U.S. warplanes conduct 20 airstrikes in Yemen

U.S. warplanes conducted more than 20 airstrikes in Yemen as the Pentagon continued an intensifying campaign to strike targets associated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

The strikes occurred early on the morning of March 2, local time in Yemen, and targeted militants, equipment and infrastructure associated with the terrorist group. On Jan. 29, the Pentagon launched the commando raid against the same branch of al-Qaeda that resulted in the death of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens.

Thursday’s attacks were conducted in partnership with the government of Yemen, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. Cooperation with the government there is significant because U.S. forces were forced to cease operations on the ground with Yemeni troops in 2015.

Yemen has been wracked by a civil war between forces loyal to the government and Houthi rebels. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, or AQAP, has seeped into Yemen’s ungoverned spaces where they plot, direct and inspire attacks against U.S. and allied targets, Davis said.

“The strikes will degrade the AQAP's ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to use territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen as a safe space for terror plotting,” Davis said.

The Jan. 29 operation in Yemen has become politically charged. Trump declared it a success in his address to Congress on Tuesday, saying that commandos captured intelligence that will allow it to conduct future missions.

But others, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, have called the raid a failure. They point to the loss of Owens, his wounded comrades, the loss of a $90 million warplane and civilian casualties that resulted. An NBC News report Monday said that U.S. intelligence officials said the raid produced no real actionable intelligence.

The military is conducting at least three probes into the operation: one on Owens’ death, the destruction of the V-22 Osprey and the claims that the attack killed civilians. USA Tday