The top US commander for the Middle East got a first-hand look on Wednesday at Saudi Arabia’s military fight against Yemen’s Houthi militias, visiting the border area.
Gen. Joseph Votel’s trip to the Saudi-Yemeni border area comes as the US presses on with a campaign targeting al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen.
Votel never crossed into Yemeni territory during the visit, which lasted much of the day, Air Force Col. John Thomas, a US Central Command spokesman said.
The objective of Votel’s 600-mile day trip from Riyadh to Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Jizan region was “to develop a better understanding of the Saudi challenges with security the border,” Thomas said.
Votel met with Saudi Arabia’s Lt. Gen. Fahd Bin Turki, toured an operations center and met Saudi commanders and troops. It was his first visit to the Yemen border region as head of Central Command.
The US has conducted more than 80 airstrikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters in Yemen this year, in an expanded campaign to target a group the US has long considered one of the most dangerous threats against the American homeland. AQAP has been responsible for a number of attempted attacks in the United States, including multiple plots to blow up US airliners flying over the country.
After taking office, President Donald Trump authorized a more aggressive approach against AQAP.