US military carried out more than 120 airstrikes in Yemen in 2017

US military carried out more than 120 airstrikes in Yemen in 2017
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The U.S. military has conducted more than 120 airstrikes and “multiple” ground operations in Yemen against al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2017, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said Wednesday.

"U.S. forces have enabled regional counterterrorism partners to regain territory from these terrorists — forcing them to spend more time on survival," Centcom spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "These operations have helped to illuminate terrorist networks, making intelligence-gathering, subsequent targeting and follow-on operations increasingly productive and effective.”

The U.S. military ramped up airstrikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) this year after President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE gave the military expanded authority to conduct such strikes without high-level, White House approval.

In August, the Pentagon acknowledged that a small number of U.S. forces on the ground were assisting an operation to clear the Shabwah governorate in central Yemen of al Qaeda fighters. At that point, Pentagon officials also said U.S. forces had carried out more than 80 airstrikes in the country since February.

One of President Trump’s earliest controversies after taking office also revolved around al Qaeda in Yemen — the Jan. 29 raid that killed Navy SEAL Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens.

In October, U.S. forces also launched their first airstrikes against ISIS-Yemen, killing more than 50 militants.

“This parallel targeting effort is required to prevent [ISIS-Yemen] from filling the vacuum left by a diminished AQAP footprint or influence in the region," Brown said.

AQAP has long been considered al Qaeda’s most dangerous branch. The Yemeni branch of ISIS, meanwhile, has doubled in size over the past year, according to the Centcom release.

On Wednesday, Centcom hailed the strikes for killing several AQAP leaders: Mujahid al-Adani, AQAP Shabwah leader, whose death was previously announced; Abu Layth al-Sanaani, Al-Bayda governorate AQAP facilitator, whose death was also announced before; Ruwahah al-Sanaani, also a facilitator; and Ubaydah al-Lawdari, emir of Lawdar district.

The terrorist group’s al-Masra newsletter has also not been published since July, the release added. Previously, the newsletter was published three times a month.

“Every strike, every raid and every partnered operation advance the defeat of these violent extremist organizations,” Brown said. “U.S. forces will continue to use all effective measures to degrade the groups' ability to export terror."