Mark Collins – Bloody Yemen Update: US Not Best Pleased with Saudis, Plus Houthis

Further to this post,

Yemen: Saudi Tanks Hammered by Houthis

other matters are not helping the Kingdom’s cause:

1) NY Times opinion piece:

Saudi Arabia Kills Civilians, the U.S. Looks the Other Way

2) US front:

U.S. withdraws staff from Saudi Arabia dedicated to Yemen planning

The U.S. military has withdrawn from Saudi Arabia its personnel who were coordinating with the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, and sharply reduced the number of staff elsewhere who were assisting in that planning, U.S. officials told Reuters.

Fewer than five U.S. service people are now assigned full-time to the “Joint Combined Planning Cell,” which was established last year to coordinate U.S. support, including air-to-air refueling of coalition jets and limited intelligence-sharing, Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey, a U.S. Navy spokesman in Bahrain, told Reuters.

That is down from a peak of about 45 staff members who were dedicated to the effort full-time in Riyadh and elsewhere, he said.

The June staff withdrawal, which U.S. officials say followed a lull in air strikes in Yemen earlier this year, reduces Washington’s day-to-day involvement in advising a campaign that has come under increasing scrutiny for causing civilian casualties. A Pentagon statement issued after Reuters disclosed the withdrawal acknowledged that the JCPC, as originally conceived, had been “largely shelved” and that ongoing support was limited, despite renewed fighting this summer.

“The cooperation that we’ve extended to Saudi Arabia since the conflict escalated again is modest and it is not a blank check,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said in a statement.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the reduced staffing was not due to the growing international outcry over civilian casualties in the 16-month civil war that has killed more than 6,500 people in Yemen, about half of them civilians [well, the Americans can’t implicitly acknowledge complicity, can they?].

But the Pentagon, in some of its strongest language yet, also acknowledged concerns about the conflict, which has brought Yemen close to famine and cost more than $14 billion in damage to infrastructure and economic losses…

Since the campaign began, the U.S. military has conducted an average of two refueling sorties every day and provided limited intelligence support to the coalition. That assistance continues, officials said [see from Dec. 2015: “Yemen Peace Talks (good luck); Big US Air Help to Coalition“].

Still, the Pentagon has long distanced itself from the Saudi-led coalition’s decisions on targeting.

“At no point did U.S. military personnel provide direct or implicit approval of target selection or prosecution,” Stump said [more at CNN with graphics]…

The Houthis front:

Mass rally in war-torn Yemen in support of rebels, former president

© Mohammed Huwais, AFP | Yemenis wave the national flag during a gathering in support of the Huthi-led parliament, in the capital Sanaa on August 20, 2016.

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis marched on Saturday [Aug. 20] in support of Shiite Houthi rebels and their ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The march in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, was in support of a new combined governing council the rebels and Saleh announced late last month, but which was immediately rejected by the internationally recognized government and the United Nations. Saleh was forced to step down in 2012 amid Arab Spring protests after more than three decades in power.

Yemen’s war pits troops and militiamen loyal to the government,  backed by a Saudi-led coalition, against the Shiite rebels and Saleh loyalists. The Houthis captured Sanaa in 2014, and the U.S.-backed coalition began its offensive against them in March 2015.

Later in the day, coalition airstrikes hit the presidential palace in Sanaa and other areas in the city, leaving an unknown number of casualties, security officials said.

Peace talks collapsed earlier this month, and the Saudi-led forces resumed heavy airstrikes shortly thereafter…

Oh what a lovely little US-backed war.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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