• Thursday, Feb 02, 2023
  • Last Update : 09:54 am

US withdraws staff from Saudi Arabia dedicated to Yemen planning

  • Published at 06:05 pm August 20th, 2016
US withdraws staff from Saudi Arabia dedicated to Yemen planning

The US military has withdrawn from Saudi Arabia its personnel who were coordinating with the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, and sharply reduced the number of staff elsewhere who were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

Fewer than five US service people are now assigned full-time to the “Joint Combined Planning Cell,” which was established last year to coordinate US support, including air-to-air refuelling of coalition jets and limited intelligence-sharing, Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey, a US 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 US 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.

US 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.

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 $14bn in damage to infrastructure and economic losses.

“Even as we assist the Saudis regarding their territorial integrity, it does not mean that we will refrain from expressing our concern about the war in Yemen and how it has been waged,” Stump said.

“In our discussions with the Saudi-led coalition, we have pressed the need to minimize civilian casualties.”

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, declined to confirm details about the positioning of US military personnel, but played down such moves.

Hospital strike

Since the campaign began, the US military has conducted an average of two refuelling sorties every day and provided limited intelligence support to the coalition. That assistance continues, officials said.

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

“At no point did US military personnel provide direct or implicit approval of target selection or prosecution,” Stump said.

The JCPC had also largely wrapped up an earlier effort to advise the Saudi-led coalition on steps to prevent civilian casualties, the Pentagon said.

An annual UN report on children and armed conflict said the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60% of child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year. Saudi Arabia has said the report is based on inaccurate information.

On Tuesday, a coalition air strike hit a hospital operated by medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres in Yemen, killing 19 people and prompting the group to evacuate staff from six hospitals. MSF cited a “loss of confidence in the Saudi-led coalition to prevent fatal attacks.”

US Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California and a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, said he believed such strikes could help galvanize votes for limiting arms transfers to Saudi Arabia.

50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail