The Pentagon on Thursday conducted 20 to 25 airstrikes in Yemen, part of a ramped-up flurry of military activity against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) since President Trump's inauguration. After approving a Jan. 29 Special Operations ground assault, which resulted in the death of one Navy SEAL and several civilians plus a $75 million Chinook helicopter, Trump is considering giving generals more discretion to launch counterterrorism raids, and that's already true in Yemen, a defense official tells The Washington Post.
Trump has designated Yemen an "area of active hostility," the official said, granting military officials authority to launch strikes without White House approval, similar to former President Barack Obama's anti-Islamic State arrangement with Sirte, Libya, last year. It isn't clear how long the authority will last. There were local media reports that U.S. troops flew in from ships on Thursday for a ground raid, but Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis called those reports inaccurate. "We have U.S. Special Operations forces that go in and out of Yemen to assist our partner forces in fighting al Qaeda," Davis said, but the U.S. forces did not conduct any raids.
U.S. military officials did not estimate how many people were killed in the strikes, but local news reports say that hundreds of militants were killed. The airstrikes were not guided by any intelligence gathered in the Jan. 29 raid, according to senior officials.