US Officials said that the US military and spy agencies stepped up intelligence gathering using surveillance aircrafts, satellites and signals intercepts to track al Qaeda targets in and around their base in Yemen.
Some of the intelligence is being shared with Yemeni Security Forces to facilitate their strikes against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but could also underpin covert US operations against the group and its leaders.
"There is a tremendous amount of focus on that country," a US intelligence official said.
The intelligence gathering effort expanded in the wake of a secret order issued last September by General David Petraeus, who heads the US military's Central Command which oversees US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who positioned Reaper drones at a base in the Horn of Africa, officials said last week.
Washington has sought to play down any direct US role in strikes in Yemen, wary of stoking anti-American sentiment and broadening al Qaeda's appeal. However, the Pentagon has made little secret about expanded US assistance to Yemeni Security Forces.
Under a $155.3 million security package for Yemen announced earlier this year, the Pentagon has earmarked $34.5 million to expand the capabilities of Yemen's Special Operations Forces to conduct counter-terrorism operations. The rest of the money will be used to upgrade Yemen's fleet of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.