According to a report by Reuters, the US military announced Friday August 19th that is has withdrawn strategists and military personal from Saudi Arabia. More specifically the US military has removed its personnel responsible for coordinating with the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, and has sharply reduced the number of overall staff stationed in the area who were assisting in the planning.
As the original report from Reuters reads, “Fewer than five US service members are now assigned full-time to the “Joint Combined Planning Cell”, which was established last year to coordinate US support, including air-to-air refueling of coalition jets and limited intelligence-sharing. That is down from a peak of about 45 staff members who were dedicated to the effort full-time in Riyadh and elsewhere Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey, a US Navy spokesman in Bahrain, told Reuters.”
As for what these men and women were responsible for and what the United States was contributing to the War in Yemen, in a recent interview with PBS News Hour, retired Army Intelligence Officer Derek Harvey went on to summarize U.S. involvement in the Yemen Civil War explaining that:
“We have been attempting to bolster the relationship with Saudi Arabia after some of the fractious disagreement about the Iran nuclear deal, and concerns in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf about Iranian continued efforts to encroach on Sunni Arab areas….
….the United States simply decided it was best to pollster and repair that relationship with Riyadh and support them in the way that we have been doing…
…there is intelligence that’s being provided from a range of U.S. intelligence capabilities, to include drones that are flying over Yemen on a regular basis. The air refueling that was commented on in the intro piece…
….But, mostly, the Saudi Arabians and the other Gulf countries that are involved in this conflict primarily use U.S. weapons and munitions. And, inevitably, it’s going to be American-sourced equipment, weapons and munitions that will be used in Yemen.“
When asked if the United States bares any blame for the civilian casualties at the hands of US manufactured bombs sold to and used by Saudi forces, Mr. Harvey replied:
“We have been supporting an ally, and, in that sense, you know, there is some responsibility. The United States administration, the Obama administration, Secretary Kerry and others, have distanced themselves very clearly from that conflict and are recognizing that it’s really about supporting Saudi Arabia and repairing the relationship.
So, they understand that they’re in a hard place because of the blowback and the concerns that the United States is being tainted by the support of the Saudi Arabians in this conflict.“
However, 4 months after the conclusion of this interview, in light of recent air strikes on civilian populations and hospitals in Yemen, the United States government has come under heavy scrutiny from the international community and human rights organizations for providing the Saudi Army with the weapons used in these attacks.
Though the news was just broke this past Friday, the US military personnel were withdrawn from Riyadh in June, US officials said. About the decision to withdraw US leadership from the area, the Pentagon stated “the shift does not diminish US commitment to supporting Saudi-led military operations. The JCPC forward team that was in Saudi Arabia is now in Bahrain.” Chris Sherwood, the Pentagon spokesman quoted above, went added that US aerial tankers continue to refuel Saudi aircraft.
According to other reports, over 10,000 people have been killed in the 16 month Yemeni Civil War, nearly half of this number is innocent civilians. Additional estimates say, to date, the War has caused nearly 14 billion dollars in economic damage and the United Nations calls Yemen “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”
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In response to the US decision to withdraw troops and support from the region, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, said “The relationship between the kingdom and the US is a strategic one. If true, this move reflects something at a tactical level. The US may move its assets, but that doesn’t have any impact on the bilateral relationship between the countries.”
The decision to withdraw US personnel from the region comes directly on the heels of a coalition airstrike on Tuesday, which targeted a hospital operated by medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres in Yemen, killing 19 people and prompting the group to evacuate staff from six other hospitals. The United States and Saudi Arabia were harshly criticized for their selection of targets, but this is not the first time the two have come under scrutiny.
This past January, Human Rights Watch released a report claiming that there were “119 coalition violations of the laws of War.” The investigative panel also released video evidence proving that the same bombs used to target civilians are of United States origin.
According to their investigative report, “The panel documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.”
Though the bombs were of US origin the US itself did not conducted any strikes directly, instead these were all conducted by allied Saudi Arabia. Last November the White House approved 1.29 billion dollars in aid/weapons to assist Saudi forces in Yemen, but officials are quick to point out that this is where it ends. Leaders at U.S. Central Command have stated that “selection and final vetting of targets in the campaign are made by the Saudi-led coalition, not the United States.” – distancing themselves from any War crimes which may have been committed.
Last March, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs went in front of Congress to assure them that despite weapons sales to the region that “U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen.”
Given the fact the United States has finally withdrawn support from the region, after another air strike targeted a civilian population, we can only hope that US forces are finally coming to their senses.
This article (After Another Saudi Air Strike Targets A Civilian Population In Yemen, The United States Withdraws Military Personnel and Strategists from Saudi Arabia) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article with attribution to Brian Dunn and Alternative Medi4