US considers more robust presence for Yemen Qaeda
General Votel said a variety of locations could be suitable for American forces but did not disclose potential sites
The US military is weighing an increase in its presence in Yemen to better challenge al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, building on momentum against the group after a successful offensive by Gulf allies, a top US general told Reuters.
US Army General Joseph Votel, who oversees American troops in the region, said in an interview that a variety of locations could be suitable for American forces but did not disclose potential sites or suggest a recommendation was imminent.
“We want to be able to work within a very secure environment to focus on the very (particular) mission we have there - which is principally focused on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” he said, speaking in Baghdad. “We will try to posture the force where we can best do that.”
Despite significant US strikes, including one that killed AQAP’s leader last year, US counter-terrorism efforts have been undermined by Yemen's civil war, pitting government forces against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.
US officials have declined to say how many Americans are on the ground in Yemen but say it’s only a very small number. Votel acknowledged the benefits of gaining greater visibility in Yemen and said a key goal would be working with US partners there.
“If we can continue to better understand what al Qaeda’s doing, regain the situational awareness that we lost when we all had to depart Yemen here some time ago, that's what I’m interested in doing,” Votel said.