The United States-led airstrikes on Thursday and Friday against sites in Yemen controlled by the Houthi militia damaged or destroyed about 90 percent of the targets struck, but the group retained about three-quarters of its ability to fire missiles and drones at ships transiting the Red Sea, two U.S. officials said on Saturday.
The damage estimates are the first detailed assessments of the strikes by American and British attack planes and warships against nearly 30 locations in Yemen, and they reveal the serious challenges facing the Biden administration and its allies as they seek to deter the Iran-backed Houthis from retaliating, secure critical shipping routes between Europe and Asia, and contain the spread of regional conflict.
A top U.S. military officer, Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, the director of the military’s Joint Staff, said on Friday that the strikes had achieved their objective of damaging the Houthis’ ability to launch the kind of complex drone and missile attack they had conducted on Tuesday.
But the two U.S. officials cautioned on Saturday that even after hitting more than 60 missile and drone targets with more than 150 precision-guided munitions, the strikes had damaged or destroyed only about 20 to 30 percent of the Houthis’ offensive capability, much of which is mounted on mobile platforms and can be readily moved or hidden.
The two U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal military assessments.
Finding Houthi targets is proving to be more challenging than anticipated. American and other Western intelligence agencies have not spent significant time or resources in recent years collecting data on the location of Houthi air defenses, command hubs, munitions depots and storage and production facilities for drones and missiles, the officials said.
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