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US speeding up arms shipments for Yemen fight

People gather at the bombed site near an air force base to search for casualties in Sanaa, Yemen, on March 26, 2015.

HANI ALI, XINHUA/TNS

By JON HARPER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 7, 2015

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is expediting arms deliveries to the Saudi-led coalition that is battling Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, according to U.S. officials.

Last month, the Saudis began launching airstrikes against Houthi insurgents that have taken over most of the country after forcing Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to flee the capital, Sanaa.

“Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters in Riyadh on Tuesday, according to news reports. “As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries.”

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren confirmed the U.S. is supplying its Arab allies as the fight in Yemen rages.

“It’s a combination of pre-existing orders made by our partner nations and some new requirements as they expend munitions,” he told reporters.

Warren was unable to provide details about the types of weapons being delivered.

“I don’t have a listing specifically of a shopping list, so to speak, but we’re working very closely with our partners there to get them what they need,” he said.

Other U.S. military officials were not immediately able to provide a list of the items being delivered.

The U.S. military is also providing intelligence and logistical support to the Arab war effort.

The Pentagon has agreed to a Saudi request to provide aerial refueling for its jets that are conducting the bombing campaign, although no such refueling operations have been carried out thus far, according to Warren.

U.S. intelligence support to the operations does not include assistance with targeting, according to Pentagon officials.

The Saudis have come under criticism for allegedly inflicting a large number of civilian casualties in their bombing campaign. Warren said the U.S. military has talked to the Saudis about the issue.

“This is something that we expect all of our coalition partners to be mindful of,” he said. “We want all the combatants to adhere to international standards, which include the maximum amount of mitigation and reduction of civilian casualties that’s possible.”

U.S. military assistance is being coordinated through an Arab-led joint planning cell, which includes about a dozen American servicemembers.

Warren said there are no specific plans to grow that presence, but Pentagon leaders “remain flexible.”

“That [presence] is certainly scalable,” he said.

harper.jon@stripes.com
Twitter: @JHarperStripes

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