From The Nation:

Last week, General Joseph Votel spoke before the House Armed Services Committee at the Military Assessment of the Security Challenges in the Greater Middle East about the US military role in Yemen. He argued that the country is important to US security and that the Mandeb Strait, which runs along Yemen’s coast, could be used by hostile groups and affect trade routes. This is the same area where a Somali refugee boat was attacked in March.

General Votel also spoke of the threat of Al Qaeda in Yemen. The US has began drone attacks against Al Qaeda targets in southern Yemen and the target of the failed Navy SEAL raid in January had actually been changing allegiance back-and-forth between Houthi rebels (not supported by the US) and the government of ousted President Hadi (supported by the US backed Saudi-led coalition. By supporting Saudi Arabia in this war, the US could actually be helping Al Qaeda.

The Saudi-led coalition has either willy-nilly permitted or has turned a blind eye to Al Qaeda territorial advances in southern Yemen. The coalition appears to have no scruples about recruiting tribal figures with an Al Qaeda past. By crippling the Sana government and supporting the Saudi-led continual and massive bombardment of the country, the Pentagon has actually given Al Qaeda free rein.

The Obama administration had kept US involvement to logistical and arms support to Saudi Arabia. But now,  National Security Adviser McMaster and Secretary of Defense Mattis feel that Iran might be too much of a threat in Yemen and that the US should increase military involvement and might be encouraging an attack on Yemen’s s port city of Hodeidah, currently held by Houthi rebels and also the entrance of what little aid gets into the country.

The Saudi air campaign, which has often indiscriminately targeted schools, hospitals, cultural institutions, and key civilian infrastructure such as bridges and ports, has made Riyadh thoroughly hated in the north.

From CNN:

Because of growing concern that Al Qaeda is planning attacks against western targets, the US is stepping up ground missions in Yemen though no combat missions have been reported. This is in addition to the drone airstrikes conducted against Al Qaeda targets since the January Navy SEAL raid.

The ground covert ground missions have the specific goal of secretly collecting intelligence on the al Qaeda affiliate there, including their top operatives and locations where they may be hiding.

The goal recently has been in part to collect intelligence from key locations over a period of time, a somewhat different strategy from the SEAL raid, where the plan was to move in and out quickly. There are measures in place to keep US troops safe when they are on the ground and to extract them quickly. Troops do not necessarily stay on the ground for extended periods.

From The Independent:

In the last month, more than 70 airstrikes have been carried out in Yemen by the US. This is more than twice the number of airstrikes by the US in all of 2016. In the past week alone, there were 20 airstrikes carried out.

According to defense officials, there are more than 4000 Al Qaeda militants in Yemen’s southern provinces of Abyan, Bayda, and Shabwa.