As the U.S. looks to extricate itself from the anti-ISIS campaigns in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon is getting bogged down elsewhere: Green Berets have been quietly slipping over the border from Saudi Arabia into Yemen to neutralize “caches of ballistic missiles and launch sites” used by Yemen's Houthi rebels to attack Saudi cities, the New York Times reports.
- The best defense is a good offense: The Times report comes just over a month after the latest in an ongoing series of bombardments by Yemeni rebels, in which the Saudis’ U.S.-made Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) kinetic interceptors neutralized several incoming ballistic missiles fired at the capital city of Riyadh.
- Here's what they're doing: “A half-dozen officials — from the United States military, the Trump administration, and European and Arab nations — said the American commandos are training Saudi ground troops to secure their border,” the New York Times reports. “They also are working closely with American intelligence analysts in Najran, a city in southern Saudi Arabia that has been repeatedly attacked with rockets, to help locate Houthi missile sites within Yemen.”
- A tale of two wars: The Pentagon is currently waging two military campaigns in Yemen: 1) providing the Saudi military with precision-guided munitions, refueling operations and targeting intelligence as part of the country's air campaign against the Houthis, and 2) spanking the bejesus out of the Al Qaeda and ISIS affiliates that have taken the root there. Kinda sounds like Syria, when you think about it.
- Boots on the ground: The Times report provides a glimpse at the escalating DoD ground presence in the country: Our sharp-eyed friends at The War Zone note that U.S. Transportation Command posted a recent contract notice in search of “four contractor-operated aircraft to provide casualty and medical evacuation, personnel recovery, and passenger and cargo services” on behalf of CENTCOM — a clear attempt to fix the lack of resources that helped turn the infamous October 2017 Niger raid into a tragedy.
- But why are we there? That's what some lawmakers are wondering, especially given the questionable legality of U.S military assistance for those Saudi airstrikes that have callously slaughtered thousands of civilians and wrought havoc across the country. In October 2017, a bipartisan trio of lawmakers called on Congress to reclaim its oversight of American military operations abroad in light of the convoluted campaign in Yemen.
While the latest letter from President Donald Trump justifying U.S. military activities abroad, sent to Congress in December 2017, explicitly states that the DoD personnel deployed to Yemen are there “to conduct operations against al-Qa’ida [Al Qaeda] in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS,” it only mentioned that the U.S. has “continued to provide logistics and other support to regional forces combatting the Houthi insurgency” there. We'll see how that plays out…