US, France: Gradual Expansion of Military Presence in the Middle East
The US military plans to increase the presence in Yemen. «As we continue on the mission, I think there will be some additional troops that we will ask to bring in», US Army General Joseph Votel, who heads the US Central Command, said in an interview in Baghdad on July 14, without disclosing the number.
According to him, a variety of locations could be suitable for American forces. He did not disclose potential sites.
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition of Arab states, supported by the US and the UK, has been involved in the Yemeni conflict since March 2015. So far, it has not gained much ground. The Yemeni capital Sana’a is still in the hands of the Houthis group (Ansar Allah – «Supporters of God»).
The fighting has resulted in more than 3,200 civilian deaths, over 60 percent of them from coalition airstrikes, according to the United Nations.
Around 6,000 civilians have been wounded in the conflict. Airstrikes have damaged or destroyed numerous civilian objects including homes, markets, hospitals, and schools, as well as commercial enterprises.
On 30 June an HRW report stated that US-made bombs were being used in attacks indiscriminately targeting civilians and violating the laws of war.
The report photographed «the remnants of an MK-83 air-dropped 1,000-pound bomb made in the US».
On 1 July, the UN announced that Yemen was at the highest level of humanitarian disaster with over 80% of the population needing help.
United Nations agencies agreed to classify Yemen as a level 3 emergency as the UN envoy for Yemen stated that the country is one step away from famine.
The announcement of the US plans to bring in more forces came amid the reports that the Saudi-led coalition may be preparing to attack Sana’a, the Houthi-held Yemen’s capital, following the breakdown of the UN-led peace process in Kuwait. The UN-led peace process in Kuwait was suspended after 77 days of negotiations that achieved no significant progress.
The US mission in Yemen is just the latest in a growing number of small US deployments across the world. US special operations forces (SOF) have been deployed to 135 nations – around 70% of the countries in the world.
Every day, they carry out missions in 80 to 90 nations. Approximately 11,000 special operators are deployed or stationed outside the United States with many more on standby, ready to respond in the event of an overseas crisis.
The US military is also looking to further beef up its presence in Iraq. The administration has recently announced that additional 560 troops will be sent to Iraq to strengthen the Iraqi offensive to retake Mosul, the Iraqi second biggest city, that is now an Islamic State (IS) stronghold.
General Votel said, the request for more troops will be on top of the 560 already announced. His remarks came just three days after Obama’s administration announced a 560 troop increase as part of an effort to facilitate an Iraqi offensive to retake Mosul. The General cautioned that Americans should not expect a rapid, wholesale withdrawal from the country. He emphasized that the forces will stay even after the US military accomplishes the mission of driving out IS forces from Mosul in Iraq and from the Syrian city of al-Raqqa. According to Votel, once their objectives are met in the areas, it will be imperative that they ensure the militants do not shift base and begin operating from other locations outside those cities. He said the goal was to achieve a «lasting defeat».
It’s not the US only. French President Francois Hollande has said that France will send heavy artillery to Iraq to support the fight against the Islamic State. Hollande announced the plan on July 22, saying the artillery equipment «will be in place next month». The president also reiterated that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle will be deployed in the region in late September to help in ongoing operations against the IS. Elsewhere, protests erupted in Libya on July 21 after the president confirmed for the first time that French special forces were operating in the country. Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli also condemned France’s military action.
It starts with clandestine operations of limited scale conducted by special operations forces to be followed by reinforcements sent to beef up the presence, and then artillery units deployed to support them on the ground. Step by step the West is expanding its military intervention on the ground in Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. There deployments are described as ‘small-scale’ operations conducted without putting troops on the frontlines fighting firefights. This way the leading Western nations may be trending towards another war in the Middle East without the public realizing it. In Yemen, Iraq and other places, the deployments will gradually lead to full commitment to a ground war and it will be too late to turn back the clock.
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