Source: Yahoo news
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even as the humanitarian crisis precipitated by Saudi Arabia’s more-than-three-year war in Yemen has deepened, the Pentagon earlier this year launched a new classified operation to support the kingdom’s military operations there, according to a Defense Department document that appears to have been posted online inadvertently.
The existence of the new classified operation, code-named Yukon Journey, was partially revealed in a Defense Department inspector general report posted online earlier this month, which noted that “the Secretary of Defense designated three new named contingency operations: Operation Yukon Journey, and operations in Northwest Africa and East Africa.”
The three operations, which focus on al-Qaida and ISIS, are classified, the report notes, and the Pentagon has not publicly disclosed their location beyond saying they are in the Middle East and Africa.
But another document posted earlier this year on a Pentagon-affiliated website identifies Yukon Journey as a Central Command operation supporting the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Partner Nations in Yemen.”
The existence of a classified operation in Yemen raises the possibility that even as the Pentagon scales back unclassified operations, such as refueling Saudi-led coalition aircraft, covert support, to include possible U.S. special forces on the ground, could continue.
The document, marked for official use only, was posted on the All Partners Access Network, an unclassified website the Defense Department uses to share information with NGOs and humanitarian organizations.
Though it’s unclear what type of support Yukon Journey provides to Saudi Arabia, it has long been suspected that the Defense Department has special operations forces on the ground in Yemen, where the Saudis are fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
“My guess — and purely a guess — is it’s something to do with going after Houthi ballistic missiles,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, tells Yahoo News. “That’s probably the thing the administration worries about the most, that the Houthis’ ballistic missile will cause a mass casualty event in Saudi Arabia or the UAE.”
Riedel pointed to previous reports of special forces assisting in the hunt for ballistic missiles. “My guess is that’s some part of that, but there may be some more aggressive part of it. Maybe operations inside Yemen, instead of just along the border,” he said.
U.S. Central Command declined to answer questions on Yukon Journey or confirm its location.
[editor’s note – more likely is that US Special Forces have been authorised to lead the ground operation to take the port of Hodeidah. Analysts have consistently concluded that the capture of Hodeidah would almost certainly be impossible without such support. US President Obama had several times vetoed an operation against the port, but the Trump administration approved it earlier this year. The first attempt to take the port, in June 2018, was aborted following ferocious resistance. The second attempt was launched last week in a haze of US-UK attempts to distance themselves from the humanitarian fallout].