US forces operating near Yemen are changing strategy, now destroying Houthi threats before they're launched.
US Navy ships spent months intercepting the Houthi attacks and warning them to stop to no avail.
Biden said that while the strikes on the militant group haven't deterred them, they will continue.
US forces operating near Yemen aren't waiting to respond to Houthi threats anymore and are hitting them before they are even launched, a new tactic aimed at putting greater pressure on the group.
The US previously spent months simply intercepting missiles and drones without a direct kinetic response against the Houthis. That changed last Thursday, but the shift doesn't appear to be deterring the Iranian-backed militant group.
On Thursday, reporters asked President Joe Biden if the strikes against Houthis are working.
"Well, when you say 'working,' are they stopping the Houthis? No," he said, referring to the strikes. "Are they going to continue? Yes."
President Biden says the United States will continue to conduct airstrikes against Ansar Allah (Houthis).
Reporter: “Are the airstrikes in Yemen working?”
Biden: “Well, when you say ‘working’ are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes.” pic.twitter.com/mcaPQZiAJY
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) January 18, 2024
Since the US, in a coordinated multinational response with its allies and partners, launched a massive retaliatory strike on the Houthis directly last week as punishment for dozens of attacks on international shipping, US forces are now regularly targeting Houthi missiles on the ground directly rather than waiting around for the militant group to launch them.
On Thursday, US Central Command said it had "conducted strikes on two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the South Red Sea and were prepared to launch."
US forces identified the missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and "determined they were an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region," the press release read.
The previous day, a similar situation unfolded. CENTCOM said that it "conducted strikes on 14 Iran-backed Houthi missiles that were loaded to be fired in Houthi controlled areas in Yemen."
"These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time, prompting US forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves," Wednesday's press release added.
And the day before that, CENTCOM said that American forces "struck and destroyed four Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles" that were "prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas."
In all of these cases, the US moved proactively, degrading Houthi forces, now redesignated as terrorists, by prioritizing striking first to neutralize missiles before they were launched.
Regardless of how this plays out, it's a notable shift for the US from how it and its allies have been handling the Houthis over the past few months.
Houthis' attacks, which began in direct response to the Israel-Hamas war but escalated, have forced global shipping operations to reroute vessels, driving up cost and time.
The US, which had already been intercepting threats, took steps in mid-December to restore navigation in the area through coalition action, but Houthi attacks continued. By early January, the US and more than a dozen allies issued a statement condemning the Houthis and demanding an immediate end to their attacks.
The statement said that "the Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region's critical waterways."
Shortly after, the Houthis launched their largest-ever attack, which CENTCOM said included 18 one-way attack drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile.
Western officials continued to warn against the attacks until last Thursday, when the US and UK conducted widespread attacks targeting dozens of Houthi assets across Yemen, including radar stations, weapons storage, launch sites, command, and production facilities.
Since last week, the US has conducted five direct strikes on the Houthis. And as Biden said, the strikes are expected to continue. A Pentagon spokesperson told media this afternoon that it's up to the Houthis when this ends.
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