Major US-Led Offensive Targets al-Qaeda Stronghold in Southern Yemen

Thousands of Fighters Converge on Shabwa Province

Last week’s US-backed raid against what was described as an al-Qaeda position within Yemen’s Shabwa Province, in which officials claimed to have inflicted “heavy casualties,” appears to have actually marked the beginning of a much larger military campaign in the province.

With US troops now confirmed to be on the ground, working with UAE forces in leading the campaign, some 2,000 fighters, mostly UAE-hired mercenary fighters from the region, are massing for what is being called a “clearing operation.”

The goal of this operation appears to be an outright purge of the Shabwa Province of all fighters from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Such a campaign would likely be long and involve a lot of fighting, as AQAP has had a large presence around the area for several years.

The exact scope of the direct US military involvement is unclear, though the Pentagon confirmed Friday that US special forces are on the ground in the area in an advisory role, and suggested it was likely that more US troops would be deployed in the weeks to come.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of