By Carlo Muñoz - 05/10/12 10:26 PM EDT
"There's no consideration of that," Panetta told reporters on the potential deployment of U.S. forces to Yemen. "Our operations now are directed with the Yemenese going after al- Qaida."
DOD pulled those troops, who were advising the Yemeni military on counterterrorism operations against the al Qaeda cell in the country, after former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in the wake of the Arab Spring movement
Current president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is in the midst of a massive campaign to flush out al Qaeda strongholds in the southern part of the country.
However, the Panetta was adamant the return of military advisers would not open the door to sending U.S combat troops.
To that point, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey pointed out that U.S. advisers have had "a decades-long relationship" with their counterparts in the Yemeni military. But even then, combat troops never made their way onto Yemen soil.
The restart of the U.S. training mission won't do anything to change that precedent, he noted.
While American troops in Yemen won't be an option, U.S. military and intelligence officials are looking to bolster their operations in the country.
In April, the CIA requested White House permission to ramp up its unmanned airstrike campaign against al Qaeda targets in Yemen.
That expanded authority would allow the agency to hit suspected members of the Yemen cell, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) ,even when it doesn’t know their identities.
AQAP is considered by American military and intelligence officials as the most active and violent among the group's various factions.
But recent U.S. efforts to stifle AQAP influence in the region have been successful.
American and Saudi Arabian intelligence were able to foil an airline bombing targeted at the United States with the help of a double agent planted inside AQAP.
The double agent, posing as an Islamic fundamentalist willing to fight for AQAP, was reportedly given a new type of explosive that was undetectable by current forms of airline security.
He was to board any plane bound for the United States and detonate his deadly ordnance once in American airspace.
But informant instead passed the bomb to American and Saudi intelligence. He has since been taken out of Yemen and is being debriefed in Saudi Arabia, according to news reports.
The White House's aggressive drone campaign has also produced significant results. Last Wednesday, A U.S-led airstrike against an al Qaeda-run training camp in southern Yemen Wednesday ended in the deaths of 15 militants.
Yemeni Al-Qaeda leader Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted in connection with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was killed by a CIA drone strike in eastern Yemen last Sunday.
The information that led to that airstrike reportedly came from the double agent involved in the attempted airliner attack, according to news reports.