As the war between Israel and Hamas threatens to draw in Yemen, the United States military’s little noted boots on the ground in the war-torn country raise the specter of deepening American involvement in the conflict.
Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired ballistic and cruise missiles at Israel, marking the first time ballistic missiles have been launched at Israel since 1991. This major escalation threatens to ignite a regional war, with American troops stationed nearby.
“The best strategy to avoid getting sucked into another war in the Middle East is to not have troops unnecessarily in the region in the first place,” said Trita Parsi, the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Their presence in Yemen is not making America safer but putting it at risk of another war in the Middle East.
The White House revealed in June that the U.S. maintains “combat” troops in Yemen to conduct operations against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS. While the Houthis are not listed as an official target, the Pentagon has used its authorities under the war on the Islamic State to strike at Iranian-backed groups elsewhere.
President Joe Biden justified U.S. strikes on Syrian targets as a deterrence strategy, but some observers say any deterrence will be undermined by the fact that the U.S.’s massive regional military presence provides a bevy of available targets.
Yemen has been locked in a brutal civil war since 2014, with the Houthi rebel group in the north supported by Iran and the south’s government in exile supported by the United States and a coalition of Yemen’s neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. operations in Yemen are overseen by Special Operations Command Central Forward – Yemen (SOCCENT FWD Yemen), a forward element of the Tampa-based Special Operations Command that oversees the counterterrorism campaign in the Middle East. While the Defense Department has never formally acknowledged SOCCENT FWD Yemen or its mission, clues of its existence and aims can be gleaned from scattered references.
A senior military officer that served in SFY revealed that during the beginning of the Trump administration, plans were made to train a 300-person Yemeni tribal fighting force for long-term unconventional warfare and counterterror operations.
The presence of American troops in Yemen adds a twist to the Houthi attack on Israel. It raises concerns about the potential deepening of American involvement in the conflict and the risk of being drawn into another war in the Middle East.
The best strategy to avoid further escalation is to reconsider the presence of American troops in the region. Instead of serving as a deterrent, they may become sitting ducks and provide more targets for militant groups.
Yemen’s civil war has already caused immense suffering and displacement for its people. The conflict has been fueled by regional power struggles and proxy wars, with Iran supporting the Houthi rebels and the United States supporting the Saudi-backed Aden government.
It is crucial for all parties involved to prioritize diplomacy and seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Continued military involvement only increases the risk of further violence and instability in the region.
The United States should reevaluate its military presence in Yemen and focus on diplomatic efforts to promote stability and peace. It is essential to learn from past mistakes and avoid being dragged into another costly and protracted war in the Middle East.
In conclusion, the presence of American troops in Yemen adds a new dimension to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. It raises concerns about deepening American involvement in the region and the potential for further escalation. Diplomacy and a reevaluation of military presence are crucial to prevent another costly war in the Middle East.