forces impossible. In the chaos between the Sunni Yemenis and the Shitte Houthis – AQAP took advantage of the fighting and seized large swathes of land in the east including the port city of Al Mukalla and its population of half a million people.
Since the United States’ departure:
- ISIS has attempted to gain a foothold but has faced huge opposition by al-Qaeda.
- In late March of 2015 Saudi Arabia, joined by 8 other Sunni Arab nations, formed a coalition to battle the Houthis and restore power to the former government in what has been dubbed Operation Decisive Storm and Operation Restoring Hope.
- And as of April 2016, U.S. special operations soldiers have been re-deployed to Yemen working side-by-side with the Saudi-led coalition to oust AQAP forces.
The currently non-disclosed number of U.S. SOF personnel will be in-country as long as it takes to rid al-Qaeda from the port city of Mukalla alongside forces from the United Arab Emirates. But have no intention or official mandate to provide combat support against the Houthis.