DOD: Latest U.S. airstrikes in Yemen not based on commando raid intel

New Yemen airstrikes

The last two nights of U.S. airstrikes in Yemen were not based on intelligence collected during the commando raid last month, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said Friday.

Over the last two days, the U.S. has conducted more than 30 airstrikes, but has not been involved in any of the reported firefights.  

The latest airstrikes are part of a stepped up campaign against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that was developed near the end of the Obama administration, and which began with the Jan. 28 raid that resulted in the death of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens and several civilians. President Trump and his staff have repeatedly pronounced the raid a success, and the Pentagon also stated that a lot of intelligence came out of the raid. 

A defense official told reporters that the Jan. 28 commando raid in Yemen produced “a large volume of information helping us understand the [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] AQAP network,” specifically “an awful lot of telephone numbers and contact information.”

There have been reports suggesting that the Jan. 28 raid did not go as planned and was not a success, a notion that was refuted by Vice President Mike Pence.

The intelligence that was gathered will “lead to American success and to the safety and security of the American people,” Pence told “CBS This Morning” this week.    

The defense official estimated that the number of AQAP fighters is in “the low thousands” as in 3,000 to 4,000, with most of Yemeni origin, which allows them to blend with the population. 

AQAP is considered to be one of the top terrorist threats to the U.S. in part because of the group’s master bombmaker, Ibrahim al Asiri, who is believed to have built the bombs used in the underwear bomb attack in 2009 and in the printer cartridge plot, in which a bomb was hidden in a printer cartridge in a parcel that was to be shipped on a UPS plane. The defense official said that there’s no reason to believe that al Asiri is out of the business of bombmaking, He specializes in non-metallic explosives, which are harder to detect at airports. 

Another facet of the threat posed by AQAP is its recruiting -- there have also been repeated calls by AQAP’s “Inspire” magazine to carry out lone-wolf attacks. In 2015, the U.S. killed AQAP’s leader, but he has since been replaced. 

CBS News’ David Martin contributed to this report.