Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
Has the U.S. Quietly Ramped Up the Air Campaign Against AQAP in Yemen?
CENTCOM has just released a summary of publicly-acknowledged airstrikes conducted against AQAP targets in Yemen over the first five months of 2016. The list includes three strikes from February and March that were not previously acknowledged, interestingly, and there is no guarantee that there are not others of that kind still awaiting public disclosure. That said, what we now know is that there have been at least nine separate strikes, with DOD asserting that these killed a total of 81 AQAP "operatives" plus at least one other person. Meanwhile, according to Long War Journal, the combined number of all US airstrikes (DOD or CIA) in Yemen may actually be 15 so far this year.
This would seem to put us on pace for the highest number of US airstrikes there since 2012. It is certainly possible this is just the luck of the draw, with actionable intelligence arising unusually often of late. But it is also possible that something has changed in terms of policy constraints or available resources. At any rate, it is worth keeping a close eye on this space.
All of which reminds me to re-raise one of my favorite topics of late: Does the administration consider Yemen to be an area of active hostilities for purposes of the PPG? To the best of my knowledge, they have never said that it is, though they have readily identified Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria as such. The implication is that the PPG does indeed govern as to Yemen. But maybe that's not right. This issue has been kicking around as to Yemen since 2013, as I noted at the time here. With this pace of airstrikes, I'd think the answer should be yes, but then again we do not know what the internal metrics are for this determination. Hopefully we will soon learn more on that score, since the White House has promised to release PPG-related information soon.