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US forces deployed to 'assist' Saudi in Yemen

A batch of US special elite forces is militarily supporting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, according to the Independent newspaper. The new finding contradicts the Pentagon's previously clarified role in Yemen limited to "refuelling and logistics" against the Iranian-aligned Houthi group.

Twelve Green Beret soldiers were deployed in December last year, the paper reported, following Houthi rocket fire towards Riyadh. Mohammad Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's crown prince and principle architect of the Yemen war, called on the US to support the fight.

Locate and destroy

According to the New York Times, US forces are helping to destroy Houthi training camps and missiles to avert the risk of attack within Saudi Arabia. The Berets are also training Saudi forces to defend the Kingdom's southern border with Yemen more effectively.

Last month, Saleh Al-Samad, the Houthi political leader was killed by a targeted drone strike, it is possible that the US supported the strike with locational intelligence.

Yemen: Houthis take down US drone

"We have deployed liaisons to Saudi Arabia in part to share best practices with the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) and advise them on how to avoid civilian casualties. Consistent with US law, existing agreements and regulations, the liaisons also can respond to RSAF requests for information about threats to Saudi border security, and associated threat networks," Major Josh T. Jacques of US Central Command told MEMO.

"Liaisons advise on best practices for aerial targeting processes. But liaisons are not involved in the specific selection of targets or prioritising and matching responses for combat missions," Jacques continued.

But Major General Ibrahim Al-Shami, Yemen's air force commander, believes that the US is behind Al-Sammad's killing. Al-Shami told Al-Masirah TV that a US MQ-9 drone was used which holds clear hallmarks of American involvement. Al-Shami went on to claim that the US plan is to execute further strikes against the Houthi leadership.

Unlawful support

US military action against the Houthis may be unlawful, as there is no authorisation from Congress. The US has not designated the Houthis as an enemy. The legal niceties depend on the Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) 2001, which permits force only against those held responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York. The Houthis, however, have no connection to 9/11, and thus the US needs new authorisation to allow hostilities against the group.

The US has executed hundreds of drone strikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) since 2002, often killing civilians. The US government has already executed 302 confirmed strikes in Yemen, and reportedly killing some 1,341 Yemenis.

Three years after the Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict, Yemen has witnessed more than 10,000 deaths according to the United Nations and civilians remain trapped in the middle of the cross fire, with dwindling supplies of basic amenities and lack of access to sufficient water, sanitation and food.

Read: UK High Court to hear appeal against arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Middle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaYemen
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