Despite not being in the news every day, The United States and its allies in the Middle East have been engaged in a long running air war with the country. In 2016 alone, the United States dropped 35 bombs in Yemen, later escalated to over 80 in the early months of 2017. Since then, the bombing has continually intensified.
Military operations against Yemen have been occurring for three consecutive Presidential administrations with the first bombs being dropped in 2002. That initial strike was aimed at a mastermind of the USS Cole bombing that had happened in 2000 under President Bill Clinton. This initial strike took out the target, but hit five other individuals, including an American citizen, leading to legal questions.
Then, in 2010, the United States lobbed four cruise missiles and a drone strike at targets in Yemen. Like the last strike, this one came at a cost. The strikes ended up turning pro-Yemeni tribal leaders against the government of the embattled state. Also at this time, The New York Times reported that US Special forces were on the ground in Yemen helping the government there track down terrorist forces.
This coincided with a revolution in the country that spread through much of the Arab world as countries like Tunisia and Egypt began to radically change their governments. Out of this, Yemen got a new government head by Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. But Hadi had his detractors, a group called the Houthis that violently tried to relieve him of his power.
Throughout 2011, dozens of drone strikes operated by the US were used against terror targets in Yemen. Many of the terrorists in question died, but many more casualties were civilians. It was during this time that the CIA built a base in the middle east to help provide logistical support in a Yemeni bombing campaign. By 2015, the battle between the government of Yemen and insurgent forces had led to an all out civil war, with Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia also getting involved in the country’s ongoing violence.
Throughout the US’s involvement in Yemen, a confirmed 298 have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes. Since Trump took office, this policy has expanded greatly, with hundreds of missiles being launched under his tenure.
The US is doing much more than lobbying bombs in regards to Yemen. The United States has backed Saudi Arabia, a neighbor of Yemen’s who has had invested stakes in the country’s civil war since the beginning. The biggest piece of this partnership was seen in 2017 when President Trump authorized the largest arms sale in history to Saudi Arabia.
In fact, Trump is following what Obama called the “Yemen model”. While President, Barack Obama cited his policy toward Yemen as a vision for what his general counter-terrorism strategy. The strategy in dealing with terror hot spots under this doctrine was to have the United States provide weapons, logistics, transportation, and cash to local armies, while committing either no US troops or very few. Later adapted to the model after Libya was the possibility of targeted killings of terror suspects, intelligence sharing, and cruise missile attacks.
The conflict in Yemen had been largely forgotten, then Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul and Justin Amash forced a vote on US approval of the war. Congress explicitly voted against the assisted war in Yemen. Trump vetoed the resolution, and Yemen again became America’s forgotten war.