The US military participated in a military operation Thursday in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa, where a force primarily composed of UAE-funded tribal mercenaries attacked a region held by al-Qaeda in he Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Details are still emerging, though UAE officials say that most of the fighters on their side were actually recruited from Shabwa or neither Hadramawt Province, and that AQAP sustained “heavy casualties” though no death toll was offered. AQAP claimed to have killed 17 of the mercenaries in a suicide attack.
Though the US and UAE militaries were also involved, according to the statements on the matter, officials did not say exactly what the role of either was, with UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba terming the militaries an “enabling force.”
AQAP has had a substantial presence in Yemen for years, setting up shop in remote tribal areas where the central government has historically had little to no real control. The collapse of Yemen as a cohesive state with the 2015 Saudi invasion has allowed AQAP to gain considerable ground, as they’ve positioned themselves as occasional allies of Sunni militias fighting against the northern Yemeni Shi’ites, while trying to gain territory of their own all the while.
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